Pāramīs are virtues—that is, good human qualities. By perfecting them, one crosses the ocean of misery and reaches the stage of full liberation. Little by little, one develops these pāramīs in every course. They should be developed in daily living as well. However, in a meditation course environment, the perfection of the pāramī can be greatly accelerated.
A human life is of limited duration, with limited capabilities. It is important to use one’s life to the best purpose. And there can be no higher purpose than to establish oneself in Dhamma, on the path, which leads one out of defilements. Therefore no effort is more worthwhile for a human being than the exertion of all one’s faculties to take steps on this path.
There are the following ten good mental qualities, pāramīs:
Nekkkama - Renunciation. One who becomes a monk or a nun renounces the householder’s life and lives without personal possessions, even having to beg for his or her daily food. All this is done for the purpose of dissolving the ego. How can a lay person develop this quality? In a course like this, one has the opportunity to do so, since here one lives on the charity of others. Accepting whatever is offered as food, accommodation, or other facilities, one gradually develops the quality of renunciation. Whatever one receives here, one makes best use of it, working hard to purify the mind not only for one’s own good, but also for the good of the unknown person who donated on one’s behalf.
Sīla - Morality. One tries to develop this pāramī by following the five precepts at all times, both during a course and in daily life. There are many obstacles which make it difficult to practice sīla in worldly life. However, in a meditation course, there is no opportunity to break the precepts, because of the heavy programme and discipline. Only in speaking is there any likelihood of one’s deviating from strict observance of morality. For this reason, one takes a vow of silence for the first nine days of the course. In this way, at least within the period of the course, one keeps sīla perfectly.
Viriya - effort. In daily life one makes efforts, for example to earn one’s livelihood. Here, however, the effort is to purify the mind by remaining aware and equanimous. This is right effort, which leads one out of defilements.
Paññā - wisdom. In the outside world, one may have wisdom, but it is the wisdom one gains from reading books or listening to others, or merely intellectual understanding. The real Pāramī of wisdom is the understanding that develops within oneself, by one’s own experience in meditation. One realizes directly by self-observation the facts of impermanence, suffering, and egolessness. By this direct experience of reality, one comes out of suffering.
Khanti - tolerance. During the course, working and living together in a group, one may find oneself becoming disturbed and irritated by the actions of another person. But soon one realizes that the person causing a disturbance is ignorant of what he is doing, or a sick person. The irritation goes away, and one feels only love and compassion for that person. One has started developing the quality of tolerance.
Sacca - truthfulness. By practising sīla, one undertakes to maintain truthfulness at the vocal level. However, sacca must also be practised in a deeper sense. Every step on the path must be a step
with truth, from gross, apparent truth, to subtler truths, to ultimate truth. There is no room for imagination. One must always remain with the reality that one actually experiences at the present moment.
Adhiṭṭhāna - strong determination. When one starts a Vipassana course, one makes a determination to remain for the entire period of the course. One resolves to follow the precepts, the rule of silence, all the discipline of the course. At a later stage on the path, this Pāramī is very important. For this purpose it is necessary to develop the strong determination.
Mettā- pure, selfless love. In the past, one tried to feel love and goodwill for others, but this was only at the conscious level of the mind. At the unconscious level, the old tensions continues. When the entire mind is purified, then from the depths, one can wish for the happiness of others. This is real love, which helps others and helps oneself as well.
Dāna - generosity, donation. For a lay person, this is the first essential step of Dhamma. A lay person has the responsibility of earning money by right livelihood, for the support of oneself and of any dependents. But if one generates attachment to the money that one earns, then one develops ego. For this reason, a portion of what one earns must be given for the good of others. If one does this, ego will not develop, since one understands that one earns for one’s own benefit and also for the benefit of others. The volition arises to help others in whatever way one can and one realizes that there can be no greater help to others than to help them learn the way out of suffering.
Upekkhā - equanimity. One learns to keep the balance of the mind. In every situation one understands that the experience of that moment is impermanent, bound to pass away. With this understanding, one remains detached, equanimous.