Shakyamuni Buddha

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Siddhartha Gautama and the paramitas

Although all bodhisattvas have some relation to each of the transcendent practices, the example of Shakyamuni as bodhisattva clearly emphasizes three of these perfections: effort, meditation, and wisdom.

Siddhartha's decision to leave the palace to dedicate himself to spiritual awakening, and his exertion during the six years of arduous practice before his enlightenment, are great examples of the transcendent practice of effort. We can appreciate his fasting and asceticism as effort and persistence. But his final taking of nourishment to adopt the Middle Way was also an example of marshaling energy for the sake of his effort to realize the end of suffering. His diligence the night of his awakening, withstanding the assaults of Mara, further epitomizes heroic exertion.

Siddhartha also exemplifies the perfection of meditation. He was master of the dhyana system, refining mental states to transcend desire and form. He further meditated to observe the twelve-fold chain of causation, to understand the process of the creation and cessation of suffering, and simply to express and enjoy his insight. This meditation also continued to be his daily practice after enlightenment.

In awakening to become the Buddha Shakyamuni, Siddhartha enacted the standard of wisdom and insight. He saw into and embodied the awakened buddha nature of all being, the emptiness of self-existence or estrangement, and the fullness of the interconnection of all creatures. He also was able to use his insight to develop ways of expressing and sharing this understanding and experience with his many disciples. Shakyamuni demonstrated the relationship of these three perfections, as he used his great energy and heroic effort to persevere and perfect his meditation, thereby simultaneously perfecting his wisdom and understanding.

Of course, speaking of Shakyamuni as the Buddha, rather than of Siddhartha's efforts as bodhisattva before his awakening, it is understood that all of the ten transcendent practices had been perfected.