Excerpt from “The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Six Paramitas are a teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. Paramita can be translated as “perfection” or “perfect realization.” The Chinese character used for paramita means “crossing over to the other shore,” which is the shore of peace, non-fear, and liberation.
The practice of the paramitas can be the practice of our daily lives. We are on the shore of suffering, anger, and depression, and we want to cross over to the shore of well-being. To cross over, we have to do something, and that is called paramita. We return to ourselves and practice mindful breathing, looking at our suffering, anger, and depression, and smile. Doing this, we overcome our pain and cross over.
We can practice “perfection” every day.
Every time you take one mindful step, you have a chance to go from the land of sorrow to the land of joy. The Pure Land is available right here and now. The Kingdom of God is a seed in us. If we know how to plant that seed in moist soil, it will become a tree, and birds will come and take refuge. Please practice crossing over to the other shore whenever you feel the need.
The Buddha said, “Don’t just hope for the other shore to come to you. If you want to cross over to the other shore, the shore of safety, well-being, non-fear,and non-anger, you have to swim or row across. You have to make an effort.”
This effort is the practice of the Six Paramitas.
(1) dana paramita – giving, offering, generosity.
(2) shila paramita – precepts or mindfulness trainings.
(3) kshanti paramita – inclusiveness, the capacity to receive, bear, and transform the pain inflicted on you by your enemies and also by those who love you.
(4) virya paramita – diligence, energy, perseverance.
(5) dhyana paramita – meditation.
(6) prajña paramita – wisdom, insight, understanding.
Practicing the Six Paramitas helps us to reach the other shore — the shore of freedom, harmony, and good relationships.