Supreme Seven Factors of Enlightenment:
This Very Life: Liberation Teachings of the Buddha by
Sayadaw U Pandita.
BECOMING A Noble ONE
does not become enlightened by merely
gazing into the sky. One does not
become enlightened by reading
studying the scriptures, nor by thinking, nor by wishing for the
state to burst into one's mind. There are certain
necessary prerequisites which cause enlightenment to arise.
these are known as the bojjhangas, or factors of enlightenment,
there are seven of them.
The word bojjhanga is made up of bodhi, which means
enlightenment or an
enlightened person, and anga, step
or causal factor. Thus a
is a causal factor of an enlightened being, or a cause for
second sense of the word bojjhanga is based on alternative
meanings of its two Pali roots. The alternative
bodhi is the
comprehends or sees the Four Noble Truths: the truth of
suffering or unsatisfactoriness; the truth that desire is the
cause of this
suffering and dissatisfaction;
the truth that there can be an
end to this
suffering; and the truth of the path to the end of this
Noble Eightfold Path. The second meaning of anga is part or
the second meaning of the
7 bojjhangas is the specific part of
sees the Four Noble Truths.
All vipassanā yogis come to understand the Four
Noble Truths to
extent, but true comprehension of them
requires a particular,
transforming moment of consciousness, known as path
is one of the
culminating insights of
vipassanā practice. It
experience of Nibbāna. Once a yogi has experienced
this, he or
knows the Four Noble Truths, and thus is considered to contain
the bojjhangas inside him
or herself. Such a person is called Noble.
Thus, the bojjhangas or enlightenment factors also are
parts or qualities
of a Noble person. Sometimes they are known as the
prefix sam- meaning full, complete, correct,
perfect, or true. The prefix is an
honorific and enhancing intensifier, and adds no difference in
These seven factors of enlightenment, or seven
qualities of a Noble person, are: awareness, investigation,
joy, calm, concentration and equanimity. In Pali, the list would be
sati, dhamma vicaya, viriya, pīti,
passāddhi, samādhi, and upekkhā. These seven
can be found in all phases of vipassanā practice. But if we take
as a model
the progressive stages of insight, we can say that the seven
enlightenment factors begin to be very
clear at the stage of insight where a
yogi begins to see the arising and passing away of phenomena.
How can one develop these factors in himself or herself? By
means of satipatthāna meditation. The Buddha said:
"Oh Bhikkhus, if the
four foundations of awareness are practiced persistently and
repeatedly, the seven types of
bojjhangas will be automatically and fully
Practicing the four foundations of
awareness does not mean
studying them, thinking of them, listening to discourses
about them, nor
discussing them. What we must do is be directly and experientially aware of
the four foundations of
awareness, the four frames of reference on which
can be anchored and established. The
names them: first, the experience of the body; second, feeling; the painful, pleasant or neutral
in each experience; third, the mind, mood & thought; and 4th, all
other phenomena merely as objects of consciousness..
The Buddha said, furthermore, that one should practice this
awareness not only occasionally, but rather persistently
and repeatedly. This is
exactly what we try to do in vipassanā meditation.
The tradition of
and developed by
Mahasi Sayadaw is oriented
toward developing fully the 7 factors of enlightenment, and
experiencing Noble path consciousness, in accordance with the
AWARENESS: THE FIRST ENLIGHTENMENT FACTOR
awareness, is the 1st factor of enlightenment.
"Awareness" has come to be the accepted translation of
English. However, this word has a
passive connotation. "Awareness" must be dynamic and confrontative.
In retreats, I
teach that awareness should leap forward onto the object, covering
it completely, penetrating into it,
not missing any part of it. To
convey this active sense, I often prefer to use the words "observing power"
to translate sati,
rather than the more superficial "mindfulness of the present" However, for the sake
of ease and simplicity, I will simply
use the word "awareness"
in this volume, but I would like my readers to remember the dynamic
qualities it should possess.
Awareness can be well understood by examining its three
aspects of characteristic, function and manifestation.
These 3 aspects
are traditional categories used in the Abhidhamma, the Buddhist
description of consciousness,
to describe factors of mind. We will use them
here to study each of the enlightenment factors in turn.
The characteristic of
awareness is non-superficiality. This
suggests that awareness is penetrative and profound.
If we throw a cork into
a stream, it simply bobs up and down on the surface, floating
downstream with the current.
If we throw a stone instead, it will
immediately sink to the very bottom bed of the stream. So, too,
the mind will sink deeply into the object and not slip superficially past
Say you are watching your notrils or the abdomen as the object of your
satipatthāna practice. You try to be very firm,
focusing your attention so
that the mind will not slip off, but rather will sink deeply into the
processes of rising & falling.
As the mind penetrates these processes, you
can comprehend the true natures of tension, pressure, movement and
Keeping the Object in View
The function of
awareness is to keep the object always in
view, neither forgetting it, nor allowing it to disappear.
present, the occurring object will be noted without forgetfulness.
In order for non-superficiality and non-disappearance, the
characteristic and function of awareness, to appear dearly in
we must try to understand and practice the third aspect of
is the manifestation aspect,
which develops and brings along the other
two. The chief manifestation of awareness is confrontation: it sets the
directly face to face with the object.
