Energy and its Perfection (Viriya-parami)

By Bhikkhu Khantipalo

 
Just as Enlightenment is inconceivable unless a person has patience, so it is not attainable without effort being made. The Dhamma never encourages the doctrine of fatalism, and true Buddhists never think of events as being rigidly predetermined. Such fatalism is combated by mindfulness and by energy itself. This perfection is the counterpart of the previous one, and balanced by practice, they ensure that the sincere Buddhist neither passively accepts what he should combat nor rushes around to the disturbance of himself and others when he should have patience. By way of warning it may be mentioned here that in the Buddhist world can be found a number of “methods” which seem to promise the riches of Dhamma all in no time. One hears such remarks as, “What’s the use of books and study?” Or even, “The development of calm is a waste of time! One should only develop insight.” Such lop-sided approaches do not reflect the wisdom of Lord Buddha, who taught time and again the necessity of a balanced development of mind. Books and their study are useful to some people who wish to gain a good background of what Lord Buddha really said, before taking up more intensive practice. As for the other assertion, no real insight (only delusive ideas) will arise to the person whose mind has no experience of calm. Such views as these, which are usually based on some peculiar experience of those “teachers” who originate them, are apt to mislead many, since the craving for quick results coupled with the dislike of the necessary hard work, are easily stirred up. There must be patience to accept that the conditions required for success of meditation (as outlined here) have to be fulfilled, and the only result if failing to do so, is straying off the Way. The meditator applies himself steadily to whatever task he has in hand and, coming to the end of it, does not feel tired at all but straightaway takes up a new objective.

It is interesting in this respect that tiredness is of two kinds: that relating to physical exhaustion; and the other kind which is mentally induced and involves the unskillful factors of sloth and torpor. While the former is of course unavoidable, the latter occurs only when the unskillful root of delusion (or dullness) becomes predominant in the mind. This happens when there is a situation which is unpleasant to “me,” unwanted, and from which “I” want to escape. People complain that they become much more tired sitting in meditation while practicing intensively than they do when, say, they do a bit of heavy reading. When the self feels threatened by a self-revealing event, then this self, rooted in unknowing, throws up a dense fog of torpor proceeding from the root of delusion. On the other hand, many who have practiced much meditation remark that they do not have to sleep so long as they did formerly, while energy, when it becomes a perfection as practiced by the Bodhisatta, is quite natural and unforced.

This perfection is illustrated by the story of the caravan-leader who saved the merchants, men and animals entrusted to his care, by vigorous action. When others would have given themselves up to death since the caravan had taken a wrong course in the desert and all supplies were exhausted, their leader forced one of them to dig for water, which he found. In this way, in a previous life did Gotama, as the caravan-leader, make effort not only for his own life but also for the welfare of others. Monks are also referred to as “caravan-leaders” in several places in Pali scriptures, showing that it is not only Lord Buddha or a Bodhisatta who is able to guide others. If we deal energetically with our own training then we too have energy for the advancement of others. Many other stories like the above could be found in Buddhist works showing how necessary is energy, from which spring persistence and determination for the seeing of the truly real, Nibbana.

Author: Wendy K. Engela

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