4. What is the sequence in which the Pāramī are arranged?
There are five ways of arranging doctrinal points in sequential order:
(i) order of actual happening (pavattikkama)
(i) Concerning the sequence of actual happening, for example, with reference to conception, it is stated in the text, “Paṭhamaṃ kalalaṃ hoti, kalalā hoti abbudaṃ,” etc. For womb-born creatures, the first stage is the fluid stage of kalala for seven days; the second is the frothy stage of abbuda for seven days; the third stage of pesi takes the form of a lump of flesh, and so on.
This form of teaching in sequence of events as they actually take place is known as the order of actual happening.
(ii) Concerning sequence of abandonment, for example, with reference to defilements, it is stated in the text, “Dassanena pahātabbā dhammā, bhāvanāya pahātabbā dhammā,” etc. There are dhammas that are to be abandoned through the first stage of the Path; and there are dhammas that are to be abandoned through the three higher stages of the Path. This form of teaching in serial order according to steps of abandonment is known as the order of abandonment.
(iii) Concerning sequence of practice, for example the seven stages of purification of morality, purification of mind, purification of view, etc. The first practice is to purify morality; this is followed by the practice for purification of mind. In this way the stages of purification should proceed in their due order. Such teaching in sequential order of practice is known as the order of practising.
(iv) Concerning the order of planes of existence, the first in order of teaching Dhamma is the sensuous plane (kāmāvacara) followed by the material plane (rūpāvacara), and then by the non-material plane (arūpāvacara). Such an arrangement in teaching is known as the order of planes of existences.
(v) In addition to the aforesaid four serial arrangements of teaching, there is the fifth kind in which dhammas such as the aggregate of matter (rūpakkhandha), the aggregate of feelings (vedanākkhandha), the aggregate of perceptions (saññākkhandha), etc., are taught by the Buddha in a particular order for some specific reason. Such an arrangement of teaching is known as the order of teaching by the Buddha.
In the first four orders of arrangement, each has its own reason for following a particular sequence, because conceptional stages actually happen in that order; because defilements are abandoned actually in that order; because the acts of purification are done in that order, or because the planes of existence actually stand in that order. But in the fifth method of teaching (desanākkama), the Buddha has a special reason for adopting a particular sequence in teaching each set of such dhammas as the five aggregates (khandhas), the twelve bases (āyatanas), etc.
In the chapter on pāramī, the perfections are arranged not in their order of happening, of abandonment, or practice, or of planes of existence as in the first four methods, but in accordance with this fifth method, desanākkamma, taught by the Buddha for a special reason.
It might be asked here why the Buddha adopted the particular sequence — Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, etc. — and not any other in teaching the ten perfections.
The answer is: When the Bodhisatta, Sumedha the hermit, first investigated the perfections to be fulfilled just after receiving the prophecy, he discovered them in a particular sequence; he therefore fulfilled them in that order. And after his Enlightenment, he taught the perfections in the same sequence he had practised.
To give a more detailed explanation: Of the ten perfections, Generosity helps develop Morality in a special way; even an immoral person (as a donor on the occasion of his son’s novitiation) is likely to observe precepts with no difficulty; and generosity is easier to practise. (Though it may be difficult for one to keep the precept, one can find it easy to give alms.) Hence the Perfection of Generosity is mentioned first.
Only generosity based on morality is most beneficial; so Morality follows Generosity.
Only morality based on renunciation is most beneficial; so Renunciation is taught immediately after Morality.
Similarly, renunciation based on wisdom — wisdom on energy — energy on forbearance — forbearance on truthfulness — truthfulness on resolution — resolution on loving-kindness — loving kindness based on equanimity is most beneficial; thus Equanimity is taught after Loving-kindness.
Equanimity can be beneficial only when it is based on compassion. Bodhisattas are Great Beings who had already been endowed with the basic quality of compassion.
Questions concerning Mahākaruṇa and Upekkhā
It might be asked here: “How could Bodhisattas, the Great Compassionate Ones, look upon sentient beings with equanimity (indifference)?”
Some teachers say: “It is not in all cases and at all times that Bodhisattas show indifference towards sentient beings; they do so only when it is necessary.”
Other teachers say: “They do not show indifference towards beings, but only towards offensive deeds done by them. Thus Great Compassion and Perfection of Equanimity are not opposed to each other.”
