The six perfections include the perfection of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration, and wisdom. The perfection of giving does not merely entail bestowing gifts upon others, although this is definitely part of it. Rather, giving is a mental training and involves developing the thought of giving without desiring anything in return. This perfection is not aimed at eradicating external poverty, but at eradicating our internal miserliness.
The perfection of moral discipline does not merely entail such actions as saving the lives of others. Instead, moral discipline refers to a mind that abandons all non-virtuous actions. It is the maintenance and guarding of this mind that constitutes the true practice of moral discipline. Once the mind has become completely accustomed to abandoning every trace of non-virtue, it has achieved the perfection of moral discipline.
The perfection of patience concerns the way we react to the beings and objects that harm us. We must realize that there is no way for us to overcome all our external foes. If we defeat one enemy, another always arises to take his or her place. Only by defeating our own anger can we overcome those who would harm us. Perfecting patience does not merely entail refraining from retaliating when we are harmed. It depends on familiarizing our mind with the willingness to endure the pains and discomfort of suffering.
The perfection of effort depends on how well we train our mind. There are many spiritual practices that can lead us into states of happiness and good fortune. For example, by developing a concentrated mind of equipoise, we can take rebirth into one of the god realms. It is by training the mind that such results can be experienced. With effort, we need to train our mind with great perseverance and diligence.
The perfection of concentration concerns training the mind so that it remains focused upon an object of our choice. When this concentration becomes effortless, tranquil abiding can be attained. This is a very significant achievement and depends upon the state of our mind.
If we want to be free from suffering and attain happiness, we need to uncover the sublime secret of the mind: the realization of emptiness of true existence. To gain this subtle understanding and develop the wisdom realizing emptiness, we need to depend on mental effort. Therefore, wisdom and all other perfections are mental factors and depend on the mind for their existence.
Citation (MLA): Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Meaningful to Behold. Ulverston: Tharpa Publications, 2008.