The Dasa Paramitas or Ten Attainments and

Panca-margas or Five Paths

The metaphor of a mountain, derived from the Hindu home of the gods, Mt. Meru, pervades Buddhist thought, representing the ascent from illusion to enlightenment, from the flat earth to the dimensionless peak, where even the “awareness of emptiness” ceases. At Borobudur, the tiers of an architectural “temple mountain” were clearly linked to states of consciousness and to the arduous climb of a novice monk, Sudhana, towards becomng a bodhisattva. This pervasive metaphor may have contributed to the tendency in Buddhism to perceive spiritual growth as progressing through discrete steps or layers, described in In Appendix I, These constituted thirty or more stages, precisely distinguished and ranked levels, bhumis or ”worlds," each populated by entities in different state of consciousness. Therefore it is only logical that the path of the bodhisattva should most often be divided into ten successive paramitas, “perfections,” “completions” or attainments. These steps to satori or awakening might seem overly systematic, deliberate and protracted but they offered. both a method and measure for the necessarily slow process of navigating the vast distance between ordinary consciousness and the infinite and, equally difficult, not-conscious. Like appendix I, this list, in ascending order, is simply a digest of longer articles in Wikipedia.


The Ten Paramitas 

1. Pramudita The Very Joyous. At this preliminary stage, the aspirant has perceived the emptiness of the self and willingly frees himself of all worldly attachments but cannot yet realize sunyata instinctively in his daily life; hence, he has a merely intellectual recognization of the "vanity of human wishes." 

2. Vimala The Pure or Stainless. Here, the novice has purged his life of all samsaric defilements so that his thoughts, actions (even dreams) never stray from the “ten virtuous actions,” (not killing, stealing, lying, sexually indulging, disparaging others, idly chattering, coveting, intending ill or having impure thoughts.) His conduct and emotions are now congruent with his understanding in step 1.

3. Prabhakari The Luminous, the Light-Maker. One consequence of this wisdom is to accept misfortune and obstruction with patience, equanimity and indifference, rather than anger, resentment or regret. The enlightened one accepts his suffering as the result of prior karmic defilements.

4. Arcismati The Radiant Intellect. The next stage is attained when all distractions from living an enlightened life have been eliminated so that the monk can remain in a meditative state continually; in other words, this mental state has become his personality.

5. Sudurjaya The Difficult to Master. The adept perfects samadhi, absorption in a dhyana, a spiritual state or meditative trance so deep no external force can penetrate it or distract him from it. 

6. Abhimukhi The Manifest.  At this stage, the bodhisattva perceives all phenomena as “dependently originated,” mentally imputed, projected, attributed and therefore illusions or maya; he achieves “signlessness” where appearances lose any semblance of significance or meaning and signify only their own non-existence, the emptiness of consciousness. As a result, the initiate achieves tathagata or “thusness,” the realization that the world is no more than a passing moment of consciousness. Although a bodhisattva could now enter nirvana, he fulfills his vow to exist to relieve the suffering of other sentient beings.

7. Duramgama He Who Has Gone Far. The aspirant can now contemplate the insignificance or nullity of all things uninterruptedly. Cleansed of a self, he becomes, as it were, transparent and all-seeing; therefore, he can immediately detect delusions in others and teach them how removing them will actually fulfill their deepest needs. 

8. Acala The Immovable. The future bodhisattva achieves “non-conceptuality;” possessing a body or individual mind becomes inconceivable because he is entirely absorbed in dharma, the knowledge that there is neither existence, not even void or absence. Having awakened from the dream of reality, he dwells in imperturbable mental quietude, aware of nothing but the emptiness of awareness, a vacuum (or simply vacuity?) He has achieved siddhi, superhuman powers, and become a Theravada arhat, a Mahayana bodhisattva or Vajrayana adept, who is incapable of reverting to seeing existence as anything but illusion.

9. SadhumatiThe Good Mind. The bodhisattva, having purified his mind, comprehends all; thus he can answer any question accurately and immediately, as well as practicing the other paramitas effortlessly and without premeditation or will. He has perfected the three “vehicles” of a bodhisattva – 1)hearing clearly, 2) teaching dharma convincingly and 3) realizing it solitarily without a guru or community. He recognizes there is neither creation, duration or destruction, no origination or causality, just antapuda, no existence, including therefore no non-existence;

10. Dharmamegha The bodhisattva spreads dharma around him; he is suffused with the light of  Buddha which can now shine through him because he has become transparent, empty of self, annata and anatman, without self or soul. (Hinduism differs here by believing the atman or soul is eternal; moksha releases it from the individual self to realize its full potential as Brahman.) He finds himself endowed with limitless magical powers because he understands that any reality can be projected, changed and erased.


The Five Panca-margas

The ten paramitas or “attainments” of a bodhisattva have also been divided into the "five paths" or panca-marga by which an aspiring bodhisattva can accomplish this remarkable act of kenosis, self-emptying, the extinguishing of the mind. The 1st, 2nd and 4th panca-marga correspond with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd paramitas. The 3rd would seem to require the 4th – 7th paramitas, resulting result in the 8th, while the 5th requires the 4th — 8th paramitas, when the bodicitta has annihilated himself and therefore any reversion to samsaric thought or action becomes inconceivable;his human nature has been exchanged for "Buddha nature," making the 9th and 10th paramitas inevitable.

1. Moksa-bhagiya or Sambhara-margaThe Path of Acquiring Means. The monk’s desire for enlightenment, his vocation, calling and deepest desire, becomes attaining enlightenment and the underlying desire to attain enlightenment then to help others attain it. 

2. Nirveda-bhagiya or Prayoga-margaThe Path of Training or Preparation. The novice practices the “Four Noble Truths” and meditation on sunyata, the emptiness of all thought.

3. Darshana-marga The Path of Seeing or Realizing. Next he realizes that all things are mental presentations, that  mind, reality and emptiness are, in fact, the same, thereby entering a state of samatha, “single-point meditation” or “mindfulness” aimed at quieting the mind and extinguishing the lamp of intelligence. (Skeptics might call this "mindlessness.")

4. Bhavana-marga The Path of Intense Contemplation and Purification. The aspirant acknolwedges past samsaric defilements, abandoning resentment of afflictions and obstructions and instead resigning himself to them as a necessary repayment of karmic debt.

5. Asaiksa-marga or Vimukti-marga The Path of No Longer Learning. He obtains the consummation and completion of mahamudra, the “path of no more path,” the path of the purified, perfected and fulfilled nistha; the path beyond dharma or sacred wisdom since it still requires conceptualization rather than not-thinking, -perceiving and -feeling; similar to the Vajrayana "world beyond thought.”