How to Become Enlightened
The Ten Perfections towards Inner Light
As previously mentioned in our post on The 10 Hindrances on the Path of Enlightenment, taking steps toward becoming Enlightened is no easy task with many challenges ahead. When people are asked about their religious inclinations we often hear people say, “I’m not religious but I’m very spiritual.” Let us ponder that phrase and try to understand what it truly means to live a “spiritual” life, one that is backed by a standard of moral principles and dedicated to a spiritual code of action. We must also stress that this is a “life” lived by these principles and not just a few weeks of instruction by this guru or that supposedly spiritual person who has made contact with positive alien beings and has urgent news about the state of our planet. We are speaking about a lifetime lived honestly and intelligently. An individual is not spiritual because they read spiritual books or study with some famously enlightened person, even if that person is legit. They are not spiritual because they meditate in silence often or chant while doing difficult yoga poses. They are not spiritual because they drink plant medicines with some Peruvian shaman in the jungle or because they have been initiated into some cult or another. A person is spiritual when day after day and year after year they strive to live an honest and balanced life dedicated to selfless service to others. A spiritual life is not something that you rub on, there’s no organization you can join, even if they have advanced views concerning Karma and Reincarnation. There’s no special sauce, no mechanical process nor are there any particular affirmations you can repeat that will make you a spiritual person. A spiritual life offers nothing except the gradual improvement of the individual by a constant course of self-discipline and a program of intelligently directed effort. In the ancient Mystery Schools, an individual would not even be considered for instruction unless they had already proven themselves to be of the highest moral standards and even after that their discipleship would consist of a rigid discipline without any reward or promise. No one who seeks the study of the metaphysical realms in order to line his pockets will ever advance along the path no matter how twisted the ancient teachings get by the modern metaphysical charlatans. Jesus did not preach a doctrine of wealth and excess, he asked his disciples to leave everything they owned behind. Buddha left a mansion and riches to walk the streets with a cup in his hand. Mohammed sacrificed a fortune to go on the run weaving his own clothes. Keep that in mind the next time you feel like meditating on a “new Mercedes in your driveway” or intending on receiving “millions of dollars in your bank account”. The spiritual life strives to give more to others, to make others happy and in the process leaving less and less for the self. That is not to say it’s unspiritual to been financially well off. In order to serve others we must come from a strong base. We often hear repeated the ridiculous belief that God wants all men to be healthy, wealthy, and happy whether they live well or not and this is simply not true. In fact, it appears that the universe cares very little about the happiness of mankind, much the same way that you can give a shit if the population of water beetles that are living under your sink and come out at night to terrorize your family are feeling particularly fulfilled this calendar year. If we look at nature as a whole, human beings are a terribly troublesome and destructive creature whose selfish interests have taxed this planet to its maximum then, on top of that, we have the sack to ask for more. Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree comes to mind. Try reading this one with fresh eyes and you might think about placing it in the horror section at the bookstore.
If humans want to be happy then they should strive to live well, to be honest with themselves and conscious of the purpose of this particular life. If we are able to live a noble and intelligent life and use our minds to achieve inward perfection and for the assistance of others then we can be sure that we will reach a modicum of happiness. This concept encompasses the problem of wealth as well. Nature does not believe that man must be wealthy. Nature stores only what it needs, it’s man who accumulates more than he can possibly ever use and is wasteful beyond measure. If the Law of Karma decides to bestow wealth upon an individual, it becomes a problem of responsibility. Wealth can be a tremendous burden on a life and if not exercised properly can work towards accruing more Karmic debt and who needs that shit? Those who have accumulated wealth or have been born into it in this life have an opportunity to use it in a manner that is in line with the highest principles of good and whether they continue to have wealth in subsequent lives depends on the manner in which they make use of this abundance of wealth. Buddha very wisely observed that the misuse of wealth would surely result in a life of poverty in a future life.
The true practice of metaphysics is concerned with Universal Law and extends far beyond the material sphere. The man who is wise does not wish to escape from this law but instead to live in perfect harmony with it. The basic teachings have been laid down by a series of enlightened individuals who have walked on the path and because of their relentless pursuit of service to others, created a foundation for anyone who wishes to embark on this journey. These great doctrines already exist. You don’t need some New Age bozo with a funny haircut to translate them. You needn’t look any further than Plato or Buddha, Jesus or Lao-tse, to find the way forward. Only a foolish person would try to twist the wisdom of the ages to fit some personal agenda. That brings us to the reason for this post. Below are the 10 Perfections or rules of conduct that are a prerequisite for entrance towards a mystical and philosophical life. The sages of India called them Pāramitās or pāramīs. I hope this knowledge will assist you along your personal path towards enlightenment.
