Developing the 6 Perfections of Buddhism is the ultimate Buddhist objective. As a result, Buddhists can transcend the objective of western religions – Heaven. Believe it or not, western religions have limitations in their objectives. The goal of Christianity is to make it to heaven. In contrast, Buddhism seeks to go beyond this and remove the objective altogether by seeking to eliminate all earthly desire – including heaven! Therefore, if successful, you achieve enlightenment and can enter Nirvana. Sounds pretty easy right? Not So!
In the most popular versions of Christianity such as Catholicism, getting to heaven is actually really easy. All you need to do is repent and accept Jesus as your savior at some point in your earthly life before you die. As a result, you can live a life of abject sin and as long as you repent on your death bed you are saved and you will still go to heaven! However, you should think this over before you uncork a bottle of champagne and celebrate.
In Buddhism and many other religions you actually need to do something meritorious to enter Nirvana or heaven. In fact, in Buddhism it is very challenging to enter Nirvana although it’s teachings are easily explained. Fortunately, the Buddha and his disciples have developed concepts that are fairly easy to understand. One of the main concepts that a Buddhist is expected to understand and develop is the 6 perfections.
A List of the 6 Perfections
In Mahayana Buddhism 6 perfections describe the true nature of an enlightened being. In order to become an enlightened being you must first master these 6 perfections.
- Perfection of Generosity
- Perfection of Morality
- Perfection of Patience
- Perfection of Energy
- Perfection of Meditation
- Perfection of Wisdom
Although these perfections seem rather simple, beneath the surface they are complex and very challenging to perform.
What if you have some really old clothes you really don’t want and you are going to throw them away? Then your friend suggests you do yourself a favor and call a charity to come and pick them up for you. Additionally, you also benefit because you can now write off the value of the donation on your taxes! This is self serving and the pretense of generosity here is only a facade. The objective of any act of generosity must be solely for the beneficiary. Therefore, a qualifying act of generosity must be completely free of any selfish desire. To be genuine, the act of generosity should be difficult for you to perform and involve self sacrifice.
In western religions we find it easier to attach labels to immorality. Thou shalt not kill, honor thy mother and father, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor….or the “Axis of Evil” and so on. However, in Buddhism there is no list and instead the Buddha teaches us to go straight to the root of all these particular sinful acts. That root is greed or a euphemism for greed would be desire. It really all comes down to that doesn’t it? If you were free of earthly desires then it is not possible to be immoral. Additionally, Buddhism teaches us that following the path to enlightenment will allow us to develop a natural intuition for being genuinely moral. In due time, the follower of Dharma will automatically know without even thinking about it!
We must understand and develop our ability to withstand the truth about suffering, withstand personal hardship and develop patience with others. Simply believing in an ideal will not be spiritually productive and you must practice what you believe. This will involve endurance and therefore patience is very important if adherents are to walk the Buddhist path. As mentioned above, in Buddhism to achieve spiritual merit it is necessary to earn it. Simply going through your life with nothing to show for it in the end but a lame apology and a desperate act of capitulation will be fruitless.
Practicing the first three perfections will build character and a strong spirit. Now it is safe to be more assertive because the proper foundation has been laid to follow the path of Dharma. Following the path will take lots of energy. However, the true definition of the word “energy” for a Buddhist is actually “virility”. Specifically, it will take a courageous and heroic effort to walk the true path to enlightenment and only then can a Buddhist begin to help others.
A Buddhist must break free of the intense gravitational pull which is the “sense of self”. Therefore, the Buddhist must develop unbreakable concentration. This is possible through meditation which hones concentration and prepares the individual for the final perfection which is wisdom. Concentration of this kind is a state of consciousness beyond all “waking, dreaming and deep sleep”. It is based on a single point of concentration which if done properly will eliminate all sense of self. Object and subject are completely meshed into one.
Without the other perfections of generosity, morality, patience, energy and meditation it is not possible to understand wisdom. Indeed this final perfection is not an intellectual form of wisdom. Wisdom is the acceptance of emptiness which is accepting that no objects or beings have a self essence.