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Paramitas Of Buddhism ??? :)

Oct 26, 1998 01:32 PM
by Richard Taylor

In a message dated 10/26/98 3:32:14 PM, Alan wrote:

"Hello again. I hope I'm not being a bug bear, but I read in a conclusion by
Mr Purucker about the ten Paramitas of Buddhism ...Could somebody be so kind
as to list them, as I have no idea of what it is."

Well, we should probably start with the word "paramita."  It is a Sanskrit
word, and Sanskrit is the "holy" language of ancient India.  It is also a
specifically Buddhist word, not shared by Hindus or Jains (to my knowledge).
Paramita means "perfection" and comes from the compound of "param" plus "ita,"
meaning something like "going beyond."

So in a very literal sense, these perfections are what carry us "beyond" this
world "to the other shore."

The six paramitas appear to be the earlier list, coming from a group of
Mahayana Buddhist texts called "Prajna-paramita," or those meditative texts
which teach the "emptiness" of all things, and thus help to carry us to
Prajna, or Wisdom.  Good translations of these texts may be found by a
Theosopical Buddhist scholar, Edward Conze.

Those six paramitas, according to Mahayana Buddhism, are:
1.  Dana, or giving.
2.  Shila, or morality.
3.  Kshanti, or patience.
4.  Virya, or vigorous effort.
5.  Dhyana, or meditation
6.  Prajna, or wisdom.

Perfecting these six virtues was thought to lead to Nirvana in early Mahayana

Like all things religious, lists tend to expand over time.  And so we find a
later list, including the ones above plus

7.  Upaya, or "means, methods"
8.  Pranidhana, or "aspiration"
9.  Bala, or "strength"
10.  Jnana, or "knowledge, pristine awareness"

These are the further virtues that carry one to full Buddha-hood.

The Question I would like to ask the list is why, in the Voice Of The Silence,
HPB lists *seven* paramitas, and where she gets number 4. Viraga,
"indifference."  Indifference is a fine virtue, but not part of any
traditional list known to me.  It is eccentricities like this which make my
study of HPB's Buddhism frustrating indeed.  If anyone on the list has
thoughts, please share!

Rich Taylor

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