I found these links (extracts below) quite helpful. Extract from The Ten Perfections - A Study Guide by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
In the early centuries after the Buddha's passing away, as Buddhism became a popular religion, the idea was formalized that there were three paths to awakening to choose from: the path to awakening as a disciple of a Buddha (savaka); the path to awakening as a private Buddha (pacceka-buddha), i.e., one who attained awakening on his own but was not able to teach the path of practice to others; and the path to awakening as a Rightly Self-awakened Buddha (samma sambuddho). Each path was defined as consisting of perfections (parami) of character, but there was a question as to what those perfections were and how the paths differed from one another. The Theravadins, for instance, specified ten perfections, and organized their Jataka collection so that it culminated in ten tales, each illustrating one of the perfections. The Sarvastivadins, on the other hand, specified six perfections, and organized their Jataka collection accordingly.
All Buddhists agreed that the third path took by far the longest to follow, but disagreements arose as to whether the perfections developed along the different paths were quantitatively or qualitatively different. In other words, did a Buddha develop more of the same sort of perfections that an arahant developed, or did he develop perfections of a radically different sort? Those who believed that the perfections differed only quantitatively were able to take the early Buddhist canons as their guide to the path to Buddhahood, for they could simply extrapolate from the path of the arahant as described in those canons. Those seeking Buddhahood who believed that the perfections differed qualitatively, however, had to look outside the canons. People in this latter group often practiced a form of meditation aimed at inducing visions of bodhisattvas treading the path to full Buddhahood, along with Buddhas in other world-systems. These Buddhas and bodhisattvas — it was hoped — would provide an insider's knowledge of the full Buddha's path. The teachings that resulted from these visions were very diverse; not until the 3rd century C.E., with the development of the Yogacara school, was a concerted effort made to collate these various teachings into a single body — what we now know as the Mahayana movement — but the differences among these teachings were so great that the Mahayana never achieved true unity.
Thus, historically, there have been two major ways of following the path to full Buddhahood: following guidelines gleaned from the early canons, and following the traditions set in motion by the experiences of visionaries from the beginning of the common era. The materials in this study guide take the first course.
There's a common misunderstanding that the Theravada school teaches only the savaka path, but a glance at Theravada history will show that many Theravadins have vowed to become bodhisattvas and have undertaken the practice of the ten perfections as set forth in the Theravadin jatakas. Because these perfections differ only quantitatively for arahants, Theravadins who aspire to arahantship cite the perfections as qualities that they are developing as part of their practice outside of formal meditation. For example, they make donations to develop the perfection of generosity, undertake building projects to develop the perfection of endurance, and so forth.
For people in the modern world who are wrestling with the issue of how to practice the Dhamma in daily life, the perfections provide a useful framework for developing a fruitful attitude toward daily activities so that any activity or relationship undertaken wisely with the primary purpose of developing the perfections in a balanced way becomes part of the practice.
The perfections also provide one of the few reliable ways of measuring the accomplishments of one's life. "Accomplishments" in the realm of work and relationships have a way of turning into dust, but perfections of the character, once developed, are dependable and lasting, carrying one over and beyond the vicissitudes of daily living. Thus they deserve to take high priority in the way we plan our lives. These two facts are reflected in the two etymologies offered for the word perfection (parami): They carry one across to the further shore (param); and they are of foremost (parama) importance in formulating the purpose of one's life.
The material in this study guide is organized under the heading of the eighth perfection — determination — for several reasons. The first reason is that determination is needed for undertaking the path of perfections to begin with, in that it gives focus, motivation, and direction to the practice. The second reason is that the four aspects of skilled determination — discernment, truth, relinquishment, and calm — when studied carefully, cover all ten of the perfections: generosity, virtue, renunciation, discernment, persistence, endurance, truth, determination, good will, and equanimity. In this way, the material gathered here illustrates the general principle that each of the perfections, when properly practiced, includes all ten. The third reason is that the four aspects of skilled determination help guard against a common problem in using the perfections as a guide to practice: a tendency to indulge in the self-delusion that can justify any activity, no matter how inappropriate, as part of the path.Passages in this guide are drawn from the Pali canon and from the teachings of Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo.
The four determinations: One should not be negligent of discernment, should guard the truth, be devoted to relinquishment, and train only for calm.
— MN 140http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stud ... tions.htmlExtract from A Treatise on the Paramis From the Commentary to the Cariyapitaka by Acariya Dhammapala translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi
AAcariya Dhammapaala composed his "Treatise on the Paaramiis," which is found in at least two places in the Paali exegetical literature, in a complete version in the Cariyaapi.taka A.t.thakathaa, and in an abridged version in the .tiikaa or subcommentary to the Brahmajaala Sutta.
The work introduces itself as a treatise composed "for clansmen following the suttas who are zealously engaged in the practice of the vehicle to great enlightenment, in order to improve their skillfulness in accumulating the requisites of enlightenment." Followers of the suttas (suttantikas) are specified probably because those who aspired to follow the bodhisattva course had to work selectively from various suttas to determine the practices appropriate for their aim, as the text itself illustrates in filling out its material. The mention of the "vehicle to great enlightenment" (mahaabodhiyaana) does not indicate the historical Mahaayaana, but signifies rather the greatness of the bodhisattva career by reason of the loftiness of its goal and its capacity to provide for the emancipation of a great number of beings.
The "requisites of enlightenment" are the paaramiis themselves, the main topic of the treatise. The word paaramii derives from parama, "supreme," and thus suggests the eminence of the qualities which must be fulfilled by a bodhisattva in the long course of his spiritual development. But the cognate paaramitaa, the word preferred by the Mahaayaana texts and also used by Paali writers, is sometimes explained as paaram + ita, "gone to the beyond," thereby indicating the transcendental direction of these qualities. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el409.html