Last Saturday, on September 7, 2019, we studied the seventh of The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism — Upāya (Skillful Means / Expedient Means).
We first defined Upāya. Then we read the opening paragraphs from the article: “Skillful Means: The Buddhist Teaching on How to Share Your Wisdom” by Rev. Domyo Burk. Pausing to remind ourselves to be careful not to puff up our ego in the process, thinking that we “know better” than others. Then, as a group, we picked a couple of topics from the article to read and discuss, and elaborated on the Lotus Sutra stories cited in the article along the way. We shared our past experiences – as giver and receiver of skillful means. We discussed how the attempt at helping others could be a slippery slope if we don’t truly understand what that person is ready for or what his/her temperament is. Which brought us to an important conclusion that, to be able to apply skillful means, one must first practice being a deep listener and observer.
Below is a copy of our handout, reading materials, questions we discussed, and our homework for the week. Happy learning!
The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Skillful / Expedient Means:
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).
Skillful Means / Expedient Means (Upāya):
In the broadest sense, all of the Buddha’s teachings can be considered as skillful means that can be discarded when the practitioner reaches enlightenment. Buddha likened his teachings to a raft: it can be used to cross a river, but once the practitioner has crossed the river, the raft is no longer needed and should be discarded. Dharma is: “for crossing over, not for retaining.”
Skillful Means: The Buddhist Teaching on How to Share Your Wisdom (Part 1 – 3)
* Rev. Domyo Burk began Zen practice in 1996, and was ordained as a Zen monk in 2001 by Gyokuko Carlson Roshi. She then spent seven years in full-time residential monastic training at Dharma Rain Zen Center, which included a practice period at Tassajara Monastery in California. In 2010, she received Dharma Transmission, authorizing her to teach in the Soto Zen lineage, from Gyokuko Carlson Roshi. She now serves as the spiritual and executive director of Bright Way Zen in Portland, Oregon
For each of the six considerations mentioned in the article, explore the following quetions:
- Share examples of times when: (i) you applied skillful means with others, and (ii) you were the one who received the benefits of others applying skillful means with you.
- How might you apply skillful means going forward, on causes that you care about?
- How to “guard our mind” as we apply skillful means?
- Finish reading the article or re-read it. Try out some of the suggested skillful means in your daily lives as you interact with others. Always be aware of your true intention – is it really for the benefit of others, or is it to puff up your ego?
- Be aware of when you are the one who is stubborn and not listening or not changing, and be open to others applying skillful means with you!