Last Saturday, on June 08, 2019, we studied the fourth of The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism — Vīrya (Energy / Diligence / Effort / Exertion).
We started our Dharma learning session with Belinda sharing what she learned from the homework assignment last week. We then read the article Virya Paramita by Barbara O’Brien, and shared a passage from the Canki Sutta to learn what Buddha said about “Exertion”. We enjoyed an energetic disscusion afterward and ran out of time to finish reading Effort together. It is an excerpt from the book Faces of Compassion by Taigen Dan Leighton. We are posting it below as part of our homework this week.
The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Energy / Diligence Part-1
RECAP: 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).
Energy / Diligence (Vīrya):
Vīrya, Sanskrit, viriya in Pali — literally means “state of a strong man.” In Vedic literature, the term is often associated with heroism and virility. In Buddhism, the term more generally refers to a practitioner’s “energy” or “exertion,” and is identified as a prerequisite for achieving liberation. In Buddhism, viriya has been translated as “energy,” “persistence,” “persevering,” “vigor,” “effort,” “exertion,” or “diligence.”
* O’Brien is a Zen Buddhist practitioner who studied at Zen Mountain Monastery. She is the author of “Rethinking Religion” and has covered religion for The Guardian, Tricycle.org, and other outlets.
SOURCE: Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression — An Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism, Chapter 3: The Ten Transcendent Practices, pp. 71-73
** Taigen Dan Leighton is a Sōtō priest and teacher, academic, and author. He is an authorized lineage holder and Zen teacher in the tradition of Shunryū Suzuki and is the founder and Guiding Teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago, IL.
“Exertion is most helpful for the final attainment of the truth, Bharadvaja. If one didn’t make an exertion, one wouldn’t finally attain the truth …”
“But what quality is most helpful for exertion? We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for exertion.”
“Contemplating is most helpful for exertion…”
“But what quality is most helpful for contemplating?…”
“Being willing… If one weren’t willing, one wouldn’t contemplate…”
“But what quality is most helpful for being willing?…”
“Desire… If desire didn’t arise, one wouldn’t be willing…”
“But what quality is most helpful for desire?…”
“Coming to an agreement through pondering dhammas… If one didn’t come to an agreement through pondering dhammas, desire wouldn’t arise…”
“But what quality is most helpful for coming to an agreement through pondering dhammas?…”
“Penetrating the meaning… If one didn’t penetrate the meaning, one wouldn’t come to an agreement through pondering dhammas…”
“But what quality is most helpful for penetrating the meaning?…”
“Remembering the Dhamma…”
“But what quality is most helpful for remembering the Dhamma?… ”
“Hearing the Dhamma… If one didn’t hear the Dhamma, one wouldn’t remember the Dhamma…”
“But what quality is most helpful for hearing the Dhamma?… ”
“Lending ear… If one didn’t lend ear, one wouldn’t hear the Dhamma…”
“But what quality is most helpful for lending ear?… ”
“Growing close… If one didn’t grow close, one wouldn’t lend ear…”
“But what quality is most helpful for growing close?… ”
“Visiting… If one didn’t visit, one wouldn’t grow close…”
“But what quality is most helpful for visiting? …”
“Conviction is most helpful for visiting, Bharadvaja. If conviction [in a person] didn’t arise, one wouldn’t visit [that person]. Because conviction arises, one visits. Therefore, conviction is most helpful for visiting.”
– Canki Sutta (discourse 95 of the Majjhima Nikaya***), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
*** The Majjhima Nikaya, or “Middle-length Discourses” of the Buddha, is the second of the five nikayas (collections) of the Sutta Pitaka.
- In her article, O’Brien pointed out the seemingly contradictory ideas of “Meditating with a goal in mind is a problem” and “desire and goal-setting can help cultivate virya.” Have these two ideas ever create obstacle for your practice? Please share your experience and the way you deal with it.
- “If I practice hard, I WILL get enlightened,” do you agree with this statement? Why?
- What are your motivations to keep practicing? Do those ever change for you? Please share.
- For the next few weeks, pay special attention to those moments when you feel that your energy and desire to practice is low. Observes what goes on in your mind – the “conversation” you have with yourself — when that happen. Come back and share your experience with us!
- Read the book excerpt “Effort” by Taigen Dan Leighton posted above.