On the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, Part Three: Arousing Energy and Achieving Rapture

- through Francois Leclercq

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The third factor of illumination is energy (Pali: Viriya), a mental property (Pali: cetasika) and the sixth factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, known as Right Effort. It is the same zealous effort that the Buddha made to achieve enlightenment. The Noble Eightfold Path is not for the lazy, lethargic and indolent. The Buddha is not a savior who will give the gift of salvation to the indolent, but rather a teacher who can put people on the path and show them how to save themselves from a wrong view and bad attitude if they are ready to make the required efforts. In this way we can overcome the allusive powers of the world of appearance which seem to welcome us; it seems to invite us to come in and have fun; while being aware that they seduce us by appealing to a false sensory illusion that leads us to imagine that we are forms of a personalized self that can be satisfied through personal psychophysical lust, envy and greed, without ultimate substance and without pleasant permanence or reality.

Those who are attentive to the search for ultimate truth and who cultivate deep inquiry must be able to generate the energy necessary to make their way, freed from the tendency to indulge in vain hopes of satisfaction in the world of appearances. Through careful observation and analysis, they will understand that the truth lies in the very opposite view: that appearances are empty and empty of any lasting substance that could meet individual expectations of happiness. As this awareness gradually begins to dawn, those thus threatened must be able to continue to mobilize the energy necessary to overcome the power of the illusions that arise from sense perception, to ultimately defeat them in their continued attempts to captivate the mind. Thus, through alertness and energy, one can escape the perils of self-delusion and learn to gradually calm the heat of burning passion and desire. Having conquered this sense of self and its inclinations, the seeker can live and breathe in a state of balance, with a calm and tranquil mind. Those who succeed become their own refuge through their own efforts.

To quote Venerable Piyadassi Thera:

So the path of purification is impossible for an indolent person. The aspirant to enlightenment (bodhi) must possess unfailing energy coupled with fixed determination. Enlightenment and deliverance are entirely in his hands.

To quote the Buddha:

The idler who does not struggle, who, although young and strong, is lazy, who lacks resolution, this lazy and idle man will not find the path to wisdom, the path to enlightenment.


The fourth factor of enlightenment is rapture (Pali: pity), which in Buddhist language means a state of pure bliss, joy, or bliss, as opposed to a romantic state of ecstasy with associations of being carried away by sensations and emotions. This happiness, this joy or this happiness (it is difficult to translate) is a mental property (Pali: cetasika) described as “a quality of joy that permeates both body and spirit” and according to Ven. Piyadassi:

The man devoid of this quality cannot advance on the path to enlightenment. There will arise in him a sullen indifference towards the Dhamma, an aversion to the practice of meditation and morbid manifestations.

We are not talking here about a kind of happiness that does not come from seeking satisfaction in the outside world, but a happiness that develops within from being free from the stress of suffering resulting from lust for external material objects.

The kind of happiness we are talking about here might rather be called a feeling of contentment resulting from an effort to abandon inclinations toward lust, hatred, and delusion. It also arises from insight that leads to realization and letting go of external things that do not make the person healthier or happier.

It is a happiness which grows in proportion to the development of purity and holiness of the spirit. It is a happiness that increases proportionally to harmlessness. It grows through the development of morality, meditation and insight, and culminates in wisdom.

It arises concomitantly with the wisdom which reveals that sensory pleasure is fickle compared to mental contentment, which becomes calmer in proportion to the abandonment of interest in the images of fleeting consciousness. It is a feeling of contentment that can be developed through bhavana by one who knows the effects of the mind, who monitors the mind and guides it on the path to purity.

Concerning pleasure, Ven. Piyadassi writes:

Seeing a shape, hearing a sound, perceiving an odor, tasting a flavor, feeling a tangible thing, knowing an idea, people are moved, and from these sensory and mental objects they experience a certain degree of pleasure. But all this is only the passing shadow of phenomena. Unlike the animal whose only feeling is to derive a feeling of pleasure from any source at any cost of pleasure, man should strive to obtain true pity or happiness. True happiness or rapture comes not from clinging or clinging to animate or inanimate things, but from surrender (nekkhamma). It is the detached attitude towards the world that brings true happiness.

Concerning safety, Ven. Piyadassi writes:

Unadulterated joy comes to a man who reflects thus: “Others may do harm, but I will become harmless. Others will be able to kill human beings, but I will become a non-killer. Others may live without chastity, but I will live pure. Others may tell lies, but I will tell the truth. Others may speak harshly, indulge in gossip, but I will only use words that promote harmony, words that are harmless, pleasant to the ear, full of love, of a courteous heart, worthy of being kept in mind, timely, appropriate and accurate. Others may be greedy. I will not covet. Energetic, imbued with modesty of heart, steadfast in truth and righteousness. I will be peaceful, honest, content, truthful and generous in all things. Thus conducive to full realization, the perfect wisdom of Nibbana is this fourth factor of illumination.

As one continues to practice with attention and diligence, unalloyed joy comes to one who, through directed and sustained effort, has attained liberation.

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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