Spiritual growth leads to the experience of the transcendent state, the most beautiful state available to the human consciousness. In this blog post we’d like to share with you a foundational tool that we believe is fundamental (and universal) to the journey of spiritual growth.
This foundational tool consists of six ancient principles, altogether called the ‘Perfections’, or Paramis in Pali, the language the Buddha spoke. The beauty of the Paramis is that they take us out of habit, and into new ways of being.
We all have habits. Habits are comfortable! We do them every day, usually on auto-pilot. The difficulty with habits is that we’re not present. By definition, while habit is comfortable, they’re also rooted in low-grade angst: we get upset when our habits are interrupted.
True happiness and well-being come from the degree to which we are present with what we do while we are doing it. So, by practicing the Perfections (Paramis), we can try new ways of being fully present. This interrupts our habits, which tend to be self-focused and unconscious.
When practiced with earnest, and from a state of inquisitive curiosity, we never outgrow the Paramis. They serve us well for our entire lifetime, and beyond. As we practice these principles, our experience of them deepens and gets richer year by year.
Six Powerful Principles for Spiritual Growth: The Perfections (Paramis)
We know these practices work. They’ve been tried and proven over 2500 years: strong evidence! And we suggest you test them out for yourself. The Paramis as such potent tools for our meditation practice that we teach a meditation retreat (come join us!) every year on these spiritual principles. When practiced and explored with intent, they can quickly move you out of habit and into spiritual growth.
- Generosity (Dāna)
- Ethics (Śīla)
- Patience (Kṣānti)
- Energy (Vīrya)
- Concentration (Dhyāna)
- Wisdom & Insight (Prajñā)
How to use the Principles, the Paramis:
Here are some examples of how you can practice the Paramis in your daily life:
- When you notice yourself being greedy, ask, how could I invoke more generosity? The answer might be simpler than you think. For example, a smile or an expression of interest can be generous gifts that make a difference to another person.
- When you are feeling frustrated you might ask, how could I bring more patience to this situation? (Breathing helps.)
- When you are feeling lethargic or unfulfilled at work, you might ask, how could I boost my energy and re-engage? Sometimes taking a short walk or having a glass of water does it, and may be an act of generosity to yourself as well.
- If you are feeling generally ‘off’, ask yourself, are any of the Perfections missing in this moment? With greater awareness comes greater freedom.
What we call ‘dharma training’–training ourselves or receiving training from an experienced mentor–has to do first and foremost with learning to move toward the wholesome and away from the unwholesome. To do this, we have to be able to recognize a healthy state of heart-mind, and an unhealthy one.
Using the above six principles helps us to learn to recognize and cultivate these wholesome states. It just plain feels better. And, ironically, becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is part of this effort: learning to dwell in the unknown of whatever spontaneously arises in this moment is ultimately a spacious, blissful experience.
Reflection & Study:
- Is there a particular Principle or Parami that I’m particularly good at?
- Is there one I could strengthen?
- Take note of each one, celebrate your strength and practice cultivating the weaker one. Enjoy it becoming a greater strength each time you practice it.
Doug Duncan & Catherine Pawasarat are modern day teachers of transcendence. Their work with students draws upon Buddhist, Western Mysteries, modern psychology and other traditions.
If you found this article helpful, consider sharing your gratitude by making a gift of Dana to the Teachers. With dana practice, an ancient form of the gift economy, the giver benefits most.
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You can learn more about the Paramis at this annual weekend meditation retreat in Easter (March 30-April 2 2018): Becoming a Work of Art, Paramis Retreat.