Friday, April 24, 2009

CoZ9: Six Paramitas, One Thousand Hands and One Thousand Eyes

This lesson turned out being a little rough simply because each article I referenced seemed to call things by different names. So if I'm off on a few of these, sorry!

This week's lesson is on the Six Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism. For those who don't know (like me), the term Paramita or Parami means "Perfect" or "Perfection". In Buddhism, the Paramitas (in our case, six) refer to the perfection or culmination of certain virtues. These virtues are cultivated as a way of purification, purifying karma and helping the aspirant to live an unobstructed life, while reaching the goal of Enlightenment. This is a perfect placement of this lesson because last lesson (which I did not blog about) was about Karma.

Okay, so the Six Paramitas are:
  1. Generosity (dana)
  2. Precepts (conduct) (sila)
  3. Perseverance (patience) (khanti)
  4. Effort (energy) (virha)
  5. Samadhi (meditation)
  6. Wisdom (prajna)
In Therevada Buddhism, the list is a little different for four more added just in case:
  1. Generosity
  2. Conduct
  3. Renunciation (nekkhamma)
  4. Wisdom
  5. Energy
  6. Patience
  7. Truthfulness (sacca)
  8. Determination (adhitthana)
  9. Loving-kindness (metta)
  10. Equanimity (upekkha)
It would appear that Therevada adds renunciation, truthfulness, loving-kindness and equanimity. Determination is listed with meditation left out. In theory, they could be the same although it's not entirely clear.

I find it interesting that one of the virtues being culminated in Theravada is one of renunciation. When I read "renunciation" I automatically think of joining a monestary. But upon further study, it would appear that "renunciation" is to give up the world and lead a holy life. It is also one of the first steps in the "right thought" (or "right intention") parts of the eightfold path (8FP).

Some of these others seem to come directly from the eightfold path (or vice versa).

Here is the 8FP for review:
Right View
Right Thought
Right speech
Right action
Right livelihood
Right effort
Right mindfulness
Right meditation

Effort and meditation are just straight up listed in the 8FP. Wisdom and mindfulness the same thing, maybe? Wisdom is what is gained from direct understanding of the four noble truths, one of the truths being the 8FP. Energy is effort. Truthfulness... truth... as in "four noble"? Could be! Equanimity, in Therevada, is the effect of meditation. So really, equanimity is kinda meditation? But what about determination? I'm so confused.  And tired.

Thousand Eyes and Hands Sutra Comments:

We were also asked to look at the Thousand Eyes and Hands Sutra. Man does it have some comic-book level cosmology in it! I mean, it pretty much states that Avalokitesvara has a thousand arms and a thousand eyes! Straight out of Lovecrafts' Cthulhu mythos!

Some things I noticed:

Avalokitesvara bodhisattva is refered as "it." Supports my Chtulul theory. Although this may have something to do with how some cultures see Avalokitesvara as male and others as female and a few as being both. "It" is one way to show gender neutrality. But when you take into account that this sutra states, when memorized and chanted, it fulfills our wishes and wipes out all bad karma, "it" might just be some mystical being from another somewhere.

There is referance to "the heaven, the dragon and the holy beings." And there seems to be lots of different types of hells. I'm sure each represents more than just "filled with swords." There are tons of worlds. I'm starting to think that each different world or hell represents different states of minds. Although I still like the Chtulu theory. To top it off, there are many different names for Kwan Se Um Bosal (aka, Avalokitesvara; aka "It"), each being a different incarnation in charge of different aspects of cosmology.

There is talk of "rebirth" but seems to be more symbolic refering to the body as a "bright flag" and mind as "the wonder." Does this mean that reincarnation is a metaphor?

There is a little repentance. Very churchy, but it's all good.

And finally, there is one line I feel is the true take-home point behind everything:

"Our karma has no self-nature; it arises only out of mind. If the mind disappears, our karma will also disappear."

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