THE SEVEN FACTORS OF ENLIGHTENMENT (sambojjhanga)
The Buddha once said to a friend, “These seven factors of enlightenment, verily, Kassapa, are well expounded by me, cultivated and much developed by me, and when cultivated and much developed they conduce to full realization, perfect wisdom, to Nibbana.” They are qualities of mind, which when developed during practice, profoundly affect our lives. There are three arousing factors – investigation, energy, and joy – and three tranquilizing factors – tranquility, concentration and equanimity – and, of course, mindfulness which balances and connects the others.
In a commentary on the Satipatthana sutta, the Buddha is quoted as saying, “Mindfulness, O disciples, I declare is essential in all things everywhere. It is as salt is to the curry.” Does that make you hungry to pay attention, to savor the deliciousness of mindfulness? Once again, it is the quality of being totally present to what is happening and relating to it with acceptance and non-reactivity. We bring our full attention to each moment, and we see for ourselves what is true. In relation to the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, this is the first function of mindfulness. Secondly, by its very nature it helps develop the other six factors. And thirdly, mindfulness, as with the Five Spiritual Factors, balances the other Factors of Enlightenment, basically by balancing the mind. For example, if we are agitated and restless and we pay proper attention, bring mindfulness to the situation, stay open to the restlessness and accept it, there can arise a calmness with which we can experience our restlessness. For a further description of mindfulness please see Right Mindfulness as described previously in the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Buddha never asked people to believe him or to follow his teachings either out of respect for him or because he taught it. Nor to believe in anything at all, for that matter, that had been passed down from generation to generation. Quite the opposite actually. He strongly encouraged people to examine what he taught and to put it to the test in their own lives and experiences. This is particularly clear in his address to the Kalamas. Here he exhorts people to thoroughly investigate the realities of their lives. When they come to their own conclusions, the Buddha advises them (us) to abandon what they have found to be unhelpful and leading to suffering and further, to abide in those things and activities that are helpful and lead to true happiness.
Everything is open to investigation. All experience, if we are willing to look at it directly and courageously, has the inherent ability to reveal how things really are, to proclaim the truth of the dharma. With investigation we don’t want to become over-intellectualized. It is helpful to balance it with the confidence that faith inspires.
Please see the description of energy above included with the Five Spiritual Powers. Also, I find it helpful to remember that, up to a point, the more energy I expend, the more energized I get. Whether its physical exercise or spiritual pursuits, the results are similar.
This joy, or rapture as it is sometimes called, is not to be confused with the happiness that we feel when our desires have been fulfilled from sense pleasures. Rather, piti expresses more a simple delight in what we find beautiful. Piti is one of the results possible with the attainment of deep levels of concentration and a strong unification of our bodies, minds and hearts. There are different ways that this joy may be experienced, sometimes as waves engulfing us, sometimes we may enjoy a floating feeling or even that our whole body is filled with a rapturous quality. There is an energized sense of well-being. As pleasureable as this state may be, the real benefit to be reaped from these highly concentrated absorption or jhana states is the opportunity they afford for penetrating insight into the dharma, into the truth of the reality of existence.
Tranquility, along with concentration and equanimity, is one of the stabilizing factors of elightenment. It is also translated as “calmness” or “serenity.” Passaddhi refers to tranquility of the body, speech, thoughts and consciousness on the path to enlightenment. This tranquility is associated with gladness (pamojja), joy (piti), and bliss (sukham) and eventually leads to the concentration needed for liberation.
Along with calming the body, one of the best ways to mentally come to a tranquil and calm state is let go of our preferences, of wanting things to be a certain way. When we stay open to experiences and remain unattached to outcomes, not trying to control or make things happen, there is much more room and spaciousness for tranquility to arise. It can also be helpful to spend time in nature and alone.
Please see the explanation above for Right Concentration as part of the Noble Eightfold Path.
Please see the explanation above for Equanimity as part of The Heavenly Abodes.