Last Saturday, on July 6, 2019, we continued our study in The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism — Vīrya (Energy / Enthusiasm).
Following meditation, we first shared observations from last month’s “homework” on paying attention to moments when our energy and desire to practice are low. Then, we watched portions of a Dharma lecture by Lama Shenpen Hookham on Virya Paramita (Perfection of Energy / Enthusiasm). Afterwards, the group discussed which of the “Four Thoughts” helps energize us the most on our practice path, what “practicing Dharma” really means to each of us, and more.
Below is a copy of our handout. You may find it helpful to first check out the info listed under “Four Thoughts That Turn The Mind From Samsara” before watching the Dharma lecture video on Virya Paramita, since these concepts are mentioned by the teacher. You will also find questions we discussed during our session, and our homework at the end of this page. Happy learning!
The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Energy/Diligence Part 2
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 / Enthusiasm (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.”
Reminder of the Key Points in Last Month’s Reading:
“Virya Paramita” by Barbara O’Brien
- Virya is said to have three components:
- Developing character – cultivating courage and will to walk the path; an armor to deal with adversity
- Spiritual learning – developing knowledge and confidence
- Benefiting others – dedicating yourself to others
- The precious human rebirth
“This free and well-favoured human form is difficult to obtain.
Now that you have the chance to realize the full human potential,
If you don’t make good use of this opportunity,
How could you possibly expect to have such a chance again?” – Bodhicharyavatara
“This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movement of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.” – Lalitavistara Sutra
- Karma as cause and effect
“When his time has come, even a king has to die,
And neither his friends nor his wealth can follow him.
So for us—wherever we stay, wherever we go—
Karma follows us like a shadow.” – Rajavavadaka Sutra
- The defects of samsara
“Because of craving, attachment and ignorance,
Men, gods, animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings
Foolishly go round,
Like the turning of a potter’s wheel.” – Lalitavistara Sutra
“Virya Paramita” by Lama Shenpen Hookham **
During our session, we watched from 0:00 to 20:39; 26:00 to 36:30; and 42:01 to 52:05 mins.
** Lama Shenpen Hookham was a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, founder of Shambhala. She lived as a nun for 6 years in India in the 1970s, and was ordained by the 16th Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. She trained for over 50 years in the Mahamudra & Dzogchen traditions of the Kagyu-Nyingma schools, and is fluent in Tibetan.
- Recap question: what did Lama Shenpen say about how Virya Paramita connects to the previous 3 paramitas: Dāna (generosity), Sila (ethical conducts), and Kshanti (patience)?
- Of the Four Thoughts or Three Components (above), which one helps energize you the most?
- The teacher emphasized a positive attitude in practicing Dharma – that, if we are breathing we have time to practice Dharma. What does “practicing Dharma” mean to you?
- The teacher said virya is not about being “busy, busy, busy” – what did she mean by that?
- Lama Shenpen taught that by thinking of others’ good qualities, those good qualities arise in us as well – that this is Virya, an augmenting energy; and that seeing faults in others does us no good. In the coming week(s), try practicing seeing others’ good qualities (even if they turn out not to be true!). Observe if and how that practice generates Virya in you.