Skilful Means

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Skilful Means (thabs)

  • According to the Greater Vehicle, learning in skilful means (Skt. upāyakauśalya, Tib. thabs la mkhas pa) refers to the first five perfections which are cultivated by bodhisattvas, viz: generosity, discipline, patience, perseverence, and meditative concentration, when integrated with discriminative awareness, the sixth perfection, to form a union of discriminative awareness and means (Skt. prajñopāya). The perfection of skilful means is also separately enumerated among the ten perfections, where it indicates the inestimable result acquired by dedicating the merit of one's virtuous deeds, however small, for the benefit of all sentient beings in general and for the sake of great unsurpassed enlightenment in particular. See Paul Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism, pp. 51, 143-50. In the tantras, the tecnhnical term "path of skilful means" (thabs lam) refers to the sexual practices (sbyor ba) in which the internal yoga of the energy channels, vital energies and seminal points are refined within the subtle body. Also, the three inner classes of tantra according to the rNying-ma school are sometimes referred to as the 'vehicles of overpowering means' (thabs dbang 'bsgyur ba'i theg pa rnams), in the sense that they carry on the path all the delusions which are renounced in lower paths. GD (from the Glossary to Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings)