The three great Perfections in The Voice of the Silence

By admin on August 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm

The Voice of the Silence – verse 103 says :“The Path are two ; the great Perfections three ; six are the Virtues that transform the body into the Tree of Knowledge.”

The question is : what are these three great Perfections which are listed separately from the six Virtues (pāramitās) ?

Note 34 of verse 306 of The Voice of Silence identifies the Sambhogakaya as the same as Nirmanakaya, “ but with the additional lustre of the ‘three perfections,’ one of which is entire obliteration of all earthly concerns,” therefore identifying one of these “great perfections” as “obliteration of all earthly concerns”.

Schlagintweit (Buddhism in Tibet, 1863) has a similar understanding about Sambhogakaya as : “the body of bliss and the reward of fulfilling the three conditions of perfection.”

So, from these statements, the great Perfections called in The Voice of Silence are not Paramitas, but maybe the path of practice of the Paramitas. And if we consider that each set of practices brings a specific result, it would explain the statement for one of them about “obliteration of all earthly concerns”. Then we need to understand why this path is triple and what it encompasses.

Hermann Oldenberg says something similar to the Voice of Silence : “The primary demand made upon the monk is : thou shall separate thyself from this world1. He added later (p.288) : “Still we find in the sacred texts expressions which point to a definite path of thought traversing the wide range of moral action and passion, a distribution of all that tends to happiness and deliverance under certain leading. Above all there recur continually three categories, to some extent like the headings of three chapters on ethics : uprightness, self-concentration, and wisdom2.

In the narrative of Buddha’s last addresses, the discourse in which he places before his followers the doctrine of the path of salvation, is time after time couched in the following words : This is uprightness. This is self-concentration. This is wisdom.

Here, Oldenberg refers to the Mahâparinirvâna Sutra – The Great Passing Discourse, where we can read : “2.4 Then the Lord, while staying at Koțigâma, gave a comprehensive discourse: This is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom. Concentration, when imbued with morality, brings great fruit and profit. Wisdom, when imbued with concentration, brings great fruit and profit. The mind imbued with wisdom becomes completely free from the corruptions, that is, from the corruption of sensuality, of becoming, of false views and of ignorance.”3

One of the renowned Tibetan Buddhism Traditions Holder from the 19th century, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé has a clear explanation : “ That the paramitas are definitively six is derived from the fact that when all the dharmas that the boddhisattvas practice are condensed, they are contained within the three trainings.4 The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras5 explains:

The Victor perfectly elucidated the six pāramitās in the context of the three trainings. Three [pāramitās belong to] the first [training]; the last two are the [other] two forms [of training]; and one [pāramitā] accompanies all three [trainings].

Because the Six Pāramitās are usually listed in a specific order : “[The Pāramitās] are presented in this order because the latter ones arise on the basis of the earlier ones; they [progress from] inferior to superior, and [grow] from coarse to subtle.6, starting with Generosity, Ethical Conduct, Patience, Diligence, Meditative Concentration and Wisdom, we can deduct that :

– Generosity, Ethical Conduct and Patience may belong to the first training path,

– Diligence is the second training path

– Meditative Concentration is the third training path

All these pāramitās are endowed by the sixth one [Wisdom].

So, according to these concordant sources, the three great Perfections as stated in The Voice of Silence could mean the three Paths to the great Perfections, one of them [probably the first training path] leading to the “obliteration of all earthly concerns”.

1 BUDDHA: His Life, His Doctrine, His Order Chapter III. The Tenet of the Path to the extinction of suffering, p.287 from the English translation of William Hoey, Luzac 1928)

2 The Pâli expressions are : sîla, samâdhi, pannâ

3 The Long Discourses of the Buddha, translated from the Pali, Wisdom Publications, 1987, p.240

4 The three trainings (shikșhā, bslab pa) are the training in ethical conduct (shilashikșhā , tshul khrims kyi bslab pa), the training in samādhi (samādhishikșhā, ting nge ‘dzin gyi bslab pa), and the training in wisdom (prajñāshikșhā, shes rab kyi bslab pa).

Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras, Chapter 17, verse 7. Toh. 4020, f. 21b2-3; Dg. T. Beijing 70:851

6 Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras, Chapter 17, verse 14. Toh. 4020, f. 21b7; Dg. T. Beijing 70:851

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