Perfection of energy

The Bodhisatta was intent on his ultimate goal while he with ardent energy developed all kinds of kusala. We read in the “Sivi-Jataka” (no. 499) that the Bodhisatta, in one of his lives when he was a king, gave his own eyes to a blind brahmin who was actually Sakka, king of the devas, in disguise. Although others had tried to dissuade the Bodhisatta he was unshakable in his resolution. The pain was extreme when he had his own eyes taken out, but he endured it with heroic fortitude. We read that when his right eye had been taken out already he gazed at it with his left eye and enduring the pain he asked the brahmin to come. He said:

“ ‘The eye of omniscience is dearer than this eye a hundred fold, yes a thousand fold; there you have my reason for this action', and he gave it to the brahmin, who raised it and placed it in his own eye socket. There it remained fixed by his power like a blue lotus in bloom. When the Great Being with his left eye saw that eye in his head, he cried: 'Ah, how good is this my gift of an eye' and thrilled straightway with joy that had arisen within him, he gave the other eye also... Later on his sight was restored to him.”

When the Bodhisatta was intent on his ultimate goal, saying, “The eye of omniscience is dearer than this eye”, he did not merely think: “Once I have to become a Sammasambuddha”, but he developed the conditions for it right there and then. Could he have endured such extreme pain without mindfulness of the present moment? When there is firm resolution to develop the conditions for enlightenment at this moment there is mindfulness of the present reality since this is the only way. At the same time there is right effort, and this is the perfection of energy.

We should not merely think: “Once we should reach our goal, once we should attain enlightenment”, but we have to be resolute with regard to mindfulness at this moment. We should have courage and perseverance to begin again and again to develop right understanding.

We read in the commentary to the Cariyapitaka about the means by which the perfections are accomplished, and it is said that they should be performed perseveringly without interruption, and that there should be enduring effort over a long period without coming to a halt half-way. The Bodhisatta did not come to a halt half-way. We may listen to the Dhamma and start to develop understanding of nama and rupa, and then, when there are no tangible results of our practice we may come to a halt half-way or even sooner. When we notice that right understanding grows very slowly and that mindfulness does not arise very often there may be the temptation to think that we better devote ourselves to other things. We may do many good deeds and help others but without developing a single moment of right understanding. There may be energy for kusala, but not the perfection of energy. We may not be courageous enough to be mindful of akusala when it appears. Then we will be ignorant of the many moments of akusala cittas which are bound to arise in between the moments we do good deeds. We will continue to cling to a notion of self who performs kusala, there will be a false overestimation of ourselves, without our noticing it.

Topic 260