The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character

The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character

The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character

The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character

Synopsis

Here is a lucid, accessible, and inspiring guide to the six perfections--Buddhist teachings about six dimensions of human character that require "perfecting": generosity, morality, tolerance, energy, meditation, and wisdom. Drawing on the Diamond Sutra, the Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, and other essential Mahayana texts, Dale Wright shows how these teachings were understood and practiced in classical Mahayana Buddhism and how they can be adapted to contemporary life in a global society. What would the perfection of generosity look like today, for example? What would it mean to give with neither ulterior motives nor naivet ? Devoting a separate chapter to each of the six perfections, Wright combines sophisticated analysis with real-life applications. Buddhists have always stressed self-cultivation, the uniquely human freedom that opens the possibility of shaping the kind of life we will live and the kind of person we will become. For those interested in ideals of human character and practices of self-cultivation, The Six Perfections offers invaluable guidance.

Excerpt

The question my life presses upon me, whether I face it directly or not, is “How shall I live?” “As what kind of person?” All of us face the task of constructing a life for ourselves, of shaping ourselves into certain kinds of people who will live lives of one kind or another, for better or worse. Some people undertake this task deliberately; they make choices in life in view of an image of the kind of person they would hope to become. From the early beginnings of their tradition, Buddhists have maintained that nothing is more important than developing the freedom implied in their activity of self-cultivation—of deliberately shaping the kind of life you will live. For Buddhists, this is the primary responsibility and opportunity that human beings have. It is, they claim, our singular freedom, a freedom available to no other beings in the universe. and although circumstances beyond anyone’s control will make very different possibilities available for different people, Buddhists have always recognized that the difference between those who assume the task of self-sculpting with imagination, integrity, and courage, and those who do not is enormous, constituting in Buddhism the difference between enlightened ways of being in the world and unenlightened ways.

This book adopts a Buddhist point of departure on these crucial issues in order to develop a philosophy of self-cultivation. the primary purpose of such a philosophy is practical, that is, to guide life practice. That has certainly been the goal of Buddhists who for over two millennia have spoken and written profoundly on the methods, goals, and significance of the pursuit of enlightenment. At the center of this long-standing Buddhist practice has been a list of “perfections,” understood as particular ideals of human character that guide self-cultivation. the perfections provide a concrete image of the human qualities that Buddhists consider truly admirable. An early Buddhist list of “faculties” requiring perfection names five: faith, energy, mindfulness, meditation, and insight. the Jātaka Tales about the Buddha’s own previous lives list ten perfections, as do late Mahayana texts, although these two lists differ. But the most . . .

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