Another way of explaining the serial order of perfections
(1) Dāna is taught initially (a) because generosity is likely to occur among many people and thus belongs to all beings; (b) because it is not so fruitful as morality, etc., and (c) because it is easy to practise.
(2) Morality is stated immediately after Generosity (a) because morality purifies both the donor and the donee; (b) because after teaching the rendering of service to others (such as almsgiving) the Buddha wishes to teach abstention from causing affliction to others such as killing; (c) because dāna involves some positive action whereas sīla involves some practice of restraint, and the Buddha wishes to teach restraint after teaching positive action (which is giving of alms); (d) because dāna leads to attainment of wealth and sīla leads to attainment of human or deva existence; and (e) because he wishes to teach the attainment of human or deva existence after teaching attainment of wealth.
(3) Renunciation is mentioned immediately after morality (a) because through renunciation, perfect morality may be observed; (b) because the Buddha wishes to teach good mental conduct (through renunciation)¹ immediately after teaching good physical and verbal conduct (through morality); (c) because attainment of jhāna (renunciation) comes easily to one whose morality is pure; (d) Faults arising from demeritorious deeds (kammaparadha) are eradicated through observance of morality; by so doing purity of physical or verbal exertion (payogasuddhi) is achieved. Mental defilements (kilesaparadha) are eradicated through renunciation; by so doing inherent elements of wrong views of eternalism (sassatadiṭṭhi) and annihilationism (ucchedadiṭṭhi) are cleared away and purity of disposition (asaya-suddhi) with regard to Insight Knowledge (vipassanā ñāṇa) and to knowledge that volitional activities are one’s own property (kammassakata ñāṇa) is achieved. Because the Buddha accordingly wishes to teach the purification of knowledge by renunciation which follows the purification of exertion (payogasuddhi), and (e) because the Buddha wishes to teach that eradication of mental defilements at the pariyuṭṭhāna stage through renunciation can take place only after eradication of the mental defilements at the vitakkama stage through morality.²
¹ Renunciation here refers not merely to giving up of material things but eradication of mental defilements.
² There are three stages in the arising of defilements: (i) anusaya, the dormant stage where defilements remain at the base of mental continuum as latent tendency not manifesting themselves as a mental property; (ii) pariyuṭṭhāna, the stage where defilements come into existence from the latent stage, manifesting themselves as a mental property at the mind’s door. (iii) vitikkamma, the stage where defilements become violent and uncontrollable, manifesting themselves in some unwholesome physical or verbal action.
The observance of precepts inhibits the active expression of defilements (vitikkamma) through body or speech. This is temporary putting away of defilement (tadaṅga-pahāna).
The practice of concentration meditation (samathabhāvanā) especially at the stage of attainment of jhāna prevents the violent arising of mental defilements at the mind’s door (pariyuṭṭhāna). This is putting away of defilements to a distance for a considerable time (vikkhambhana-pahāna).
Defilements are entirely eradicated right down to the level of dormancy through paññā, knowledge of the Path of Fruition, leaving no trace of defilements in the mental continuum. This complete eradication of defilements, which are never to rise again (samuccheda-pahāna).
(4) Wisdom is mentioned immediately after renunciation (a) because renunciation is perfected and purified by wisdom (b) because the Buddha wishes to teach that there is no wisdom without jhāna (including renunciation); (c) because he wishes to teach wisdom, which is the basic cause of equanimity, immediately after teaching renunciation, which is the basic cause of concentration of the mind; and (d) because he wishes to teach that only by sustained thinking (renunciation) directed towards the welfare of others can there arise knowledge of skilful means (upaya-kosalla ñāṇa) in working for their welfare.
(5) Energy is stated immediately after wisdom (a) because the function of wisdom is fulfilled by application of energy; (b) because the Buddha wishes to teach marvels of endeavours for the welfare of beings after teaching wisdom that comprehends with insight the nature of reality, which is void of personality or self (c) because he wishes to teach that the cause for exertion¹ immediately after the cause for equanimity; and (d) because he wishes to teach that special benefits accrue only from ardent striving after making careful consideration.
