The name of fourth paramita is virya in Sanskrit. It is usually translated as diligence or vigor. The etymology for virya indicates two Sanskrit terms.
“ Vi carries the meaning of “supreme” or “true” while rya indicates practice. Hence since it makes one practice the true supramundane virtues, diligence is the “practice of the supreme.” 1
Whew! What are the “supramundane virtues”? These are the paramitas (translated as transcendences or perfections). So, virya is the practice of the paramitas. According to Merriam Webster, diligence is “steady, earnest, and energetic effort: devoted and painstaking work and application to accomplish an undertaking.” The definition for vigor is “active bodily or mental strength; force.
So virya is not simply practice but “supramundane” practice. Steady, devoted, painstaking and forceful work to bring the paramitas to fruition.
When I read this it seems to be a contradiction to the approach of the practice of calm abiding that is focused on bringing about ease and reducing striving. It also seems in contradiction to the practice of ksanti/patience and all of the indications that the paramitas are the natural state of the true nature of being. Throughout the “Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutra” and other sutras and commentaries diligence is also often taught as being synonymous with delight. How can painstaking and forceful effort, be reconciled with the effortless ease and delight that is the full expression of the natural state?
In the next several weeks the sangha will focus the practice and inquiries on virya/diligence and vigor, the paramita that is the innate force that sustains all practices.
The invitation this week is to reflect on the concepts of diligence and vigor. What memories present themselves when you think about them. Are there reactions or emotions, fixed ideas or aversions that may be imprinted in your mind stream and body in relation to these concepts? Are there judgments or preferences?
I look forward to hearing about your inquiries as the sangha begins the study of virya paramita.
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 beings throughout all times and in all directions.
- Asaṅga, et al. Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sūtras: Maitreya’s Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham. Snow Lion, 2014.
- Photo: Marc St. Ong, 17 Jan 2009, Ottawa–Stony Swamp (Jack Pine Trail), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Sundays – Brahmavihara. 7 AM Pacific Time
- Mondays and Wednesdays: 4:30 PM Pacific Time
ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789
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