THE TEN PERFECTIONS
1. Generosity (dana)
This is the quality of unattached and unconditional giving and letting go. Giving leads to being reborn into happy and wealthy states while stinginess and lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty. By giving without seeking something in return the wealthier we will become. Giving need not be monetary only. The giving of ones time and a simple generosity of the spirit that comes from the heart is truly what this is about. So volunteering, connecting people with similar interests, sharing of knowledge, and psychological assistance fall under this category. Without charity there can be no virtue, without virtue there can be no wisdom; and without wisdom there can be no inner life. I recommend serving a Vipassana as a way to exercise the merit of Dana.
2. Moral conduct (sila)
This refers to the overall principles of ethical behavior and an action of intentional effort towards the purity of thought, word, and deed. Many of us often display only some of the virtues and wonder why there is a disconnect between our inner and outer worlds. Sometimes an individual may have right speech and right actions but their thoughts are all negative and they secretly wish harm on others with their mind even though they may be quite outwardly generous. This is why it’s important to do your best to cultivate these merits by eliminating as many mental impurities as you possibly can.
3. Renunciation (nekkhamma)
This is about letting go and freeing yourself from lust, craving, and desire. One need not live a totally ascetic life without any joy but one should come to the realization that any type of clinging to the pleasures of the senses will ultimately result in some type of misery. Meditation is an excellent way to begin to understand the connection of physical sensations in the body and mental states of agitation.
4. Wisdom (paññā)
This can also be translated as Understanding or Discernment. Wisdom does not come from reading books or listening to lectures by enlightened people. It comes from direct realization of the truth about yourself and the Universe. This is not an intellectual pursuit but rather knowledge brought about by serious contemplation and direct experience through proper and sustained meditative practices.
5. Energy (viriya)
This one is about sustained effort in the direction of overcoming the hindrances on the path, like indulging in sensuality, ill will and harmful behaviors. It’s not necessarily physical strength but more a strength of character and a persistence of effort towards the service of others.
6. Patience (khanti)
The merit of Patience can also be extended to forbearance and forgiveness. One should try not to look at it as some oppressive state that one must adhere to but rather a conscious choice to actively practice mindfulness and patience especially in situations that may not necessarily deserve it. Also the practice of metaphysics is a science not easily mastered. It may take years and even lifetimes before any progress is made. So patience and a willingness to wait is a prerequisite to any sort of spiritual illumination.
7. Truthfulness (sacca)
In having developed the aforementioned merits one can begin to speak with an outward truthfulness especially in situations when people do not want to hear it or it is unpopular. The ability to speak truthfully comes from deep self-knowledge, integrity, and honesty and is incredibly difficult to attain. Another challenge to the practice of truthfulness is the ability to be open to the truth when it is spoken. Always leave room open in your mind for new understanding even if it clashes with your present knowledge. We are constantly learning and growing.
8. Determination (adhitthana)
This is the backbone of any spiritual practice because the road is long and often void of significant rewards. Without persistence and a strong determination it is impossible to continue on the path and the risk of returning to various states of misery are always waiting in the wings. Striving is not a frantic running around or a desperate panting after power but a gentle inevitable force that never acknowledges defeat and moves slowly but surely towards Enlightenment.
9. Loving-kindness (metta)
After sustained practice and patience this merit is to be extended to all beings, living and non living, visible and invisible. We should aim to cultivate loving kindness to all creatures even if they have harmed us or wished us ill will. This is especially challenging but I always try to remember that after Jesus was tortured and pinned to a cross in the sweltering heat, he looked up to the heaves and said, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.” That’s some seriously loving kindness right there. I’m not saying that we all can be like Jesus of Nazareth but he is a pretty good example of what to strive for.
10. Equanimity (upekkha)
This merit allows us to see things impartially, divorced from the proclivities of the self. When we free ourselves from our passions and various likes and dislikes then our ability to see the truth in all things becomes greater and we are less likely to harm others or act in a way that will bring misery to ourselves or anyone is spitting distance.