(6) Forbearance is mentioned immediately after energy (a) because forbearance is fulfilled by energy (as only an energetic man can withstand all suffering that he encounters); (b) because the Buddha wishes to teach that energy is an adornment of forbearance (as forbearance shown by an indolent man because he cannot win is not dignified, whereas forbearance shown by an energetic man in spite of his winning position, is); (c) because he wishes to teach the cause of concentration immediately after teaching the cause of energy (as restlessness, uddhacca, due to excessive energy is abandoned only by understanding the Dhamma through reflection on it, dhammanijjhanakkhantī); (d) because he wishes to teach that only an energetic man can constantly endeavour (as only a man of great forbearance is free from restlessness and always able to perform meritorious deeds; (e) because he wishes to teach that craving for reward cannot arise when endowed with mindfulness as one works diligently for the welfare of others ( as there can be no craving when one reflects on the Dhamma in undertaking welfare works); and (f) because he wishes to teach that a Bodhisatta bears with patience the suffering caused by others also when he is not working diligently for their welfare (as evidenced from the Cūla Dhammapāla Jātaka, etc.)
¹ Exertion: paggaha, which means ‘support’, ‘help’, ‘aid’, ‘exertion’; here exertion may be the most appropriate.
(7) Truthfulness is mentioned immediately after forbearance (a) because forbearance can be maintained for long through truthfulness as one’s forbearance will last only when one is truthful (b) because having mentioned first forbearance of wrongs inflicted by others, the Buddha wishes to teach next how the Bodhisatta keeps his words to render assistance even to those who have done him wrong ungratefully. (At the time of receiving the prophecy, the Bodhisatta aspiring to Buddhahood makes the resolution to rescue all beings. True to this firm determination, he renders help even to those who had wronged him.
To illustrate: In the Mahākapi Jātaka, the sixth Jātaka of the Tiṃsanipāta, the story is told of the Bodhisatta in the existence of a monkey going to the rescue of a brahmin who had fallen into a deep chasm. Exhausted by strenuous exertion to bring the man out of danger, the Bodhisatta trustingly fell asleep on the lap of the man he had saved. With an evil thought (of eating the flesh of his rescuer) the wicked man hit the monkey’s head with a stone. Without showing any anger and patiently bearing the injury to his head, the Bodhisatta continued his effort to save the man from the danger of wild beasts. He showed him the way out of the forest by drops of blood that fell as he jumped from tree to tree; (c) because he wishes to show that a Bodhisatta with tolerance never relinquishes the practice of speaking only the truth steadfastly though he is misrepresented by others; and (d) because having taught the meditative reflection by means of which the emptiness of soul may be understood, the Bodhisatta wishes to show knowledge of truth developed through the process of that reflection (dhammanijjhānakkhantī).
(8) Resolution is mentioned immediately after Truthfulness (a) because truthfulness is accomplished through resolution since refraining from falsehood becomes perfect in one who resolution to speak truth remains unshakeable even at the risk of his life; (b) because after teaching truthfulness he wishes to teach resolute commitment of Bodhisattas to truth without wavering; and (c) because after teaching that only those who possess Knowledge of Truth of things (as they really are) are able to build up the perfections and bring them to completion, he wishes to teach that pāramī requisites can be effected as a result of Knowledge of Truth.
(9) Loving-kindness is mentioned immediately after Resolution: (a) because development of loving-kindness helps fulfilment of resolution to undertake the work for the welfare of others, (b) because, after teaching resolution, the Buddha wishes to teach what brings benefit to others in accordance with his resolve (for a Bodhisatta in the course of fulfilling his Perfections generally abides in loving-kindness); and (c) because when one is established imperturbably in determination to work for others’ welfare, can one carry out one’s wish with loving-kindness.
(10) Equanimity is mentioned immediately after Loving-kindness (a) because equanimity purifies loving-kindness; (when one develops loving-kindness without equanimity, one is liable to be deceived by craving or greed that wears the mask of loving-kindness). Only when one develops equanimity sometimes one can be away from the deceptive craving or greed; (b) because after teaching how the interest of others should be served out of loving-kindness, the Buddha wishes to teach that indifference is to be maintained towards all wrong inflicted by them. (The Bodhisatta works for the welfare of beings when wrong by them); (c) because, after teaching the development of loving-kindness, the Buddha wishes to teach its advantages, for only after developing loving-kindness can equanimity be successfully developed; and (d) the Buddha wishes to teach the wonderful attribute (of a Bodhisatta) that he can remain equanimous even towards those who show him goodwill.
Thus our Teacher, the Lord of the world, teaches the Perfections in a proper sequence, as described above, arranged on some principle of order and succession, not at random or haphazardly.