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The Ten (6 + 4) Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Introduction

Last Saturday, on March 2, 2019, we kicked off our 2019 Dharma Learning topic — The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism.

We shared a print out of Barbara O’Brien’s article: Paramitas: The Ten Perfections of Mahayana Buddhism.

We introduced everyone to bits of extract we found from the Sandhinirmochana Sutra (“Scripture Unlocking the Mysteries”), which depicted a conversation between Avalokiteshvara and the Buddha on the basic Six Paramitas and the extra four.

Then we watched a Dharma talk video by Ven. Jue Qian from Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto. In her talk, the venerable explained each of the basic Six Paramitas one by one.

Here is a copy of our handout. Scroll down to watch the video and see what our homework is for this week!


The Ten (6 + 4) Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Introduction

Pāramitā (Sanskrit) or Parami (Pāli): “Perfection” or “Transcendent”. In Buddhism, the Paramitas refer to the perfection or culmination of certain practices. These practices are cultivated by Bodhisattvas for crossing from sensuous life (Samsara) to Enlightenment (Nirvana).

Six Paramitas in Mahayana Buddhism, as listed in the Lotus Sutra (Saddharmapundarika):

  1. Dāna paramita: generosity, giving of oneself
  2. Sila paramita: virtue, morality, proper conduct
  3. Kshanti paramita: patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
  4. Virya paramita: energy, diligence, vigor, effort
  5. Dhyāna paramita: one-pointed concentration, contemplation
  6. Prajña paramita: wisdom, insight

Four more to complete the Ten Paramitas:

  1. Upāya paramita: skill in means / skillful means
  2. Praṇidhāna paramita: vow, resolution, aspiration, determination
  3. Bala paramita:      spiritual power
  4. Jñāna paramita:      knowledge

From the Sandhinirmochana Sutra* (“Scripture Unlocking the Mysteries”):

The enlightening being Avalokiteshvara also asked the Buddha, “How many things should enlightening beings learn?”

The Buddha replied, “In general, there are six things enlightening beings should learn: consummate giving, discipline, forbearance, diligence, meditation, and insight.”


Avalokiteshvara asked, “Why, as you define these things to learn, are there only six?”

The Buddha replied, “For two reasons. One is to benefit sentient beings. The other is to cure afflictions. The first three benefit sentient beings; the latter three cure all afflictions.


Avalokiteshvara asked, “Why, as you define the other ways of transcendence, are there only four more?”

The Buddha said, “Because they are aids to the first six ways of transcendence….”

*source: Sandhinirmochana Sutra, translated by Thomas Cleary in Buddhist yoga: a comprehensive course, p.75-77. (ISBN 1-56957-106-6)


Dharma Video:

The Six Parmatias” by Ven. Jue Qian from Fo Guang Shan** Temple of Toronto:

**Fo Guang Shan is an international Chinese Buddhist monastic order based in Taiwan that practices humanistic buddhism.



  1. Try to pay extra attention to your daily routine this week, to find opportunities where you can practice any one of the Six Paramitas. Share your findings and ideas with us next week!