HPB gives them as:

1. DANA, the key of charity and love immortal.

 2. SHILA, the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action. 

3. KSHANTI, patience sweet, that nought can ruffle. 
4. VIRYA, the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal TRUTH, out of the mire of lies terrestrial.

5. DHYANA, whose golden gate once opened leads the Narjol* toward the realm of Sat eternal and its ceaseless contemplation.  [*A saint, an adept.]

6. PRAJNA, the key to which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyanis. 

Plus: VIRAGA, indifference to pleasure and to pain, illusion conquered, truth alone perceived.

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Nice comprehensive piece on the 10 Perfections, Nicholas. Here's a little intro bit by the Dalai Lama:

''Although the generation of the aspirational aspects of the bodhichitta alone is very remarkable and a virtuous action in itself, that alone will not fulfill your aim of achieving Buddhahood. It is important to engage in the practice of the bodhisattva deeds. These deeds, called the six perfections, constitute the essential and comprehensive path to enlightenment, combining methods and wisdom. The Buddha himself said that by the force of their wisdom bodhisattvas abandon all the delusions, but by the force of their compassionate method they never abandon sentient beings. These two aspects of the path should always be undertaken in combination, never in isolation. The entire practice of the bodhisattva is classified under the six perfections, which are generosity, ethics, patience, effort, concentration, and wisdom.

To fulfill the wishes of others it is very important to engage in the practice of generosity, and generosity itself should be reinforced by the pure observance of ethics, abstaining from inflicting harm upon others. The actual practice itself should be completed by the practice of patience, because you should have forbearance toward harm inflicted upon you by others. In order to engage in such practices, you must have strong effort. Without concentration, your practice will not be powerful. And without wisdom realizing the nature of phenomena, you will not be able to guide others rightly on the path leading to the achievement of enlightenment.''

(The Way to Freedom Harper Sanfrancisco, 1994)

Yes, nice book - Thurman did a good job putting that together - here's a pithy passage from HPB (I imagine that the references to sixteen paramitas should read 'six and ten'):

"If among you there was one who embodied in himself the idea depicted, it would be my duty to relinquish the teacher's chair to him. For it would be the extreme of audacity in me to claim the possession of so many virtues. That the MASTERS do in proportion to their respective temperaments and stages of Bodhisatvic development possess such Paramitas, constitutes their right to our reverence as our Teachers. It should be the aim of each and all of us to strive with all the intensity of our natures to follow and imitate Them. . . . Try to realize that progress is made step by step, and each step gained by heroic effort. Withdrawal means despair or timidity. . . . Conquered passions, like slain tigers, can no longer turn and rend you. Be hopeful then, not despairing. With each morning's awakening try to live through the day in harmony with the Higher Self. 'Try' is the battle-cry taught by the teacher to each pupil. Naught else is expected of you. One who does his best does all that can be asked. There is a moment when even a Buddha ceases to be a sinning mortal and takes his first step toward Buddhahood. The sixteen Paramitas (virtues) are not for priests and yogis alone, as said, but stand for models for us all to strive after--and neither priest nor yogi, Chela nor Mahatma, ever attained all at once. . . . The idea that sinners and not saints are expected to enter the Path is emphatically stated in the Voice of the Silence."



“The Lankāvatāra Sutra” by D.T.Suzuki pp 204-205

Further, Mahāmati said: It is again said by the Blessed One that by fulfilling the sixPāramitās Buddhahood is realized. What are the six Pāramitās? 1 And how are they fulfilled? The Blessed One replied: Mahāmati, there are three kinds of Pāramitās. What are the three? They are the worldly, the super-worldly, and the highest super-worldly. Of these, Mahāmati, the worldly Pāramitās [are practiced thus]: Adhering tenaciously to the notion of an ego-soul and, what belongs to it and holding fast to dualism, those who are desirous for this world of form, etc., will practice the Pāramitā of charity in order to obtain the various realms of existence. In the same way, Mahāmati, the ignorant will practice the Pāramitās of morality, patience, energy, Dhyana, and Prajńā. Attaining the psychic powers they will be born in Brahma's heaven. As to the super-worldly Pāramitās, they are practiced by the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas whose thoughts are possessed by the notion of Nirvana; the Pāramitās of charity, etc. are thus performed by them, who, like the ignorant, are desirous of enjoying Nirvana for themselves.

Again, Mahāmati as to the highest super-worldly Pāramitās, [they are practiced] by the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas who are the practisers of the highest form of spiritual discipline; that is, perceiving that there is nothing in the world but what is only seen of the Mind itself, on account of discrimination, and understanding that duality is of the Mind itself, they see that discrimination ceases to function; and, that seizing and holding is non-existent; and, free from all thoughts of attachment to individual objects which are of the Mind itself,

and in order to benefit and give happiness to all sentient beings, [the Bodhisattvas] practise the Pāramitā of charity (Dāna).

While dealing with an objective world there is no rising in them of discrimination; they just practice morality and this is the Pāramitā of morality (Shīla).

