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6 Paramitas : Joyful Perseverance

The fourth paramita, Joyful Perseverance, is also translated as “effort, exertion, and perseverance.” Practicing enthusiastic perseverance means being pleased to perform virtuous actions. Enthusiastic perseverance dispels all sufferings. Its practice is fundamental to avoid suffering of the lower realms, and through it we receive both worldly realizations and transcendent, supramundane realizations, those beyond the ordinary. Only enthusiastic perseverance can be called the main and best cause for the complete attainment of all virtue. Through perseverance we achieve the most sublime enlightenment.

There are five kinds of joyful perseverance: (1) armour-like diligence (go-cha'i-brtson-'grus), (2) zeal of application (sbyor-ba'i-brtson-'grus), (3) relentless exertion (zhum-med-kyi-brtson-'grus), (4) the zeal of not turning back (mi–ldog-pa'i-brtson-'grus), and (5) Enthusiastic Perseverance (chog-par-mi-'dzin-pa'i-brtson-'grus). The most important of them are armour-like diligence, zeal of application, and enthusiastic perseverance.

1) Armour-like diligence - Go-cha'i-brtson-'grus

Armour-like diligence presupposes having given rise to the aspiration and commitment to work for the benefit of others, which is bodhicitta of aspiration, smon-pa’i-byang-chub-kyi-sems. A sincere disciple has the wish to benefit others, yet he or she does not really know the best ways to go about this. A disciple therefore first develops and increases the heart-felt intention, which is concisely formulated in the prayer of a bodhisattva and reads, “From this very moment on I will use this precious human existence to attain realization of the ultimate truth for the sake of all living beings, so that I may lead them away from suffering and its causes.” This heart-felt intention is the foundation of armour-like diligence.

Just as armour protects us from wounds inflicted by sharp weapons, diligence is a strength that protects us from being dominated by laziness. Laziness pulls one back, impedes and disrupts one’s intentions, and stops one from realizing the four qualities that are accomplished by perfecting the paramita of diligence.

The four qualities that will be attained by developing and increasing joyful perseverance are:

(1) overcoming adverse factors such as laziness (le-lo-sogs-mi-mthun-phyogs-nyams-pa), (2) realizing the non-conceptual state of non-self of phenomena (chos-kyi-bdag-mjed-rtogs-pa’i-mi-rtog-pa), (3) perfecting what is desired (‘dod-pa-rdzogs-par-byed-pa), and (4) bringing the three potentials of practitioners to maturation (rigs-can-gsum-smin-par-byed-pa). Perfection of diligence is transcendent exertion, brtson-'grus–kyi-pha-rol-tu-phyin-pa.

It is first necessary to know what one wants to do before one begins. One needs to clearly understand the purpose of practice and acquire certainty in the teachings so that one’s confidence and devotion are stable and firm. Then one can successfully engage in the practices with one-pointed concentration and hold the samadhi of diligence, brtson-'grus-kyi-ting-nge-'dzin.

2) Zeal of application - sByor-ba'i-brtson-'grus

When someone knows how to give unfailing help and support to those who are suffering and in need, he or she is able to engage in reliable methods to truly benefit himself or herself as well as many others. This, then, is bodhicitta of application, ‘jug-pa’i-byang-chub-kyi-sems. So, relative bodhicitta has two aspects: bodhicitta of aspiration and bodhicitta of application.There are many ways to diligently practice the teachings on a relative, day-to-day basis.

The first stage of integrating what one has understood into one’s everyday life is rousing the will to overcome painful activities that have already arisen and avoiding and steering away from any harmful and disrupting influences that impede and distort one’s intention to lead a meaningful life. The second stage is rousing the will to develop and increase wholesome activities by stirring the energy to do good and making virtue a living part of one’s life. The third stage of practicing joyful perseverance is rousing the will to maintain any virtue that has arisen, not allowing the good to decrease or vanish, and exerting great effort to increase beneficial qualities by helping others in the short-run and long-run, i.e., relatively and ultimately. Of course, a disciple practices and proceeds from the level where he or she is and does what is possible. It is easy, for instance, never to hurt anyone and then to progress according to one’s capabilities, until one is able to effortlessly render unfailing help to others in the long-run, too, which is great perseverance, brtson-'grus-chen-po.

3) Enthusiastic Perseverance - Chog-par-mi-'dzin-pa'i-brtson-'grus

Enthusiastic Perseverance is based upon truly being fed up and disgusted with non-virtuous actions. Too often one’s efforts are sporadic, i.e., one tries one’s best for a short while and then falls back into inconsiderate behaviour for a longer period of time. If progress is to be sustained and increased, it must be steady and consistent. When a practitioner is thoroughly disenchanted and disheartened with the workings of delusiveness and seriously feels disgust, skyo-ba, he or she never stops longing to improve by engaging in unwavering perseverance, brtson-'grus-nyams-pa-med-pa. Then a practitioner progresses by carrying out beneficial activities for the welfare of others. The teachings state, “Even if you were to die tomorrow morning, you should still learn more. Even if you have helped everybody, you should help them again and again.” A billion or trillion friends are not too many and one enemy is one too many for a sincere practitioner of the Buddha dharma.