Today – and for the next two entries – I am continuing my plan to go through the six Buddhist Parami, often translated as the Six Perfections, that are favoured in the Mahayana scriptures. I will consider the larger list of ten Parami – or Paramita – at a later time. In my last entry, I contemplated Ksanti, also translated as Patience. Next in line (and the order is significant) comes energy, or ‘Viriya’ in Sanskrit. After energy comes concentration and, finally, wisdom.
Viriya (energy) is also sometimes translated as effort or diligence. I like the feel of the word ‘viriya’ – reminding me of virile and vitality – to give a sense of the combination of energy and effort. Energy, or viriya, comes after patience because it is a fruit of patience. The reward of patient attention to what brings benefit and what brings harm or failure is the release of energy as insight arises: the “Ah! ha!” as you see the flow of cause and effect. The energy of insight – and of strong motivation – feels good and it is the fuel of change. Without energy you cannot initiate change. You remain subject to the push and pull of desire and aversion, impulsively responding to the continual change of an ever-changing world ruled by the dharma of impermanence! It takes energy to make a stand to resist impulsive responses, based on past learning, rather than the present circumstances. Patient attention to discovering and changing unhelpful patterns of thought, behaviour and destructive emotions has to be linked to energy to fuel the thrust of awakening!
It takes energy to work for the benefit of others. In fact, it takes energy to be productive; to be creative; to be helpful. It takes energy to pay attention. It takes energy to turn motivation into action. There is truth in the popular expression, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions!” or, as Yoda – of Star Wars fame – said: “There’s no such thing as trying. There’s only doing and not doing!”
Viriya is also considered to be identical to ‘right effort’, listed as number six of the Eightfold Noble Path [to Awakening]. Here, right effort is the effort of avoiding and overcoming what is evil and unwholesome and of developing and maintaining what is wholesome. In addition, it is one of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment – for all the reasons listed above!
So…. thinking about recent expressions of energy in my life, two examples that I’ve already mentioned in earlier posts come to mind. First, the experience of amazingly strong energy that arose in myself, my partner, Alan, and my daughter when we were inspired by the enthusiasm and exciting ideas of the presenters at the four-day workshop on internet marketing that we attended at the end of March. We were all astonished by the power and driving force of this energy that got us first talking about and then acting on the motivating internet marketing ideas, as we set up a new joint business, two new websites, new ebooks and many associated activities that are reflected in the East West Wisdoms, Equinimity and Creative Interactions projects and websites. We had the raw material prior to the workshop but needed the flames of motivation and focussed direction to activate the energy to move from potential to ACTION!
A different sort of energy – steadier and mixed with discipline – was needed for Alan and I to diligently attend our recent five week Lam Dre retreat, sitting on the floor for three consecutive hours, each morning and afternoon, absorbing and recording a generous outpouring of intensive spiritual teaching. Following early morning meditation at our lodging, we had to ride our bicycles four or five kilometres, each way to and from the teaching venue, up steep hills and sometimes in the wind and rain and at night. Extra energy (or effort) was required – and willingly found – for the preparation and carrying out of the eight interviews we were thrilled to successfully negotiate! Each interview then gave us an extra charge of energy as we rejoiced in the wisdom and compassion expressed in the recording. It was like plugging in for a high voltage recharge!
We will also require consistent energy/effort to keep to our now extended commitments to daily meditation practices. Fortunately, the energy goes two ways. It must be expended but it is also received. The experienced energy – or viriya – of a calm, clear mind state and inspirational spiritual contemplations gained through meditation, is one of the many rewards that sustains meditation practice.
So, does anyone out there have reflections on how energy is manifesting, or is needed? And do you have examples of energy experiences to share? Or questions? The comments box is waiting!