To practice patience with no thought of discrimination rising in them and yet with full knowledge of grasped and grasping -this is the Pāramitā of patience(Kshanti)

To exert oneself with energy from the first part of the night to its end and in conformity with the disciplinary measures and not to give rise to discrimination this is the Pāramitā of energy (Virya)

Not to cherish discrimination, not to fall into the philosopher's notion of Nirvana this is the Pāramitā of Dhyana.

As to the Pāramitā of Prajńā: when the discrimination of the Mind itself ceases, when things are thoroughly examined by means of intelligence, there is no falling into dualism, and a revulsion takes place at the basis, while previous karma is not destroyed; when [transcendental knowledge] is exercised for the accomplishment of self-realization, then there is the Prajńā.

These, Mahāmati, are the Pāramitās and their meanings.



In the HHDL's Way to Freedom, generosity is defined as the giving away of possessions, body, and your virtuous collections. Moreover, there are three types of generosity: the giving of the Dharma, the giving of fearlessness or protection, and the giving of material possessions.

He gives some handy advice:

‘’When you practice giving the gift of teachings, you should first analyze the nature of the listener to determine whether he or she will benefit from the teaching that you are thinking of giving. Otherwise, instead of being helpful to that person it might end up being harmful, and your listener may lose faith in the Dharma’’. (p.161)

Here's a nice intro to the topic:



The second paramita, Shila, or ethics, is related to the 10 negative actions (to be avoided, preferably):

10 negative actions



sexual misconduct



abusive speech

senseless speech



wrong views

HHDL notes that:

‘’Your intention in observing pure ethics should not be confined to protecting yourself from engaging in negative actions but should also set an example for others, so that they too can be protected from the harm of negative actions’’. 162-63


Without adequate erudition or eloquence, and with utmost reverence, I propose some ideas on the third paramita:

The aboutBuddhism site states: ‘’Ksanti is patience, tolerance, forbearance, endurance, or composure. It literally means "able to withstand." It is said there are three dimensions to ksanti: the ability to endure personal hardship; patience with others; and acceptance of truth.’’

The venerable HHDL gives 3 types of patience:

1-      not being upset by harms inflicted by others; 2-voluntarily taking suffering upon oneself; 3- enduring the sufferings involved in the practice of the Dharma.

Anger management is very important: ‘’The very simple point is that if individuals had control over their emotions, they would not do you harm at all, because what they seek is happiness. They would not work for their won downfall by accumulating the negative karma that comes from harming others. Because they do not have control over their emotions, there is no point in losing your temper. (164)

‘’Indeed I should feel indebted to the person who has harmed me, because he or she has given me the opportunity to test my own patience.’’ (Way to Freedom, p. 165)


The fourth paramita is virya, effort or energy. The HHDL states that a major obstacle to effort is laziness; there being three types:

1- indolence, the wish to postpone what you have to do.

2- inferiority, the sense of not being able to do something.

3- attachment to negative actions.

Courage and confidence are important: "You should have the confidence to feel that you have seen the harm of the delusions, that you will not allow yourself to remain under the influence of delusions, that you have the ability and capacity to work for the benefit of others."  (Way to Freedom, p. 171)


The fifth paramita, Dhyana, concentration or meditation can be defined as ''the mental state of focusing single-pointedly on a virtuous object.'' Moreover, concentration is ''the practice whereby one's ordinary, distracted, uncontrolled mind is developed to the point that it can remain powerfully, effortlessly, and one-pointedly on whatever object one chooses.'' (Way to Freedom, p. 173-74)

HHDL recommends meditation practice. He also gives some pointers on sleep such as reviewing your day before going to sleep or reviewing the subjects of your meditation session.

In paraphrasing Tsong-kha-pa, he encourages making one's philosophical studies the subject of analytical meditation:

''If you do not try to explore the analytic faculty of the mind and just continuously remain absorbed in stabilizing meditation, simply maintaining nonconceptuality, you become less and less intelligent, and the wisdom to discriminate between right and wrong decreases.'' (Way to Freedom, p. 179)


Before arriving at the culminating paramita, below is a recap courtesy of our good friend Mr. Judge (Theosophical Glossary):

PARAMITAS, the seven Paramitas of perfection are: Dana, Charity; Shila, Harmony; Kshanti, Patience;Virag, the higher Indifference; Virya, Courage; Dhyana, Contemplation; Prajna, the capacity for Mahaticperception.


