Sylvia Boorstein is co-founding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California, and a Senior Teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. Her previous books It's Easier Than You Think; Don't Just Do Something, Sit There; and That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist have been translated into seven languages. Boorstein is a relaxed spiritual teacher who always has innumerable stories to illustrate whatever point she is making. In this substantive work, she discusses Buddha's Ten Paramitas, the perfections of the heart. These qualities are Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, Wisdom, Energy, Patience, Truthfulness, Determination, Lovingkindness, and Equanimity.
To give us an overview of these inclinations of the heart, Boorstein has created a flow chart which she calls "the Periodic Table of Virtue." The author believes that these qualities can all be activated in daily life. "It's not possible to cultivate any single Paramita without all of the others developing. They depend on each other. Each is a permutation and combination of all the others, each quality revealing all the others, like a hologram. The ten Paramitas together are the one path to goodness and kindness. Each particular quality is an entryway into that path, and it's likely that whatever quality is our strongest becomes the support for the development of all the others. Some people's nervous systems seem by temperament geared for Patience. Some people do Renunciation easily. Others naturally have plenty of Energy. It's inspiring to know that the development of any one Paramita enhances all of the others, because it means that we can begin, with confidence, wherever we are."
Each chapter has a meditation and a practice suggestion so that these qualities can find expression both internally and externally. The chapter on the spiritual practice of patience appealed to us. We are still learning to relax after missing a subway train. Boorstein talks about Shantideva's teaching on patience and challenges us to follow the counsel: "Do not give way to impatience. It is not good for you. It is not good for anyone." Best of all, she comes up with a practice that involves cheering the mind so that it is preoccupied by a joke or a song or a poem instead of bristling with anger when something does not happen on our preferred time.
Boorstein always manages to impress with the little throw-away quotations or anecdotes she tells which usually send sparks of recognition shooting off in all directions. A gem by Thich Nhat Hanh flies off the page: "Life is so short, we should all move slowly." And then there is a little ditty Boorstein's mother once told her: "You're not going to get to do today over."
These ten inclinations of the heart are markers of the spiritual life and after reading this primer on the Paramitas, you'll want to begin using them as references for your journey.