The 10 Paramitas of Buddhism:
Barbara O’Brien provides this list of 10 paramitas from early Buddhism and which is associated with the Theravada tradition. They are listed in a particular order, with one quality leading to the next.
1. Perfection of Giving (Dana)
When giving, or generosity, is perfected, it is selfless. There is no measure of gaining or losing. There are no strings attached and no expectations of thanks or reciprocation. The giving is gratifying of itself.
Giving in this way loosens the grip of greed and helps to develop non-attachment. Such giving also develops virtue and leads naturally to the next perfection, morality.
2. Perfection of Morality (Sila)
Although it is said that moral behaviour flows naturally from releasing selfish desires, it’s also the case that releasing selfish desires flows naturally from moral behaviour.
In much of Asia, the most basic Buddhist practices for laypeople are giving alms to monastics and practicing the Precepts. The Precepts are not a list of arbitrary rules as much as they are principles to apply to one’s life, in order to live harmoniously with others.
Appreciation of the values of giving and living in harmony with others leads to the next perfection, renunciation.
3. Perfection of Renunciation (Nekkhamma)
Renunciation in Buddhism can be understood as letting go of whatever binds us to suffering and ignorance. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? This is easier said than done, because those things that bind us are the very things we often think we must have to be happy.
The Buddha taught that genuine renunciation requires thoroughly perceiving how we make ourselves unhappy by grasping and greediness. When we do, renunciation naturally follows, and it is a positive and liberating act, not a punishment.
Renunciation is said to be perfected by wisdom, which is the next parami.
4. Perfection of Wisdom (Panna)
Wisdom in this case means seeing the true nature of the phenomenal world. It is also a deep insight into the Four Noble Truths.
Wisdom is perfected by energy, which is the next parami.
5. Perfection of Energy (Virya)
Energy, virya, is about walking the spiritual path with the fearlessness and determination of a warrior. Such fearlessness follows naturally from the perfection of wisdom.
The perfection and channeling of energy help bring about patience.
6. Perfection of Patience (Khanti)
Hving developed the energy and fearlessness of a warrior, we can now develop patience, or khanti. Khanti means “unaffected by” or “able to withstand.” It could be translated as tolerance, endurance and composure as well as patience or forbearance.
Khanti helps us endure the hardships of our own lives as well as the suffering created by others even as we try to help them.
7. Perfection of Truthfulness (Sacca)
Having developed patience and forbearance, we are better able to speak truth even when people don’t want to hear it. Truthfulness manifests excellence and honesty and helps develop determination.
8. Perfection of Determination (Adhitthana)
Determination clarifies what is necessary for enlightenment and eliminates whatever is in the way. The clear, unfettered path helps develop loving kindness.
9. Perfection of Loving kindness (Metta)
Loving kindness is a mental state cultivated by practice. It is essential to doing away with the self-clinging that binds us to suffering. Metta is an antidote to selfishness, anger and fear.
10. Perfection of Equanimity (Upekkha)
Equanimity allows us to see things impartially. With equanimity, we are no longer pulled this way and that by our passions, likes, and dislikes. Thich Nhat Hanh says (in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, p. 161) that the Sanskrit word upeksha means “equanimity, non-attachment, nondiscrimination, even-mindedness, or letting go. Upa means ‘over,’ and iksh means ‘to look.’ You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other.”