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Seven Factors of Enlightenment

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In Buddhism, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Pali: satta bojjha or satta sambojjha; Skt.: sapta bodhyanga) are:

  • Mindfulness (sati) i.e. to be aware and mindful in all activities and movements both physical and mental
  • Investigation (dhamma vicaya) into the nature of dhamma
  • Energy (viriya)
  • Joy or rapture (piti)
  • Relaxation or tranquillity (passaddhi) of both body and mind
  • Concentration (samadhi)
  • Equanimity (upekkha), to be able to face life in all its vicissitudes with calm of mind and tranquillity, without disturbance.

This set of seven enlightenment factors is one of the "Seven Sets" of "Enlightenment-related states" (bodhipakkhiyadhamma).

The Pali word bojjhanga is a compound of bodhi ("enlightenment") and anga ("factor").[1]

Pali literatureEdit

In the Sutta Pitaka's Samyutta Nikaya, the bojjhangas refer to wholesome, mundane factors leading to enlightenment. In the Abhidhamma and Pali commentaries, the bojjhangas tend to refer to supramundane factors concurrent with enlightenment.[2]

Sutta PitakaEdit

According to one discourse in the Samyutta Nikaya entitled "Bhikkhu Sutta" (SN 46.5):

[Bhikkhu:] "Venerable sir, it is said, 'factors of enlightenment, factors of enlightenment.' In what sense are they called factors of enlightenment?"
[Buddha:] "They lead to enlightenment, bhikkhu, therefore they are called factors of enlightenment...."[3]

During meditation, one may contemplate the seven Factors of Enlightenment as well as on their antithesis, the Five Hindrances (sensual pleasure, ill-will, sloth-torpor, restlessness-worry, doubt).[4] In addition, one Samyutta Nikaya sutta identifies developing each of the enlightenment factors accompanied by each of the four brahma viharas (lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity).[5]

In the Samyutta Nikaya's "Fire Discourse," the Buddha identifies that mindfulness is "always useful" (sabbatthika); while, when one's mind is sluggish, one should develop the enlightenment factors of investigation, energy and joy; and, when one's mind is excited, one should develop the enlightenment factors of tranquillity, concentration and equanimity.[6]

Again according to the Samyutta Nikaya, once when the Buddha was gravely ill he asked Venerable Mahacunda to recite the seven Factors of Enlightenment to him. In such a way the Buddha was cured of his illness.[7]

Abhidhamma and commentarial literatureEdit

In the Visuddhimagga, in a section discussing skills needed for the attainment and maintenance of absorption (jhana), Buddhaghosa identifies the bojjhangas in the following fashion:

  • "Strong mindfulness ... is needed in all instances...."
  • "When his mind is slack with over-laxness of energy, etc., then ... he should develop those [three enlightenment factors] beginning with investigation-of-states..." (i.e., dhamma vicaya, viriya, piti).
  • "When his mind is agitated through over-energeticness, etc., then ... he should develop those [three enlightenment factors] beginning with tranquillity..." (i.e., passaddhi, samadhi, upekkha).[8]

See also Edit

Notes Edit

  1. For instance, see Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 490, entry for "Bojjhanga" (retrieved 10 Jul 2007).
  2. Bodhi (2000), p. 1499.
  3. Bhikkhu Sutta (SN 46.5), trans. Bodhi (2000), p. 1574. See also Walshe (1985), n. 265.
  4. For an example of a discourse that includes the juxtaposition of these two sets of phenomena, see the Satipatthana Sutta. For a group of discourses in which these two sets of phenomena are juxtaposed, see SN 46.31 to 46.40 (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1501, 1589-94).
  5. SN 46.54, variously known as the Mettaasahagata Sutta (CSCD) or Metta Sutta (SLTP) or Metta.m Sutta (PTS Feer). See Bodhi (2000), pp. 1607-11; Walshe (1985), sutta 59, pp. 71-73.
  6. "Fire Discourse" (Aggi Sutta, SN 46.53) (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1605-7; Walshe, 1985, sutta 58, pp. 69-70).
  7. Gilana Sutta (SN 46.16) (Piyadassi, 1999; Piyadassi, n.d.).
  8. Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999), pp. 129, 131. Note that Buddhaghosa clearly references the last six bojjhangas in the last two cited statements. The first statement about sati (mindfulness), while immediately preceding mention of the bojjhangas, is technically in reference to the five spiritual faculties (indriya). See also SN 46.53 (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1605-7; Walshe, 1985, sutta 58, pp. 69-70).

Sources Edit

  • Buddhaghosa, Bhadantacariya & Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (trans.) (1999). The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga. Seattle, WA: BPS Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-00-2.

External links Edit

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