Noble Living, Noble Caring, Noble Dying

Applying the Pāramitās to Care-Giving

Applying the pāramitās, or transcendental perfections, to care-giving offers us a way to go beyond remaining caught up in self-absorption. Care-giving, as Andrea Sherman explains here, is naturally a place of uncertainty. When we care for others, we need to go beyond our customary comfort zones. The care-giving environment is often unpredictable and uncomfortable. Thus, we need to go beyond thinking of ourselves to truly consider the person for whom we care. Andrea uses the metaphor of a journey for care-giving and she reminds us that we take this journey with others—often with a whole group of people.

We can think of the pāramitās as tools in our tool box as we care for others. What tools do we have? And how do we incorporate these into care-giving? Andrea gives us some practical tips.

  1. Generosity—being warm to ourselves and to others. We care and give with an open heart and without expectation. Courage is important here.
  2. Discipline—mindful actions and virtues. Even in the midst of care-giving chaos, we can remain disciplined. We can listen and approach things simply.
  3. Patience—in the care-giving context this doesn’t mean taking on insurmountable burdens. Patience helps us cut through our own aggression toward ourselves or towards others.
  4. Joyful Exertion—involves having a very aware presence, and a curiosity that allows us to take small delights and experiencing our world as sacred.
  5. Meditation or mindfulness—encourages us to stop and pay attention and to witness suffering with calm presence.
  6. Wisdom—allows us to bring clarity and insight to the confusion of care-giving.

When we give care while practicing these pāramitās, we create some space and go beyond our ordinary preoccupations or neuroses. We are brave in our practice—we just do it!

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.