20 December 2011

Bala Pāramitā

The ninth pārāmitā of the Mahāyāna, bala pārāmitā, is the perfection of spiritual power.  This pārāmitā, along with upāya, pranidhana andāna, are the pārāmitās that allow one to bring wisdom and compassion to bear on everyday life in truck with the world.  Absent them, one may be individually perfected, but one is not yet fully capable of bodhisattvic practice.

I've found myself in the presence of spiritually powerful men and women.  Without doing anything particular, just by being themselves, they were able to effect in me a movement toward greater practice and greater realization.  Unlike
upāya, which requires a bit of smarts and cleverness, bala simply proceeds without intent to accomplish anything at all, thereby accomplishing everything.  (I can't help but think of the 無為 [wu wei] of the Daoist sage in connection with bala.)

I'm guessing that most folks are probably somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of spiritual power because they confuse it with spiritual authority.  Spiritual power is not spiritual authority.  Authority is bestowed from another; power springs forth from within.  Authority can be withdrawn; power may diminish, but it cannot be taken away.  Authority holds fast to the distinction between higher and lower; power calls all to the same level of attainment.  Authority forces obedience; power elicits growth.  Authority fosters fear; power brings all to ease and joy.

I suspect that those who possess spiritual power are afraid to show it (unlike their counterparts, those with spiritual authority, who tend to flaunt what they have).  Times being what they are, we can do without the reticence!

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