On July 9, 2023, after meditation, we met online for a Teachers’ Corner session about “The Practice of Six Transcendence.”
We listened to a collection of excerpts from a Dharma talk series by Ven. Pannavati, on the Six Transcendents (Pāramitās) as taught in the Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition. The Venerable shared insights on each of the transcendent qualities, repeatedly underscoring the importance of practicing them “for the sake of others.”
Giving (Dāna), the first transcendence quality, involves selflessly offering our best to others rather than giving outdated or insignificant items. Generosity can be cultivated through reasoning and understanding the natural law of sowing and reaping, but it is best developed through acts of giving without the thought of returns, to benefit others.
Morality (Sīla), the second transcendence is the avoidance of improper behavior for the sake of others. Ven. Pannavati points out that concentration is crucial in developing morality. Concentration stabilizes our minds and protects us from distractions. By training our minds to stay focused, we can fulfill our vows of not creating harm.
Patience (Kṣānti), the third quality, was described as the ability to remain calm and composed in the face of agitation or inconvenience. Ven. Pannavati explains that impatience often stems from personal desires not being met and manifests as anger. We can cultivate patience by uprooting anger and viewing adversity as opportunities for practice.
Effort (Vīrya), the fourth aspect, is defined as inspiration for spiritual practice for the sake of others. Apathy and laziness are hindrances to effort, often caused by discouragement. Ven. Pannavati emphasized the importance of being driven by a deep sense of purpose and spiritual inspiration to overcome obstacles and pursue our highest potential.
Meditative absorption (Dhyāna), the fifth quality, refers to the deep states of concentration and mindfulness. By training the mind to be present and focused, we cultivate mental clarity and inner peace, allowing us to transcend distractions and connect with the depth of our being and the nature of phenomena.
Wisdom (Prajñā), the sixth transcendence, is discussed as a deep understanding of the nature of reality and the Four Noble Truths. Ven. Pannavati acknowledges that she has not fully comprehended the suffering of conditioned existence, which is the first truth. She emphasizes the importance of understanding and abandoning the causes of suffering, and developing the path, to ultimately realize the cessation of suffering.
Ven. Pannavati also reminds us that progress takes time and emphasizes the need for personal reflection and finding the right balance in practicing these transcendences. By engaging in these practices, we can deepen our spiritual growth and transform ourselves for the benefit of others.
After listening to the talk, our group shared an important observation about the Six Transcendence practice – that they are all intertwined! Focusing on the cultivation of one quality will also help develop the others. For example, the power of concentration cultivated from “meditative absorption” will support our “morality” practice. And as our “morality” practice gain strength, we may also find it easier to curb our anger as it arises, fostering the growth of “patience” within us.
From the Teacher: The Practice of The Six Transcendence
During our session last week, we watched various segments from the following 3 videos. They are part of a series of talks given by Ven. Paññāvati Bhikkhuni during a 2017 weekend retreat titled “The Wisdom of Conscience,” organized by Buddhist Insights in Rockaway Beach, NYC.
NOTE: We apologies for any advertisement you may see during video play. These ads are inserted into the videos by YouTube. Neither Buddhist Insights (publisher of the recordings on YouTube), the speaker, nor Chicago Buddhist Meditation Group profits from these ads. Thank you for your understanding.
The Practice of The Six Transcendences : Giving — by Ven. Paññāvati*
During Ven. Paññāvati’s 2nd talk for the retreat, she addresses the first of the Six Transcendences: Giving.
The Practice of The Six Transcendences : Morality and Patience — by Ven. Paññāvati
During the 3rd retreat talk, Ven. Paññāvati addresses the second and third Transcendences: Morality and Patience.
The Practice of The Six Transcendences : Effort, Meditative Absorption, and Wisdom — by Ven. Paññāvati
In her 4th retreat talk, Ven. Paññāvati addresses the last three Transcendences: Effort, Meditative Absorption, and Wisdom.
The recording includes an extended Q&A session (starts at 00:52:43) with Ven. Paññāvati and Bhante Suddhāso.
Suggested resources for sutta text mentioned in the talk:
- Majjhima Nikaya: MN 8: Sallekha Sutta -Effacement translated from Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Ven. Paññāvati read part of this Sutta to her audience during the 4th Retreat talk (between 00:39:52 & 00:44:46).
- Majjhima Nikaya: MN 6: Ākaṅkheyya Sutta – If a Bhikkhu Should Wish translated from Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Ven. Paññāvati mentioned this Sutta when speaking of “having wishes” and that the Buddha said certain wishes are helpful.
* Ven. Dr. Paññāvati Bhikkhuni, is co-founder and co-Abbot of Embracing-Simplicity Hermitage and Co-Director of Heartwood Refuge, an ecumenical Buddhist community, and residential retreat center in Hendersonville, NC. A black, female Buddhist monk ordained in the Theravada and Chan traditions, she remains a disciple of Great Master Kuang Seng, continues Vajrayana empowerments and teachings with Rinpoche Zhaxi Zhouma and received transmission from Roshi Bernie Glassman of Zen Peacemaker. Pannavati is both contemplative and empowered for compassionate service. She is president of the Treasure Human Life Foundation, which promotes skillful action globally, for the welfare of the homeless and disenfranchised, disempowered women and youth, and those who are marginalized, abused, and neglected.