Learning & Practice

The Six Paramitas and the Eight Consciousnesses

"We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness."

— Thich Nhat Hanh

The Six Paramitas are practices and ways of being that profoundly help us to cultivate an awakened heart-mind. When integrated with the model of the Eight Consciousnesses, they provide a powerful framework that clarifies their roles at each level of consciousness. This includes shaping our karmic seeds at the sensory level, purifying self-clinging tendencies in the Manas, and nourishing a healthy mind-consciousness. Thus, the Six Paramitas serve as potent tools, empowering us to choose actions that foster well-being and transformation within ourselves. The resulting transformation then positively influences everyone and everything we come into contact with.

The Six Paramitas and the Eighth Consciousness: Planting and Ripening the Karmic Seeds

The eighth consciousness, or Storehouse Consciousness, serves as a repository for our experiences and karmic seeds. The Six Paramitas, when practiced sincerely and regularly, effectively shape these seeds. For instance, by practicing generosity (Dana), we plant seeds of abundance and open-heartedness. Similarly, engaging in ethical behavior (Sila) sows seeds of trust and respect in our consciousness.

As we meditate in a concentrated way (Dhyana) and delve into the wisdom (Prajna) teachings, we create an environment fertile enough for these seeds to grow. Patience (Kshanti) allows the time necessary for these seeds to ripen, while diligent effort (Virya) nurtures and cares for the garden of our mind. In this way, the Six Paramitas serve as both the gardener and the rain, nurturing the wholesome seeds in our storehouse consciousness and enabling them to flourish.

The Six Paramitas and the Seventh Consciousness: Purifying the Manas

The Manas, or the seventh consciousness, is responsible for our self-identity and self-clinging tendencies. Through the practice of the Six Paramitas, we can begin to purify this consciousness. By letting go of attachments through generosity, upholding moral conduct, exercising patience, applying effort, focusing our mind through meditation, and using wisdom to discern the transient and interdependent nature of the self, we begin to loosen the grip of self-centeredness and foster a broader, more inclusive view of reality.

The Six Paramitas and the Sixth Consciousness: Nurturing a Healthy Mind

The sixth consciousness, our thinking mind, is central to our lived experience. It is the stage where our sensory information is given context, understood, and made meaningful. With the guidance of the Six Paramitas, we can tend to this consciousness effectively.

Practicing the Paramitas, we can guide our thinking mind to be more generous, ethical, patient, diligent, concentrated, and wise. In essence, we are training this consciousness to create wholesome views of our life and world, which in turn fuels a healthier relationship with ourselves and others.

The Six Paramitas and the First to Fifth Consciousnesses: Nourishing and Transforming at the Point of Contact

Our first through fifth consciousnesses correspond to our five senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, which work in tandem with the sixth consciousness to interpret our world. At each point of contact, whether it's a sound we hear or an object we see, we have the opportunity to respond in a manner that fosters well-being or suffering.

The practice of the Six Paramitas here serves as a wise and compassionate guardian, reminding us to be careful and helps us interact with the world in a way that is beneficial. For instance, upon hearing harsh words (contact at the second consciousness – hearing), instead of reacting with anger, we can exercise patience and understanding.

In essence, the Paramitas guide our responses at the very initial stages of our sensory contact, providing a buffer against negative reactions and promoting wholesome responses.

The Everyday Bodhisattva: Embodied in the Eight Consciousnesses

The Six Paramitas can play a profound role in our engagement with the eight consciousnesses. By embodying these Paramitas, we directly influence how we engage with our inner and outer worlds, reshaping our karmic landscape, tempering our self-clinging tendencies, nurturing a healthier mindset, and guiding our interactions at the sensory level.

By cultivating and imbuing these and other dharma teachings, we are becoming Everyday Bodhisattvas – individuals who, in every moment, seek to reduce suffering and promote well-being for themselves and others. And it's worth reminding ourselves at every step on our journey, this transformation isn't instantaneous but evolves gradually, through steady and heartfelt practice. As we walk this path, we're not only reshaping our personal lives but also contributing to a more compassionate, understanding, and harmonious world.

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