The Buddha instructs us to act upon the Six Paramitas, or Perfections if we are to follow his Way. The first of these is donation. One is to give with your body, another is to give your money, and the third is to give your knowledge. Examples of the three methods of donation can be seen in a Japanese project to send fishing equipment to an underdeveloped country. Volunteers go out to sea with the recipients and teach them how to use the equipment. Another example is the surge of volunteers who rushed to Kobe in 1995 after the great earthquake there. These people gave with their bodies, brought gifts of money and food, and spoke words of encouragement to the victims. As these examples show, donation can be both physical and emotional.
The second of the Six Perfections is morality, or keeping the precepts. The precepts are not restrictions that bind us but, rather, guardrails that protect us on the Buddha's Way.
The third perfection is forbearance. This is not just bearing up under all circumstances but includes fostering a tolerant heart and mind.
The fourth perfection is perseverance, or effort. We must commit ourselves to strive diligently to follow the Buddha Way.
The fifth perfection is meditation. We need to calm our minds by dispelling distraction. Think of a small building with six windows. A monkey inside peers through each window, one after the other. There seems to be six monkeys, but actually there is only one, jumping from window to window. The six windows represents our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The monkey that peers through our six windows represents the constantly changing state of our minds and hearts.
The six perfection is wisdom. Wisdom is more than mere knowledge; it is the ability to see the truth. It is not wise, for example to give more drugs to an addict who is suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Certainly we must have compassion, but compassion without wisdom is useless.
We must endeavor to practice the Six Perfections if we are to follow the Way that leads to true happiness. The word paramita, the Sanskrit word for perfection means "to cross to the other shore." To do so is to travel from this world, so full of frustration and misery, to that other world of perfect peace and happiness, the world of enlightenment. The Six Perfections show us the sure way to make this crossing.
Many people believe that corporations and businesses exist solely to make money. No one, we assume, would want to operate a business that did not return a profit. But the ultimate happiness, the thing that makes life worthwhile, is to bring happiness to as many people as possible through one's work or business.
All the sects of Buddhism preach that we should strive to serve others through our work. The Tendai sect teaches that all our undertakings are the practice of the Buddha's Way. The Zen sect teaches that everything we do is an act of Buddhist faith. The Pure Land sect points out that even business activities should be thought of as carrying out the Buddha's Dharma.
Ven. Etai Yamada (1895-1994), the head priest of Enryaku-ji Temple and the Tendai sect, had this to say:
Don't think of work as something you do to make a living. Rather, apply yourself to
each day's undertaking with the thought, "I am a Buddha." People who throw
themselves wholeheartedly into their work in this way become indispensable. Such are
the people who light up their corners of the world.
If we live always to serve others, we will win everyone's respect. No matter what
happens, let us be human. To be human means to go beyond the pursuit of immediate
profit, to live instead focusing on mastering one's job, whatever it may be. Be earnest in
your work and you will find you will earn enough to support yourself. This is what
Saicho was talking about when he said, "Sustenance is to be found in the will to follow
the Way; the will to follow the Way is not to be found in pursuit of the means of
After all I have experienced in my long life, I truly believe he is right. The greatest joy we can have comes when we give freely of that which is most important to us, whether it is money or labor.
Even the miser who clings to all the money and things that she can grasp is transformed by the realization of what happiness she can bring to others by letting go and giving. Therein lies the merit of giving. To aspire to the Way that Saicho speaks of is to foster the growth and flowering of the buddha-nature that is within each and every one of us. If we apply our full attention to achieving this end, our physical needs will be met in the process. A bonus is that we will be able to accept everything with such thankfulness that our hearts and minds will always be full of joy.
People who seek only to meet their physical needs, who think only of personal benefit, will be so concerned about advantage and disadvantage that they will never have any rest.
Buddhism For Everyday Life