We can’t sum up Barami by saying “charisma” “power” or even “greatness.” It’s safe to say that those with Barami are typically great. When speaking of Barami, it’s often interpreted as language fit for kings, accomplished meditation masters, and widely influential individuals. These people make impacts. Though it’s suffice to say that there a number of such individuals who have done evil. Such figures cannot be said to have Barami.
It’s similar to Olivander’s, the man who sells Harry Potter his first wand, remarks on Voldemort, saying he did “great things, Terrible! But great.” That’s the way of greatness. All around us we can see people like this. Some of them are the leaders of countries, some corporations, and others even take up the heads of religious organizations or charities. Historically and in the midst of modernity there are no shortage of examples of charismatic, power individuals who bring havoc and suffering onto the world. Many names pop into my head; but if I were here to disparage all those who’ve done evil I’d waste my life and darken my own mind.
It’s in this fact that one can see the difference in Barami. We have no sufficient English equivalent, therefore we should seek to understand the concept through the Pali word “parami,” meaning spiritual perfection. These perfections are ten: Generosity, virtue, renunciation, discernment, persistence, endurance, truth, determination, good will, and equanimity. In these qualities rest the entirety of the path to enlightenment. For some, this means becoming an Arahant (a disciple of the Buddha). Others seek to be Pacceka-buddhas (Buddha’s who don’t teach but attain enlightenment on their own). Then there are the few, the ones who seek to develop their parami to the fullest, becoming the foremost in all the world, Buddhas. These aspirations are noble and lofty; but really these qualities apply to all of us.
We can all benefit from the development of paramis. To be more generous is shine light on all those you know. The cultivation of wisdom ensures one does not act stupid, does not give into evil ways. Upholding truth with determination makes one reliable. I’m reminded of a teacher of mine. A man excelling in gift giving- always willing to share his time, knowledge, and material goods. He patiently endures my stupidity and mistakes while having the wisdom to teach me well. I was once serving him food in the dining hall at his monastery and spilled some soup on his bowl. He gently said “you need to be more mindful” and I was given a lesson that resonated deep to my bones.
It’s in these paramis that one’s Barami becomes true. This is why we can’t simply call it “charisma” or “power.” A flavor of goodness and purity underlies this intangible force. It’s something people flock toward and ultimately benefit from.
Pictured below is a small copy of the Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai and a vast array of statuary commemorating the Buddha, the Maha Jakkapat, and a number of famous monks, Buddhist figures, and members of Thai royalty. Also located at the temple are relics to these monks, The Buddha, and even kings( I think). Some of these remains take on special qualities. They radiate energy and some even crystallize or turn to gems. These miracles are said to be the result of the individuals accumulated Barami. It’s the quality and refinement of the individuals heart that shapes that piece of reality into something special. How does our heart shape reality?
Thank you for reading and take care,
The other day I had an excellent interview with a retired professor from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University at Wat Suandok. We studied at the university and have done our evening meditation sessions at Suandok when we can. At the temple is the golden stupa pictured in one of my early posts. Our meditation spot was the Ubosotha hall (ordination hall). There’s a great, big gold Buddha flanked by his foremost disciples, Maha Mogallana (known for his compassion and psychic powers) and Sariputra (marshall of the Dharma, the greatest in wisdom). Along the walls are motifs from the Buddha’s life. He and many of the devas (heavenly beings, kinda like angels but not) are adorned in garments of gold. They’ve literally used what looks to be paint mixed with gold in it. Needless to say, it’s an ornate place to be. Meditating on the lush rug surrounded by rich, glorious art is one thing, but having a cat sit in your lap for the session is a whole ‘nother experience.
It’s surprising to be enveloped in a religion that emphasizes contentment and renunciation, while simultaneously being surrounded by marvelous temples, luxurious artwork, and a vast degree of streetfood vendors and coffee shops. I’ve a bad habit of giving into indulgences of both; but, there’s luckily a proud community of locally grown coffee and fruit stands are a dime a dozen— my consumption isn’t that bad. Good to know there’s always room for improvement though. What’s with the message of contentment and renunciation anyway? To some of us that sounds like a wet blanket, a real downer. Surpringly though, it’s rather freeing.
One of our professors made a point on the threatening nature of a true renunciate. Think of The Buddha for instance. He gave up a life of royalty and utter refinement— he had everything provided for him; however, he saw through it. He realized that all these things would come and go, come and go, and inevitably he’d grow old, sick, and die. It became clear to him that there had to be something more that this, so gave it all up and set out on his quest. Six years he tortured himself through extreme austerities. After a great ordeal that turned out to be a complete mistake, he chose a different way. He gave up self-torture, gave up forcing, gave up the idea he could bore his way into it and pierced to the highest. Nibbana, the unexcelled victory in battle, full awakening. In this state of awakening, he had no debts— there was no desire to seek out praise, gain, or pleasure. He had no reason to participate in society as would’ve been expected of him. This is an unrivaled power.
None of us are The Buddha though. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge the victories where you can get ‘em. It’s like addiction. All of us are and have been addicted to a whole number of things. When those addictions can be given up— when there comes the feeling that one doesn’t need or want those things, then a certain lightness comes into the heart. A feeling of elevation, like there’s finally some breathing room. It’s similar to the joy that comes from giving or well-earned relaxation. Put down the burden, give away that extra money, and admire the good that’s been done.
May you be happy and take care,
P.s. We went to a cave. Travel companion Leon pictured in corner of massive cavern with ancient stupa.