Perfections (Six and Ten)

James B. Apple

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online February 2012 | | DOI:
Perfections (Six and Ten)

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The perfections are the virtues that are fully developed by a bodhisattva (Buddha-in-training) to become a Buddha. All Buddhist traditions acknowledge that the perfections are practiced through multiple lifetimes extending over aeons of time for the purpose of achieving full buddhahood for the welfare of beings. The lists of perfections varied according to the genre of literature in which they appeared. The practices that constitute the varied lists of perfections and how the perfections are conceived differ not only between groups but also between scholarly authors. The pāramitās appear in Buddhist literature as a group of perfections in varying lists, but the lists are notoriously unfixed, with six and ten perfections being the most common amount. The Theravada tradition recognizes ten, although only eight perfections are listed in the Buddhāpadāna and seven in the Cariyāpiṭaka (Horner 1975, cited under Editions and Translations). The ten perfections in the Theravada tradition are (1) generosity (dāna), (2) morality (sīla), (3) renunciation (nekhamma), (4) insight (pañña), (5) energy (viriya), (6) patience (khanti), (7) truthfulness (sacca), (8) resolution (adhiṭṭhāna), (9) loving-kindness (metta), and (10) equanimity (upekkhā). A set of six perfections became common among some genres of mainstream Buddhist literature and developed into a standard list in a number of Mahayana sutras. The six are (1) generosity (dāna), (2) morality (śīla), (3) patience (kṣānti), (4) vigor (vīrya), (5) concentration (dhyāna), and (6) wisdom (prajñā). This list was expanded to complement the ten stages (bhūmi) traversed by a bodhisattva in the course leading to full buddhahood. The additional perfections are (7) skill-in-means (upāya-kauśalya), (8) resolution (praṇidhāna), (9) strength (bala), and (10) knowledge (jñāna). The manner in which the perfections have been understood in different Buddhist cultures, such as in Tibet or Southeast Asia, is dependent on the Buddhist literature that is accessible or acceptable to the particular culture and the interpretive attention given to that literature.

Article.  8366 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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