The Ten Perfections
[By Dr. David N. Snyder]
The Ten Perfections
2. Moral conduct
The Ten Hindrances to Enlightenment show us what we need to get rid of. To assist us in the
eradication of the hindrances are ten virtues to cultivate, listed above. These are the Ten
Paramitas, which are translated as, the Ten Perfections of the Heart. Just like the yin-yang,
positive-negative symbol in Eastern philosophies here we have the Ten Hindrances as ten items
to be eradicated and on the flip side of the same coin are the Ten Perfections, written in the more
positive language of virtues to cultivate.
In the Ten Perfections you will see elements of the Five Precepts and the Eightfold Middle Path.
Alongside these important Dhamma teachings are listed the ever important ―energy and
―determination. If we want to succeed at anything, we can never underestimate the
importance of persistence and determination. Renunciation, listed above does not necessarily
mean giving up your possessions and becoming a monk or nun. Renunciation can simply mean
being content with what you have and maintaining a simple life and lifestyle. It can mean
―counting your blessings‖ or doing something simple to put your mind at ease to allow you to
pursue spiritual quests. It can also mean making some small sacrifices, such as choosing your
vacation time from work to go to a vipassana retreat, instead of a cruise.
The Buddha spent many past lives as an ascetic monastic perfecting each of the ten perfections.
He could not be re-born in his final life as the Buddha until all ten perfections were fully
developed. Enlightenment is not something so simple as just sitting one day and all of a sudden
feeling at ―one with nature‖ and very ―awake. There is a common danger in many Western
countries where some practitioners and teachers say that they are enlightened when they have
one momentary glimpse of jhanic pleasure in their meditation. They are mistaking some
pleasurable jhanic states for enlightenment.
There are some people who claim full enlightenment and say that teachers are not willing to
―certify their enlightenment because the teachers do not understand them or do not have the
capacity to see their realization. Such people who claim full enlightenment are lost in their ego
attachment. Full enlightenment is not that easy, but a lower stage of realization can not be too
difficult with persistent practice. One person (lost in his ego) once claimed that if Buddhism
were in the business of enlightenment, it would be bankrupt, because it does not want to
recognize people who claim enlightenment (this person also claimed to be enlightened).
Such a view fails to recognize the numerous people with high levels of attainment who do not
need to make such claims. The different levels described above allow for the recognition of
various stages or levels of attainment.
Some people feel that enlightenment is something that just comes at you in an instant, while
others believe that it is a gradual process. Whole schools of Buddhism have sprung up over the
debate about whether enlightenment is ―sudden‖ or ―gradual. It is actually both. If you are on
the Buddha‘s path, you will be making some progress, no matter how small each time you
practice. Imagine the feeling of a person who has been practicing meditation for over fifty years
and then is told that enlightenment is not gradual, that it is only ―sudden.‖ Does that mean he
wasted fifty years of his life? This person would have made tremendous strides toward
enlightenment. The actual full enlightenment experience is at one specific instance, like when
the Buddha saw the morning star on the day of his enlightenment. So it is both and there is no
need for Schools of Buddhism to bicker about ―sudden‖ versus ―gradual.
That is why there are different levels or stages of enlightenment. This clearly shows that
enlightenment is both gradual and sudden. As practitioners, we must progress through the stages
and the full enlightenment is achieved at the elimination of all ten hindrances. Before full
enlightenment, there is still a form of enlightenment; it is just a lower stage of awakening.
There are four different levels of realization and awakening and although there may be few if any
fully realized enlightened people in the world, there could be several thousand or more at
―higher levels of stage 2 and stage 3, Once-Returner and Non-Returner.
If it seems difficult, it is. If it was easy, everyone would be enlightened. Do not despair, just try
to eliminate as many of the hindrances as possible. If we do not make it, we can console
ourselves with the notion that perhaps with most of the hindrances gone we can make it to a
―heavenly plane‖ of existence.
In some of the last words of Buddha:
―The true teachings have been illuminated and made available in the worlds of humans and gods
(or angels), with nothing lacking. If someone with right understanding penetrates these
teachings, the value will be immeasurable. (Thich, 1993)
And the last words:
―All component things must decline and decay. Attain your goal through diligence.
----------to be continued--------------
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