Choosing the Pāramīs

Luang Por Pasanno • July 2013

Several nights ago I gave a talk on the ten pāramīs, qualities that are helpful for cultivation and development: generosity, virtue, renunciation, wisdom, effort, truthfulness, resolution, loving-kindness, patience, and equanimity. Each is helpful to bring up as an alternative to a particular difficult or obstructive state present in the mind.

As a preliminary step, we can ask ourselves questions that pertain to these pāramīs in a general way. For example, How do I want to orient myself and my practice? What principles of training do I feel need attending to? When we think in terms of the pāramīs, the underlying connecting thread is making a commitment to or leaning toward what is wholesome and skillful, uplifting and brightening. We don’t need to put a name on it or have a label for it. We can orient ourselves with these fundamental principles of wholesomeness and skillfulness and encourage ourselves toward these brightening qualities of mind. In a very elemental way, the function of these principles is to alleviate a tendency toward suffering.

When we’re engaged in work or duties or have to deal with different personalities in our living situations, we have an opportunity to bring to mind these principles of training and to incline ourselves toward that which is wholesome and skillful. It’s so easy to rationalize negativity, aversion, frustration, and a sense of Oh, woe is me, and really miss the point that we always have an option to choose. We can make an effort to keep exercising that option of choosing and inclining ourselves toward those principles of goodness. The pāramīs are ways of articulating those principles as specific qualities we can develop. We can also recognize the underlying impulse to opt for these principles of goodness, of wholesomeness, rather than resigning ourselves to attitudes of negativity and the things that thwart our spiritual aspirations. These are moment-to-moment choices, moment-to-moment opportunities for establishing a particular direction for our minds and our hearts. Ultimately, this direction will help us choose the pāramīs rather than something else.