On the seven factors of enlightenment

- through Francois Leclercq

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The Buddha described the path to enlightenment very clearly. He explained how the seven factors of enlightenment, when brought to maturity, enable the clear vision necessary for full awakening. All mental efforts on the path are affected by one or more of these factors, which are as follows:

1. Mindfulness (sati)
2. In-depth investigation of the Dhamma (dhammavicaya)
3. Energy (Viriya)
4. Removal (pity)
5. Calm (pasadhi)
6. Focus (samadhi)
7. Equanimity (upekkha)

Some people avoid titles like the Seven Factors of Enlightenment because the word “enlightenment” intimidates them, and in their hearts they inherently fear that they will lack competence and self-confidence in their practice regarding each of these seven factors – to say nothing of the seven. As a result, they flounder in uncertainty, aware in their own minds that they have not established a sufficiently solid foundation on which to build an unshakable foundation for practice.

However, if, through the guidance of good teachers and noble friends in the Dhamma, and, above all, on the basis of their own individual and determined efforts, they can persevere in their quest, they will eventually cultivate the threads of their kammic actions. . and development, which gradually twist and intertwine in ways the practitioner could never have expected or imagined – eventually becoming a strong rope, which can serve as a safety line during their ascent towards the top of the mountain, where the view finally becomes clear.

The Buddha explains:

Just as in a house with a peak, all the rafters, whatever they may be, go towards a peak, slope towards the peak, meet in the peak, and among them all are considered the principal ones; similarly, monks, the monk who cultivates and values ​​the seven factors of wisdom, inclines towards Nibbana, inclines towards Nibbana, tends towards Nibbana. (born 46.7)

If the chevrons represent the seven factors, this means that if you practice the factors as best you can, both individually and simultaneously, doing your best as you go, there will be growth and development towards higher states of concentration.

Venerable Piyadassi Maha Thera, one of the original founders of the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy in 1958, in his book on The seven factors of enlightenment (Buddhist Publication Society, Wheel Series 1) wrote:

Life, in the right understanding of a Buddha, is suffering, and this suffering is based on ignorance or avijja. Ignorance is the experience of what is unworthy of experience, namely evil. It is also a matter of not perceiving the conglomerate character of the aggregates; non-perception of the sensory organ and the object in their respective and objective natures; non-perception of the void or the relativity of the elements; non-perception of the dominant character of the controlling sensory faculties; non-perception of the thus – of the infallibility – of the four truths and the five obstacles, because they completely close, cut and obstruct. They hinder the understanding of how to free oneself from suffering. These five obstacles are: sensuality, ill will, stubbornness of mind and mental factors, restlessness and restlessness, and doubt.

And what is the nourishment of these obstacles? The three bad lifestyles: bad bodily, vocal and mental actions. This triple nourishment is in turn nourished by the non-constraint of the senses, which is explained by the commentator as the admission of lust and hatred into the sense organs of the eye, ear, nose. , language, body and mind.

The quote above ties together the things we said above, albeit in somewhat different terms. Everything seems to fit together, depending on a good understanding of the Buddha's words in the Pali texts.

Fri. Piyadassi Maha Thera continues:

Lack of mindfulness and mindfulness has been shown to be the nutrient for non-restraint. In the context of nutrition, distancing from the object (Dhamma) – the abandonment of the mind from the knowledge of lakkhanas or characteristics of existence (impermanence, emptiness and suffering itself ) and forgetting the true nature of things – is the reason for non-restraint. It is when we do not take into account the transience and other characteristics of things that we grant ourselves all kinds of liberties in speech, in action, and we allow imagery full of thought and of a clumsy kind. Lack of complete consciousness is the lack of these four elements: complete consciousness of purpose. . . of aptitude. . . of appeal. . . and non-illusion. When we do something without a right aim; when we look at things or do actions that do not help the growth of good; when we do things contrary to improvement; when we forget the Dhamma, which is the true recourse of the one who strives; when we seize things illusorily, believing them to be pleasant, beautiful and substantial – when we behave in this way – then also non-restraint is nourished.

And behind this lack of mindfulness and mindfulness lies unsystematic thinking. . . . The books say that this unsystematic thinking is thinking that deviates from the right path; it is to consider the impermanent as permanent, the painful as pleasure, the soulless as soul, the bad as good. The constant movement that is samsara is rooted in unsystematic thinking. When unsystematic thinking increases, it accomplishes two things: nescience* and the desire to become. Ignorance being present, the origin of the entire mass of suffering is realized. Thus, a person who thinks superficially, like a boat drifting with the wind, like a herd of cattle carried along in the whirlpools of a river, like an ox harnessed to a wheeled machine, continues to revolve in the cycle of existence, samsara. . (unconsciousness)

And they say trust is imperfect. . . in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, it is the condition which develops unsystematic thinking; and imperfect confidence is due to not hearing the True Law, the Dhamma. Finally, we do not hear the Dhamma due to lack of contact with the wise, due to lack of association with the good.

Thus, the lack of kalyanmittata, of good friendship appears to be the fundamental reason for the evils of the world. And vice versa, the basis and nourishment of all good turns out to be good friendship. This provides us with the nourishment of the sublime Dhamma, which in turn produces confidence in the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. When one trusts in the Triple Gem, deep or systematic thinking, full awareness and awareness, mastery of the senses, the three right ways of life, the four awakenings of full consciousness, the seven factors of enlightenment are born. and deliverance through wisdom, one after the other in the desired order.

By cultivating the seven factors of enlightenment diligently and energetically, we can strive to achieve enlightenment.

photo of author

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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