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4 supreme efforts

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The Four Supreme Efforts combine the important factors of Right Thought and Right Effort of The Noble Eightfold Middle Path. Our thoughts can permeate our being and define who we are. They can run wild and left unchecked can produce numerous unwholesome actions. So we must guard our sense doors and thoughts.

  1. Not to let an unwholesome thought arise which has not yet arisen.
  2. Not to let an unwholesome thought continue which has already arisen.
  3. To make a wholesome thought arise which has not yet arisen.
  4. To make a wholesome thought continue which has already arisen.

(from Anguttara Nikaya 4.14)

We do not need to suppress any thoughts. We simply observe the thoughts without applying any pressure, no clinging or aversion. When we become mindful of our thoughts we gain more control and we can stop ourselves from doing an unwholesome action. It is when we are “lost” in our thoughts without mindfulness and concentration that we may act upon them in an unwholesome way.

The last two Supreme Efforts are written in the positive with the encouragement of the wholesome thoughts. When we have wholesome thoughts, like those that are rooted in compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, or equanimity, then we should encourage their continuation.

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