The Six Paramitas & The Eightfold Path


The Six Paramitas and the Eightfold Path are functionally equivalent to each other, rather than presenting competing Buddhist ideals:

The Mahayana Buddhist tradition places a strong emphasis on benefiting others as the goal of Buddhist practice.

As an expression of this attitude toward the nature of Buddhist practice, the Mahayana tradition expresses the essential elements of Buddhist practice described the Eightfold Path in an alternative model called the Six Paramitas.

The literal of meaning of paramita in Sanskrit is “Crossing over to the Other Shore (Nirvana).”

  1. Generosity (Skt. Dāna, Jp. fuse 布施)

  2. Moral conduct, upholding precepts (Skt. Śīla, Jp. jikai 持戒)

Corresponding elements of the Eightfold Path: Right Speech, Right Conduct, and Right Livelihood

  1. Forbearance (Skt. Kṣānti, Jp. ninniku忍辱)

Corresponding element of the Eightfold Path: Right Effort with regard one’s state of mind.

  1. Diligence (Skt. Vīrya, Jp. shōjin 精進)

Corresponding element of the Eightfold Path: Right Effort with regard one’s words and actions.

  1. Contemplation (Skt. Dhyāna, Jp. zenjō 禪定)

Corresponding elements of the Eightfold Path: Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.

  1. Wisdom (Skt. Prajñā, Jp. chie 智慧)

Corresponding elements of the Eightfold Path: Right View and Right Thought.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism - Oxnard Buddhist Temple

The Buddha taught in different ways to different people in different circumstances, but always with the same flavor of the Dharma.

This is from an interview with Bhikkhu Bodhi:

IM: It’s striking in the suttas that the Buddha never recommends to anyone his own path of the bodhisattva leading to buddhahood, but talks instead only of arahantship as the goal. Why do you think this is?

BB: This is a question to which I have given a great deal of thought but haven’t been able to arrive at a final answer. Several ideas about the Buddha found in the suttas conjointly point toward an embryonic doctrine of a bodhisattva career during the Buddha’s own lifetime. It thus seems hard to believe that while the Buddha was alive there weren’t people who were inspired by his own example as compassionate liberator and, rather than aim at direct attainment of arahantship, instead aspired to attain the supreme enlightenment of buddhahood at some future time. It also seems hard to believe that they wouldn’t have approached the Buddha to ask for guidance in pursuing this goal and received a fitting reply.

But if this is the case, then the question arises: Why don’t we find any teachings on the path to buddhahood in the suttas? Why should they appear for the first time only in later texts like the Jatakas, Avadanas and the early Mahayana sutras?

I can’t provide a definite answer to this difficult and tantalizing question, but I can offer two competing hypotheses, neither of which is satisfactory.

(1) In the oldest period the Buddha was viewed merely as the first of the arahants, surpassing the others simply in his pedagogic skills and personal charisma. Objection: This hypothesis implies that almost everything that we find in the suttas about the Buddha’s powers, types of knowledge and exalted stature is later accretion, which undercuts the credibility of the texts themselves.

(2) The early Buddhist councils were held by monks who pursued the arahant ideal, so they deliberately excluded texts irrelevant to their concerns, including those on the bodhisattva path. Objection: The extant collections include texts giving the Buddha’s advice to householders, housewives and kings on the fulfillment of their respective duties, so they might just as well have included texts giving his advice to bodhisattvas.

So neither of these hypotheses works. The easiest answer I’ve been able to come up with—though it’s not an entirely satisfactory one—is that by his character and conduct the Buddha served as the model for bodhisattva-aspirants, but since his teaching is ultimately about the attainment of liberation, he cannot teach competing conceptions of the final goal. Hence his teaching must finally exalt the person who realizes the final goal, the arahant, and describe the path to arahantship. In any case, the arahant’s path described in the early teachings served as the foundation for the bodhisattva path as elaborated in later Sectarian Buddhism and the Mahayana, so that the latter becomes impossible without the former.
Interview with Bhikkhu Bodhi: Translator for the Buddha - Inquiring Mind