Waking Essence: The Six Perfections #Buddhism #Enlightenment

Six Perfections
The six perfections are the actual path to enlightenment, and they are also the path of bodhichitta and the Bodhisattva’s path. Through following this path with the vehicle of bodhichitta we shall definitely reach the state of enlightenment. Our bodhichitta wish is to attain enlightenment to benefit each and every living being directly.
— Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. “Modern Buddhism: Volume 1 Sutra

Earlier this month, I attended a Post Summer Festival Retreat held at the Kadampa Meditation Center in Hollywood. This retreat gave a summary of the NKT-IKBU International Summer Festival just held in England. In Hollywood, Gen Choma, the resident teacher of KMC San Francisco, gave a summary of Session 4 on the six perfections. These perfections are great to live by regardless of your life’s goals. I would like to share my notes from that summary with you here.


Session 4 - The Six Perfections.

A Buddhist on the path to enlightenment may take the Bodhisatva vow. Part of taking the Bodhisatva vow to become enlightened is to intend a practice in six perfections. What was explained at the festival and again by Gen Choma is that you can keep the vow by keeping the intentions of the six perfections.

The six perfections are ways of practice and living while on the path to enlightenment. It is called a perfection when practicing with the goal of becoming enlightened.


Giving is the first perfection. Here, we maintain the intention to abandon miserliness. 

“I know I am stingy but I don't want to be.”

Breaking the perfection is giving up the intention. It is the intention that is important. It is still practice if you are miserly as long as you have the intention to give.


The second perfection is moral discipline. The intention here is to abandon inappropriate actions that are contrary to your goals.

For Buddhists a goal towards enlightenment is to have the intention to abandon self-cherishing. Self-cherishing leaves little room to help others.

You can only start where you are. So having the intention helps you to change a little bit at a time, may even just one or two percent.

Abandoning selfishness is another practice in moral discipline. Keeping the vow to not be selfish while still acting in selfish ways is ok. You can’t change overnight.


Patience is the third perfection. The intention is to patiently accept any hardship, suffering or difficulty that comes your way. Anger is a major difficulty. The intention would be to give up your anger as it can destroy your life and the lives of others.


The fourth perfection is effort.  Make the intention to be delighted in virtue rather than have attachment to laziness. Intend to abandon the laziness of non-virtuous actions and inaction.


Concentration is the fifth perfection. Distractions are one of our biggest enemies. The number of distractions in this world is unlimited. Have the intention to eliminate distraction so that you can spend your time on the other perfections.. 


The final perfection is wisdom. In Buddhism, we have the intention to have interest in the study of Dharma.


Practicing the six perfections is the actual path to enlightenment. Enlightened beings are Buddhas.  For Buddhists, we believe we must become a Buddha as soon as possible for the benefit of all living beings.

Reflect on how much of your life have been wasted in meaningless activity. Practicing the six perfections can bring meaning to you. Fully accept where you are and start now. It is a new moment.

Thank you.