A Treatise on the Paramis

by Ācariya Dhammapāla | 1978 | 23,066 words

The work introduces itself as a treatise composed “for clansmen following the suttas who are zealously engaged in the practice of the vehicle to great enlightenment, in order to improve their skilfulness in accumulating the requisites of enlightenment.”...

Chapter IV - What Is Their Sequence?

Here "sequence" means sequence of teaching. This sequence is rooted in the order in which the paramis are initially undertaken, which in turn is rooted in the order in which they are investigated.[1] The quality which is investigated and undertaken at the beginning is taught first. Therein, giving is stated first, for giving assists (the development of) virtue and is easy to practise. Giving accompanied by virtue is abundantly fruitful and beneficial, so virtue is stated immediately after giving. Virtue accompanied by renunciation... renunciation by wisdom ... wisdom by energy ... energy by patience ... patience by truthfulness ... truthfulness by determination ... determination by loving-kindness ... and loving-kindness accompanied by equanimity is abundantly fruitful and beneficial; thus equanimity is stated immediately after loving-kindness. Equanimity is accompanied by compassion and compassion by equanimity. (Someone may ask:) "How can the bodhisattvas, the great compassionate ones, look upon living beings with equanimity?" Some teach when it is necessary to do so." But others say: "They do not show equanimity towards living beings (as such), but towards the offensive action;, performed by beings."

Another method (of explaining the sequence) may be given:

(1 ) Giving is stated at the beginning:

  1. because it is common tea all beings, since even ordinary people practise giving;
  2. because it is the least fruitful; and
  3. because it is the easiest to practise.

(2) Virtue is stated immediately after giving:

  1. because virtue purifies both the donor and the recipient;
  2. to show that, while giving benefits others virtue prevents the affliction of others;
  3. in order to state a factor of abstinence immediately after a factor of positive activity, and
  4. in order to show the cause for the achievement, of a favourable state of future existence right after the cause for the achievement of wealth.[2]

(3) Renunciation is mentioned immediately after virtue:

  1. because renunciation perfects the achievement of virtue;
  2. in order to list good conduct of mind immediately after good conduct of body and speech;
  3. because meditation (jhana) succeeds easily for one who has purified his virtue;
  4. in order to show that the purification of one's end (asaya) through the abandoning of the offensive mental defilements follows the purification of one's means (payoga) by the abandoning of offensive actions; and
  5. to state the abandoning of mental obsessions immediately after the abandoning of bodily- and verbal transgressions.[3]

(4) Wisdom is mentioned immediately- after renunciation:

  1. because renunciation is perfected and purified by wisdom;
  2. to slow that there, is no wisdom in the absence of meditation (jhana), since concentration is the proximate cause of wisdom and wisdom the manifestation of concentration;
  3. in order to list the causal basis for equanimity immediately after the causal basis for serenity; and
  4. to show that skilful means in working for the welfare of others springs from meditation directed to their welfare.

(5) Energy is stated immediately after wisdom:

  1. because the function of wisdom is perfected by the arousing of energy:
  2. to show the miraculous work the bodhisattva undertakes for the welfare of beings after he has reached reflective acquiescence in their emptiness;
  3. to state the causal basis for exertion right after the basis for equanimity; and
  4. to state the arousing of energy right after the activity of careful consideration, according to the statement: "The activity of those who have carefully considered brings excellent results."

(6) Patience is mentioned immediately after energy:

  1. because patience is perfected by energy, as it is said: "The energetic man, by arousing his energy, overcomes the suffering imposed by beings and formations";
  2. because patience is an adornment of energy, as it is said: "The patience of the energetic man shines with splendour";
  3. in order to state the causal basis for serenity immediately after the basis for exertion, for restlessness due to excessive activity is abandoned through reflective acquiescence in the Dhamma;[4]
  4. in order to show the perseverance of the man of energy, since one who is patient and free from restlessness perseveres in his work;
  5. in order to show the absence of craving for rewards in a bodhisattva diligently engaged in activity for the welfare of others, for there is no craving when he reflects on the Dhamma in accordance with actuality; and
  6. to show that the bodhisattva must patiently endure the suffering created by others even when he is working to the utmost for their welfare.

(7) Truthfulness is stated immediately after patience:

  1. because the determination to practise patience continues long through truthfulness;
  2. having first mentioned the patient endurance of wrongs inflicted by others, to mention next fidelity to one's word to render them help;
  3. in order to show that a bodhisattva who through patience does not vacillate in the face of abuse, through truthful speech does not relinquish (his antagonist); and
  4. to show die truthfulness of the knowledge developed through reflective acquiescence in the emptiness of beings.

(8) Determination is stated immediately after truthfulness;

  1. because truthfulness is perfected by determination, since abstinence (from falsehood) becomes perfect in one whose determination unshakeable;
  2. Having first shown non-deception in speech, to show next unshakeable commitment to one's word, for a bodhisattva devoted to truth proceeds to fulfill his vows of giving, etc., without wavering, and
  3. to show, right after the veracity of knowledge, the complete accumulation of the requisites of enlightenment (bodlhisambhara); for one who knows things as they really are determines upon the requisites of enlightenment and brings them to completion by refusing to vacillate in the face of their opposites.[5]

(9) Loving-kindness is mentioned immediately after determination

  1. because loving-kindness perfects the determination to undertake activity for the welfare of others;
  2. in order to list the work of actually providing for the welfare of others right after swung the determination to do so, for "one determined upon the requisites of enlightenment abides in loving-kindness"; and
  3. because the undertaking (of activity for the welfare of others) proceeds imperturbably only when determination is unshakeable.

(10) Equanimity is mentioned immediately after loving-kindness:

  1. because equanimity purifies loving-kindness;
  2. in order to show the indifference one must maintain towards the wrongs inflicted by when one is providing for their welfare;
  3. having menthe development of loving-kindness, to state next the development of the quality which evolves from it; and
  4. to show the bodhisattva's wonderful virtue of remaining impartial even towards those who wish him well.

Thus the sequence of the paramis should he understood as explained.

Footnotes and references:


An allusion to the first stage in the active career of a bodhisattva. After the bodhisattva makes his original aspiration at the feet of a living Buddha and receives from the latter the prediction of his future attainment of Buddhahood, he goes into solitude and investigates each of the paramis in terms of their specific characteristics. Following the investigation, he undertakes their practice. See Buddhavamsa 11, vv.116-66.


The practice of giving brings as its kammic retribution the acquisition of wealth, the observance of precepts the attainment of a happy rebirth either in the heavens or in the human world. 


Virtue, as the observance of precepts, prevents the transgression of moral principles by body and speech. Renunciation, as mental purification, removes the obsession with unwholesome qualities of mind. 


Dhammanijjhanakkhanti. The word khanti is ordinarily used to mean patience in the sense of the forbearance of the wrongs of others and the endurance of hardships, but it is sometimes also used to signify the intellectual acceptance of doctrines which are not yet completely clear to the understanding. The compound dhammanijjhanakkhanti seems to indicate a stage in the growth of wisdom whereby the mind accepts intellectually principles initially assented to, in faith without yet fully grasping them by immediate insight. 


The requisites of enlightenment are the paramis themselves, divided into two groups: the requisites of merit (punnasambhara) and the requisites of knowledge (nanasambhara). 

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