Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Parmitayana Path

I wrote this for a friend who asked for a summary:

Pranidhana is the 8th stage of the Mahayana Buddhist path. This path is sometimes called "Bodhisattvayana" (a path of loving service to all the sentient beings still in sorrow) and Parmitayana (the path of cultivating the natural virtues of latent within the Buddha nature of each sentient being). They unfold from the initial opening of "dana parmita" (selfless giving which already implies a letting go characteristic of pranidhana) which can be translated as "openness, giving, curiosity, and wonder". It grows through ksanti parmita which can be translated as "patience, endurance, and humility" where we let go of more and more ego. It focuses through virya parmita which can be translated as "energy, devotion, and commitment". It organizes through sila parmita ("ethical idealism, karma containment, and natural discipline"). It is centered in meditation practice in dhyana parmita. It is understood in prajna parmita (intuitive wisdom, direct experience, and transcending conceptual knowing). It is further refined by upaya parmita (skillful means, remedial meditations, and spontaneous creative interaction). It is finally directly felt in pranidhana ("letting go, surrender, and flowing with divine wisdom energy). This pranidhana is grounded in bali parmita (faith, trust, and power to do miracles). It enters its natural sangha (community) in "dharma megha samadhi" where all the bodhisattvas and dakinis who have gone before one (in surrender) are felt as massive cloud of witnesses surrounding one in a visionary living experience. This surrender is integrated in enlightenment or Buddhahood, and then fully activated, awakened, and actualized, and lived within a Mahasiddha. As one unfolds on this path, one element becomes the primary focus in approximately this successive order, though it is really one energy maturing through its own natural growth process. Each one has the virtue of the one before it already within itself. Pranidhana has the energy of openness, humility, devotion, ethical idealism, meditation, illumination, and creativity within itself, just as the ones that are further along the path have pranidhana within them. The 8th stage is where there is only one religion, since every religion really teaches this one virtue. The meditation practices and prayer practices may differ. The ethical ideals and disciplines may differ. The belief systems may differ. But each and everyone of them will have a kind of deep surrender to a divine energy that is intuitively and directly felt. Those who reach this state will suddenly see how there are many saints of every tradition who embodied pranidhana and who inspire others to do the same. Because the surrender makes them more transparent to the Divine, people sometimes feel the divine energy channel through them into the world. This energy blesses, heals, calms, and illuminates and raises the life condition of the sentient being who surrenders to this action beyond the grip of adverse karmas (usually stage by stage, not all at once, but all at once is possible when people are truly ready to lay their burden down). The 8th stage is also where you can see in visions the mahasangha in visitations. These events usually happen when the "surrender is strong" when one is on top of one's process and in the flow. It seems each stage has a relative conditional level of learning and an integration of this learning (like in Buddhahood). In the relative level of learning, we do or do not do (sila parmita), but when integrated we naturally do all the time in a spontaneous unselfconscious activity (with occasional errors since it is not yet perfect until the mahasiddha stage).

I like this model because it is based on a pattern of psychological growth. It shows that getting flashes of sudden enlightenment (prajna parmita) in Zen Buddhism is only part of the process and why the way beyond sorrow in the 4th noble truth is the eightfold path which defines a new way of life. You enter the stream of this way of life and grow in a different direction. You renounce worldly success which has a very superficial terminus of growth and is too externally focused to really cultivate these inner virtues and usually does not value them. When one travels far down the parmitayana road, one can the world as being essentially very immature, raw, and unrefined, yet the seed of Buddha nature is still there. The Lotus arises from this mud and the mud has its place.