Vīryapāramitā: On the perfection of energy

Black desert Iceland
Photo by Florian Zeh on Unsplash

This is a fragment. To read the full article, subscribe to the Active Dharma Newsletter.

“When I’m under an energy rush, I usually accomplish many things. I read avidly. I exercise a lot, write like crazy, learn about many topics, organize items, turn in work on time, etc.

But that’s the positive side.

Energy in excess sometimes makes me aggressive. It makes me judge those who are not as productive as I am. It makes me disconnect from reality and the rhythm of others.

Working under this frenzy gives me headaches, my immune system is affected, I get fevers, and of course, I get burned out. Others get very annoyed by me.

Excessive rest also hurts me

When I spend many days with minor physical and mental movement, lethargy eventually takes over and makes me depressed. It makes me feel bad, and on many occasions, it even makes me anxious.

I see how I waste time as if I had plenty. I don’t read the books I said I would read. I don’t record the music I said I was going to record. I don’t do the dishes I said I was going to clean.

When I finally manage to move, my body weighs me down. Ideas do not appear. I realize that I am stuck in a dazed state.

And the worst of all is that even though I’ve had enough sleep, I still feel tired.

I went to see the doctor, and she recommended changing my diet. So I did, and I noticed a difference. But still, the energy wasn’t always there when it was supposed to be.

Over time I realized the mind has a lot to do with proper energy management.

The balance acquired from Dharma practice

The Buddha spoke of following a middle path. He said that the spiritual life is not about blindly indulging in the enjoyment of pleasure, nor is it about mortifying the body or mind with extreme ascetic practices (as he had done by depriving himself of food before becoming enlightened).

He often mentioned that a musician could not play his lute if the strings were too tight or loose.

He said that when meditating, attention to breathing should be like this. Not too tense, not too relaxed. If you meditate with a lot of effort, eventually, you will feel restless. But, on the other hand, if you do it too comfortably, you’ll fall asleep.

All his teachings point to the balanced management of energy.

Perfecting energy management

The Sanskrit word virya is usually translated as energy, vigor, effort, and perseverance.

The Buddha mentioned virya when he spoke of the Five Spiritual Faculties: saddha (faith), viriya (energy), sati (mindfulness), samadhi (concentration), and pañña (wisdom).

He said that all five must be present in a spiritual practitioner. The greater the balance between the faculties, the greater the nobility in the practitioner.

The perfection of energy management, or viryaparamita, is one of the virtues sought when one enters the Buddhist path. I have tried to achieve this ideal in the following way:

  • By eating well
  • Getting enough sleep 
  • Exercising 
  • Taking care of my hygiene 
  • Going to therapy 
  • Meditating
  • Working in an organized way 
  • Cultivating healthy friendships
  • Cultivating the Five Spiritual Faculties mentioned by the Buddha.

Here at Active Dharma, I call this process “Wholesome Action.” It consists of doing everything good for you and others and abandoning everything harmful to you and others.

The second step is more subtle and requires instruction, Dharma study, and practice.

In short, cultivating the Five Faculties is done interdependently. One will not improve energy management if one doesn’t develop the rest of the faculties.”

To read the full article, subscribe to the Active Dharma Newsletter.