Zila (Sila) Paramita. The Transcendent Perfection of the Discipline of Moral Virtue

Well. that sounds like a huge undertaking!

Before taking on this study, it may be helpful to begin by looking at each of the concepts/words separately. In previous posts ( see: Exploring the Practice of the Six Paramitas )there was the discussion of the terms “paramita”, “transcendent” and “perfection” and all of the resistances that might arise to using those terms. So, they won’t be looked at in this post. Instead the invitation is to inquire into the experiences, thoughts, emotions or bodily reactions that show up when remembering, reading or hearing “Zila”, “Discipline” and “Moral Virtue”.

Zila (Sila)

In an online Sanskrit dictionary ( https://www.learnsanskrit.cc/translate?search=sila&dir=au) Zila has numerous translations: zilA with the emphasis on the ending “A” is translated as rock, door timber, crag. With the emphasis on the “I” some of the translations are plough, virtue, tendency, piety, natural good disposition or acquired way of living or acting, moral precept, beauty, practice, custom, habit, morality, integrity. So perhaps the combination of the two pronunciations could lead to something like combining the strength and stability of rock and timber with the character of the natural good disposition and acquired way of beautiful, moral practice. In short: The Discipline of Moral Virtue. Take some time to either look through the above definitions or refer to the full list on the website and check out what experience is generated in you when you fold all of them together.

Here are some of my reflections. They are not meant to impose any ideas about these concepts but perhaps they can be useful to prime the pump for your own contemplations. There is no wrong idea or even a quest for the right idea. The invitation is to see what is here so that as we study zila paramita there will be some awareness of what is functioning in the background of our contemplations.


This is a tough one for me and brings up a host of memories and reactions. Experiences of harsh language, punishment, judgment, self deprecation flood my consciousness and I notice barriers that have been in place for a long time. My emotional reactions are a complex of fear, aversion, defensiveness and rage. The somatic experience is dominated by contractions in several areas. The memories trigger emotions triggering contractions, re-enlivening memories and triggering more emotion. There are more subtle experiences that I am aware of that are related to the discipline that is needed to develop a skill or an approach to engaging in the world. These latter experiences feel like overrides or forceful suppressions of the former reactions. I have spoken with other folks who experience deep joy and satisfaction when contemplating discipline, so be open to whatever arises. Take some time to reflect on the word discipline and how it moves through your being. Allow whatever shows up to be there with an equanimous mind.


This one is very confusing for me. The concept has become very convoluted because of being raised in an environment that spoke about the values of morality and tried to impose those values on me and my community, but acted in direct opposition to those values. This was especially true with speech, sexuality and intoxicants. The body has nervous, electric/buzzy feeling when I contemplate the word. In spite of the contradictions, I also sense an inner gauge that might be like a moral thermometer that has kept me relatively free from outrageous actions that might have caused significant harm. Take some time to reflect on the word moral and how it moves through your being. Allow whatever shows up to be there with an equanimous mind.


The Virgin Mother Mary is always the first thing that shows up in my experience when hearing or thinking about virtue. I experience it as a place to reside or a place to strive for. It is blue and welcoming and tastes warm, honey sweet. The most joyful memories of both of my parents are present in virtue. The best of them shines out and touches the dark places of self doubt and deprecation with tenderness. There is a whisper of anger in the memories of situations when I or others were acting out of integrity. Take some time to reflect on the word virtue and how it moves through your being. Allow whatever shows up to be there with an equanimous mind.

The Discipline of Moral Virtue

Once you have taken the time to look at each concept separately, the invitation is to allow the whole phrase to resound in your experience. And see what is here.


With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all being




Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

We practice on ZOOM: 

  • Mondays – Calm abiding and insight meditation. 6 AM Pacific Time 
  • Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays – Tonglen, 6 AM Pacific Time 
  • Sundays – Brahmavihara. 7 AM Pacific Time 
  • Monday and Thursday. Contemplation and meditation. 4:30 PM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to wrgentner@gmail.com