The culminating perfection, Prajna, or Wisdom is according to HHDL:

''Compared to other faculties, like faith, mindfulness, effort, and so forth, wisdom is said to be more important  because it is only through the force of wisdom, when complemented by the other faculties, that one can actually combat the force of the delusions. The other perfections, like generosity and ethics, depend heavily upon the realization of wisdom.'' (Way to Freedom, p. 179)

He considers that ignorance is the major obstacle to wisdom. He adds that :''For a serious practitioner, both learning and contemplation are very important. The progress you make  in your practice should match the increase in your knowledge of the Dharma. Having obtained this precious human life endowed with a complex brain, we must make use of its special qualities and apply the unique power to discriminate between right and wrong. This is done by increasing our understanding. The more you increase your knowledge, the better your understanding will be.'' (p. 180)

He concludes that: ''Although it is initially very difficult for us to plunge into the practice of the six perfections, it is important at first to develop admiration for them and increase our understanding of them. This will eventually lead us to the true practice, enabling us to find freedom from the difficulties of the cycle of existence and enjoy the bliss of perfect enlightenment.'' (p. 181)


“Though such a person with any of the faults as above declared should fill the world with his charities, and make his name known throughout every nation, he would make no advancement in the practical occult sciences, but be continually slipping backward. The ‘six and ten transcendental virtues.’ the Pâramitâs, are not for full-grown yogis and priests alone, but for all those who would enter the ‘Path.’” HPB, CW XII 598


Here are the six paramitas according to the Sakya school, to whit, Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation:

Generosity has three classifications:

A. giving wealth,

B. giving fearlessness, and

C. giving Dharma.

The practice of giving wealth will stabilize others’ bodies, giving fearlessness will stabilize others’ lives, and giving Dharma stabilizes others’ minds. Furthermore, the first two generosity practices establish others’ happiness in this life. Giving Dharma establishes their happiness hereafter. (Chapter 12.3)

Moral ethics has three classifications:

A. moral ethics of restraint,

B. morality of accumulating virtuous Dharma, and

C. morality of benefitting sentient beings.

The first means to restrain your mind in a proper place; the second one means to mature the Dharma qualities of your mind; and the third one means to fully mature sentient beings. (Chapter 13.3)

Patience has three classifications:

• the patience of feeling ease toward someone harmful,

• the patience of accepting suffering, and

• patience in understanding the nature of Dharma.

The first one is practicing patience by investigating the nature of the one who creates harm. The second one is practicing patience by investigating the nature of suffering. The third one is practicing patience by investigating the unmistakable nature of all phenomena. Put another way, the first two are practiced in the conventional state, and the third one is practiced according to the ultimate state. (Chapter 14.3)

Perseverance has three classifications:

A. perseverance of armor,

B. perseverance of application, and

C. insatiable perseverance.

The first is the excellent motivation, the second one is excellent applied effort, and the third one is the perfection of these two. (Chapter 15.3)

Actual meditative concentration has three classifications:

A. meditative concentration of abiding in bliss at the present,

B. meditative concentration of accumulating good qualities, and

C. meditative concentration of benefitting sentient beings.

The first one is the method to make a proper vessel of one’s own mind. The second one is establishing all of the Buddha’s qualities on the basis of the proper vessel. The third one is benefitting sentient beings. (Chapter 16.3)

The commentary to the Ornament of Mahayana Sutra lists three types:

A. wisdom awareness of the mundane,

B. wisdom awareness of the lesser supramundane, and

C. wisdom awareness of the greater supramundane.

A. Wisdom Awareness of the Mundane.

The study of medicine and healing, the study of reasoning, the study of linguistics, and the study of the arts—the wisdom awareness which arises in dependence on these four is called wisdom awareness of the mundane.

The two types of supramundane wisdom awareness are called inner awarenesses which arise in dependence on the holy Dharma.

B. Wisdom Awareness of the Lesser Supramundane.

The first, the lesser supramundane wisdom awareness, is the wisdom awareness that arises from the hearing, reflection, and meditation of the Hearers and Solitary Realisers. It is the realization that the afflicted aggregates of personality are impure, of the nature of suffering, impermanent, and without self.

C. Wisdom Awareness of the Greater Supramundane.

Second, the greater supramundane wisdom awareness is the wisdom awareness that arises from the hearing, reflection, and meditation of the followers of the Mahayana. It is the realization that all phenomena are, by nature, emptiness, unborn, without a foundation and without roots. The 700 Stanza Perfection of Wisdom says:

The realization that all phenomena are unborn— that is the perfection of wisdom awareness.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Casady on November 30, 2014 at 12:20pm

right, yes the lineage of Marpa and Milarepa - thanks for catching that...

Permalink Reply by Casady on June 30, 2015 at 1:48pm

Nice - Nagarjuna and Dharmamitra are always interesting-

"Genuine concentration and meditation, conscious and cautious, upon one's lower self in the light of the inner divine man and the Paramitas, is an excellent thing."(hpb CW 12, 603)

"Which wilt thou choose, O thou of dauntless heart? The Samtan (4) of "eye Doctrine," four-fold Dhyâna, or thread thy way through Pâramitâs (5), six in number, noble gates of virtue leading to Bodhi and to Prajñâ, seventh step of Wisdom?

The rugged Path of four-fold Dhyâna winds on uphill. Thrice great is he who climbs the lofty top.

The Pâramitâ heights are crossed by a still steeper path. Thou hast to fight thy way through portals seven, seven strongholds held by cruel crafty Powers — passions incarnate."

"Before thou canst approach the last, O weaver of thy freedom, thou hast to master these Pâramitâs of perfection — the virtues transcendental six and ten in number — along the weary Path."

(5). Pâramitâs, the six transcendental virtues; for the priests there are ten.

(hpb - VoS 3)