You should realize that the practice you cultivate doesn’t exist apart from your mind. If your mind is pure, all Buddha lands are pure. The sutras say, “if their minds are impure, beings are impure. If their minds are pure, beings are pure.” and, “to reach a Buddha land, purify your mind. As your mind becomes pure, Buddha lands become pure.” thus, by overcoming the three poisoned states of mind, the three sets of precepts are automatically fulfilled.

But the sutras say the six paramitas are charity, morality, patience, devotion, meditation and wisdom. Now you say the paramitas refer to the purification of the senses. What do you mean by this? And why are they called ferries?

In cultivating the paramitas, purification of the six senses means overcoming the six thieves. Casting out the thief of the eye by abandoning the visual world is charity. Keeping out the thief of the ear by not listening to sounds is morality. Humbling the thief of the nose by equating all smells as neutral is patience. Controlling the thief of the mouth by conquering desires to taste, praise and explain is devotion. Quelling the thief of the body by remaining unmoved by sensations of touch is meditation. And taming the thief of the mind by not yielding to delusions but practicing wakefulness is wisdom. These six paramitas are transports. Like boats or rafts, they transport beings to the other shore. Hence, they’re called ferries.

But when shakyamuni was a bodhisattva, he consumed three bowls of milk and six ladles of gruel prior to attaining enlightenment. If he had to drink milk before he could taste the fruit of Buddhahood, how can merely beholding the mind result in liberation?

What you say is true. This is how he attained enlightenment. He had to drink milk before he could become a Buddha. But there are two kinds of milk. That which shakyamuni drank wasn’t ordinary impure milk but pure dharmamilk. The three bowls were the three sets of precepts. And the six ladles were the six paramitas. When shakyamuni attained enlightenment, it was because he drank this pure dharmamilk that he tasted the fruit of Buddhahood. To say that the tathagata drank the worldly concoction of impure, rank-smelling cow’s milk is the height of slander. That which is truly-so, the indestructible, passionless dharma-self, remains forever free of the world’s afflictions. Why would it need impure milk to satisfy its hunger or thirst?

The sutras say, “this ox doesn’t live in the highlands or the lowlands. It doesn’t eat grain or chaff. And it doesn’t graze with cows. The body of this ox is the color of burnished gold.” the ox refers to vairocana. Due to his great compassion for all beings, he produces from within his pure dharmabody the sublime dharmamilk of the three sets of precepts and six paramitas to nourish all those who seek liberation. The pure milk of such a truly pure ox not only enabled the tathagata to achieve Buddhahood, it enables any being who drinks it to attain unexcelled, complete enlightenment.