The paramis are qualities of character or “perfections” of heart and mind that can be developed to support the path of awakening–practices that develop wholesome activity, growth, and enlightenment. “It is so clear that the Teaching is the only refuge.”

What are the paramis?

They are qualities of character or “perfections” of heart and mind that can be developed to support the path of awakening–practices that develop wholesome activity, growth, and enlightenment.
In the Theravadin school of Buddhism, there are ten. In Mahayana, six is considered to indicate a sequence of development: generosity, virtue (coolheadedness), patience, energy, concentration, and wisdom.
For more on the paramis, search for “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life” or “paramita.” Also, “The Path Of Victory: Discourses on the Paramita” by Namgyal Rinpoche can be ordered from

Podcast Transcription:

Why practice the paramis? Well, as you remember, if you had a turban and it was in flames, what would you do? You’d put it out… or take it off. And so, to extinguish the flames of craving you must apply the antidote and the antidote is… the paramis. Simple as that. You are in a burning pit of passion, desire, fear, hope, ambition, worry, anxiety, and wishful thinking. You know, “When my prince comes, when my house is paid for when the banks get it all straightened out, everything will be fine.” No, it won’t. Then you’ll be 60 and you’ll have a heart attack… or something.


I talked to Gerry today, you remember Gerry? He’s walking now, which is good, very fast [recovery]. They call him the poster boy for rehab. He was supposed to be in rehab for 3 months, but it looks like he’ll only be there a month and he can walk with a walker.


He said to me today, “You know, Sensei, I hate to say it, but this has been absolutely, totally, fantastically marvelous.” Crushed from the knee to the ankle, thinking he’d never walk again, losing both the lower parts of his legs, having them rebuilt.


He’s walking, it’s good, he’s walking and he’s probably happier than if he didn’t obviously, and he wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but he said “This was the most amazing experience of my life. It is so clear, it is just so absolutely clear that the Teaching is the only refuge.”


Because everybody else is busy. What are they doing when you’re in the hospital for six weeks, or in this case, two months? Moving on. When you’re sitting there in the hospital bed for two months, what are they doing? Going to movies, having suppers, talking to their friends, oh, calling you once a week to see how you’re doing. Maybe you get an hour of their time and then mostly they’re going, “Well, okay, gotta go.”


He said it brought the teachings so home. The only refuge you have is your state at the moment and the only thing that maintains your state in the moment are the paramis. There is no other place to go except busyness, and the nature of busyness does exactly what? It hides the nature of your clinging. The more busy you are—and I’m not saying you shouldn’t be busy; it’s fine to be busy—but what I’m saying is that the busier you are the less visible it is—the clinging that’s going on. When you’re in your hospital room and you got nowhere to go, you’re just left with it—the body and you: clinging. And you have to be in the moment. You have to give up… you have to let the passions and the feelings come and go. You have to give them up. You have to surrender them. You have to surrender your impatience with the process. You can’t move.


He wasn’t supposed to move off his back for six weeks. Don’t move, they told him. Never mind go for a walk. Don’t move. Because your flesh is building…in his leg and if he moves them he disturbs them.


Patience isn’t something you have any choice about. Coolness—you either do that or you lose your mind, which many people do in those circumstances, they go bananas. They throw things at the nurses, they scratch them, they kick, they bite. Because they’re freaking out. I mean, can you imagine… weeks without moving on your back if you have no training, no mental training, no training in the mind? I mean all of a sudden… you know, you’ve been busy being Joe-head-of-your-department, and all of a sudden you’re in the hospital. You’ve got nothing.


Listen to part two here: