The fourth paramita is call virya paramita in Sanskrit, and is the paramita of joyous effort, energy, vitality, perseverance, endurance, diligence, and enthusiasm. We need this paramita of joyous effort and perseverance in order to practice the first three paramitas of generosity, ethics, and patience. Joyous effort makes the first three paramitas increase and become even more powerful influences in our life.
The essence of this joyous effort is the courage to practice the Dharma and pursue the goal of enlightenment from a feeling of deep compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings. Remember, this is the practice of a Bodhisattva, so we do this for not just ourselves but also for the benefit of all sentient beings. We use our body, speech, and mind to benefit others, with no expectations for personal recognition or reward. Using joyous effort, we can practice the Dharma without getting sidetracked by laziness. Unless we develop this paramita, we can become disillusioned and drop our practice when we feel like it’s too hard or like we don’t understand life. The word virya means “persistence and perseverance in the face of disillusionment,” “energetically striving to attain the supreme goal,” which is enlightenment, of course. When we practice with persistent and consistent effort, we can realize the tremendous value and benefit of our practice. Lama Surya Das says that “With joyous effort and enthusiastic perseverance, we regard failure as simply another step toward success; danger as an inspiration for courage; and affliction as another opportunity to practice wisdom and compassion.”
From His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, “Adversity, illness, and death are real and inevitable. We chose whether to add to these unavoidable facts of life with the suffering that we create in our own minds and hearts… the chosen suffering. The more we make a different choice, to heal our own suffering, the more we can turn to others and help to address their suffering with the laughter-filled, tear-stained eyes of the heart. And the more we turn away from our self-regard to wipe the tears from the eyes of another, the more- incredibly- we are able to hear, to heal, and to transcend our own suffering. This is the true secret to joy.”
In 2005 Thich Nhat Hanh was asked,
You will be 80 this year. Do you plan to retire as a spiritual teacher at any point?
This is the answer he gave:
“In Buddhism we see that teaching is done not only by talking, but also by living your own life. Your life is the teaching, is the message. And since I continue to sit, to walk, to eat, to interact with the Sangha and people, I continue to teach, even if I have already encouraged my senior students to begin to replace me in giving Dharma talks. In the last two years, I have asked Dharma teachers, not only in the monastic circle but also in the lay circle, to come up and give Dharma talks. Many of them have given wonderful Dharma talks. Some Dharma talks have been better than mine. I see myself in my continuation, and I will not retire. I’ll continue to teach, if not by Dharma talks then in my way of sitting, eating, smiling, and interacting with the Sangha. I like to be with the Sangha… When people are exposed to the practice, they are inspired. You don’t need to talk in order to teach. You need to live your life mindfully and deeply. Thank you.”
Yesterday was, Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama’s 83rd birthday. In celebration Tricycle Magazine published several of his articles. In Consider yourself a Tourist, he arites, “…with my two hands joined, I appeal to you the reader to ensure that you make the rest of your life as meaningful as possible. Do this by engaging in spiritual practice if you can. As I hope I have made clear, there is nothing mysterious about this. It consists in nothing more than acting out of concern for others. And provided you undertake this practice sincerely and with persistence, little by little, step by step you will gradually be able to reorder your habits and attitudes so that you think less about your own narrow concerns and more of others’. In doing so, you will find that you enjoy peace and happiness yourself.
“Relinquish your envy, let go your desire to triumph over others. Instead, try to benefit them. With kindness, with courage, and confident that in doing so you are sure to meet with success, welcome others with a smile. Be straightforward. And try to be impartial. Treat everyone as if they were a close friend. I say this neither as Dalai Lama nor as someone who has special powers or ability. Of these I have none. I speak as a human being: one who, like yourself, wishes to be happy and not to suffer.
“To close with, I would like to share a short prayer which gives me great inspiration in my quest to benefit others:
“May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.”