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Chapter V - What Are Their Characteristics

What Are Their Characteristics, Functions, Manifestations And Proximate Causes?

Firstly, all the paramis, without exception, have as their characteristic the benefitting of others; as their function, the rendering of help to others, or not vacillating; as their manifestation, the wish for the welfare of others, or Buddhahood; and as their proximate cause., great compassion, or compassion and skilful means.

Taken separately the perfection of giving is the volition of relinquishing oneself and one's belongings; accompanied by compassion and skilful means.

The perfection of virtue is good conduct of body and speech, accompanied by compassion and skilful means; in denotation, it is the abstinence from what should not be done, the volition to do what should be done, etc.

The perfection of renunciation is the act of consciousness which occurs renouncing sense pleasures and existence, preceded by the perception of their inherent unsatisfactoriness and accompanied by compassion and skilful means.

The perfection of wisdom is the comprehension of the general and particular characteristics of dhammas, accompanied by compassion and skilful means.

The perfection of energy is bodily and mental work for the welfare of others, accompanied by compassion and skilful means.

The perfection of patience is the endurance of harm imposed by beings and formations, or the act of consciousness occurring in such a mode, predominated by nonaversion and accompanied by compassion and skilful means.

The perfection of truthfulness is non-deceptiveness in speech, analyzed into an abstinence, a volition, etc., accompanied by compassion and skilful means.

The perfection of determination is the unshakeable determination to undertake (activity for the good of others), accompanied by compassion and skilful means; or it is the act of consciousness occurring in such a mode.

The perfection of lovingkindness is the wish to provide for the welfare and happiness of the world, accompanied by compassion and skilful means; in denotation, it is benevolence.

The perfection of equanimity is the attitude of impartiality towards desirable and undesirable beings and formations, dispelling attraction and repulsion, accompanied by compassion and skilful means.

(On the basis of these definitions, the characteristics, etc., may be stated thus:)

  1. Giving has the characteristic of relinquishing; its function is to dispel greed for things that can be given away; its manifestation is non-attachment, or the achievement of prosperity and a favourable state of existence; an object that can be relinquished is its proximate cause.
  2. Virtue has the characteristic of composing (silana); coordinating (samadhana) and establishing (patitthana) are also mentioned as its characteristic. Its function is to dispel moral depravity, or its function is blameless conduct; its manifestation is moral purity; shame and moral dread are its proximate cause.
  3. Renunciation has the characteristic of departing from sense pleasures and existence; its function is to verify their unsatisfactoriness; its manifestation is the withdrawal from them; a sense of spiritual urgency (samvega) is its proximate cause.
  4. Wisdom has the characteristic of penetrating the real specific nature (of phenomena), or the characteristic of sure penetration, like the penetration of an arrow shot by a skilful archer; its function is to illuminate the objective field, like a lamp; its manifestation is non-confusion, like a guide in a forest; concentration, or the Four (Noble) Truths, is its proximate cause.
  5. Energy has the characteristic of striving; its function is to fortify; its manifestation is indefatigability; an occasion for the arousing of energy, or a sense of spiritual urgency, is its proximate cause.
  6. Patience has the characteristic of acceptance; its function is to endure the desirable and undesirable; its manifestation is tolerance or non-opposition; seeing things as they really are is its proximate cause.
  7. Truthfulness has the characteristic of non-deceptiveness in speech; its function is to verify in accordance with fact; its manifestation is excellence; honesty is its proximate cause.
  8. Determination has the characteristic of determining upon the requisites of enlightenment; its function is to overcome their opposites; its manifestation is unshakeableness in that task; the requisites of enlightenment are its proximate cause.
  9. Loving-kindness has the characteristic of promoting the welfare (of living beings); its function is to provide for their welfare, or its function is to remove resentment; its manifestation is kindliness; seeing the agreeable side of beings is its proximate cause.
  10. Equanimity has the characteristic of promoting the aspect of neutrality; its function is to see things impartially; its manifestation is the subsiding of attraction and repulsion: reflection upon the fact that all beings inherit the results of their own kamma is its proximate cause.

And here it should be mentioned that accompaniment by compassion and skilful means is the distinguishing feature of the characteristic of each virtue -- e.g. of relinquishing in the case of giving, etc. For the virtues such as giving, etc., which occur in the mental continuities of bodhisattvas are always accompanied by compassion and skilful means. It is this which makes them paramis.

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