Face to Face with the Object
It is as if you are walking along a road and you meet a
traveller, face to face, coming from the opposite
direction. When you are
meditating, the mind should meet the object in just this way. Only through
confrontation with an object can true awareness arise.
They say that the human face is the index of character. If you
want to size up a person, you look at his or
her face very carefully and
then you can make a preliminary judgement. If you do not examine the face
carefully and instead become distracted by other parts of
the body, then your judgement will be inaccurate.
In meditation you must apply a similar, if not sharper, degree
of care in looking at the object of observation.
Only if you look
meticulously at the object can you understand its true nature. When you look at a
the first time, you get a quick, overall view of it. If you look
more carefully, you will pick up details — say,
of the eyebrows, eyes
and lips. First you must look at the face as a whole, and only
details become clear.
Similarly, when you are observing
the nostrils the rising and falling of your
abdomen, you begin by taking an
overall view of these processes. First
you bring your mind face to face with the rising and falling. After
repeated successes you will find yourself able to look closer. Details
will appear to you enthusiastically,
as if by themselves. You will notice different
sensations in the rise and fall, such as tension, pressure, heat,
As a yogi repeatedly comes face to face with the object, his or
her enthusiasms begin to bear fruit.
Awareness is activated and
becomes firmly established on the object of observation. There are no misses.
The objects do not fall away from view. They neither slip away nor
disappear, nor are they absent-mindedly
forgotten. The mental defilements - kilesas cannot
infiltrate this strong barrier of awareness. If awareness
can be maintained
for a significant period of time, the yogi can discover a great purity
of mind because of
the absence of kilesas . This protection from attack by the
kilesas is a second aspect of the manifestation of
When awareness is persistently and repeatedly activated,
understanding arises. There
will be insight
into the true nature of body and mind. Not only does the
yogi realize the true experiential sensations of the
rise and fall,
but she or he also comprehends the individual characteristics of the various
physical and mental
phenomena happening inside herself or himself.
Seeing the Four Noble Truths
The yogi may see directly that all physical and mental phenomena
share the characteristic of suffering.
When this happens we say that
the First Noble Truth is seen. When the First Noble Truth has been seen,
the remaining three
are also seen. Thus it is said in the texts, and we can observe the same
in our own
experience. Because there is awareness at the moment of
occurrence of mental and physical phenomena,
no craving arises. With this
abandoning of craving, the 2nd Noble Truth is seen. Craving
and when craving is absent, suffering, too, disappears. Seeing
the Third Noble Truth, the end of suffering,
is fulfilled when
ignorance and the other kilesas fall away and cease. All this occurs on a
moment-to-moment basis when awareness and
understanding are present. Seeing the Fourth
Noble Truth refers
to the development of the Eightfold Path factors. This development occurs simultaneously
moment of awareness.
Therefore, on one level, we can say that the Four
are seen by the yogi at any time
when awareness and understanding are present.
This brings us back to the two definitions of bojjhanga
given above: Awareness is part of the consciousness that contains insight
into the true nature of reality;
it is a part of enlightenment knowledge.
It is present in the mind of one who knows the Four Noble Truths.
It always stand by - as if a lamp - and observes: Thus, it is called a factor of enlightenment, a
Awareness is the Cause of
The first cause of
awareness is nothing more than awareness
itself. Naturally, there is a difference
between the weak
that characterises one's early meditative enthusiasms and the
at higher levels of practice, which becomes strong enough to cause enlightenment to occur. In fact,
the development of
is a simple momentum, one moment of awareness causing the next.
Four More Ways to Develop
Commentators identify four additional factors which help develop
and strengthen awareness
until it is worthy of the title
Awareness and Clear Comprehension - Sati-sampajañña
The first is
sati-sampajañña, usually translated as "awareness
and clear comprehension." In this term,
sati is the
during formal sitting, watching the primary object as well as
Sampajañña, clear comprehension, refers to awareness on a
broader basis: awareness of walking,
stretching, bending, turning
around, looking to one side, and all other activities in any ordinary
Avoiding Unmindful, Scattered, Distracted, & Stressed up People:
Dissociation from persons who are not mindful is the second way
of developing awareness as an
enlightenment factor. If you are
doing your best to be mindful, and you run across an unmindful
corners you into some long-winded argument, you can imagine how quickly
awareness will vanish.
Carefully Choosing Mindful fully Aware Friends:
The third way to cultivate
awareness to associate with mindful
persons. Such people can serve as
strong sources of inspiration. By
spending time with them, in an environment where awareness is valued,
can grow and deepen your own awareness by emulating these calmed
and clear-eyed seers.
4. Inclining the Mind Toward Awareness
The fourth method is to incline the mind toward activating
awareness. This means deliberately making
awareness as a top priority,
alerting the mind to return to it in every situation. This approach is very
important; it creates a sense of urgent unforgetfulness, of non-absentmindedness. You
try as much as
possible to refrain from those activities that do not
particularly lead to the deepening of awareness.
Of these banal distractions there is a humongously wide
varied selection, as you probably already know.
As a yogi only one task is required of you, and that is to be
aware of whatever is happening in the present
moment. In an intensive
retreat, this means you set aside social relationships, writing and reading,
scriptures. You take special care when eating not to fall into
habitual patterns. You always consider whether
the times, places, amounts
and kinds of food you eat really are essential or not. If they are not, you
repeating this unnecessary behavioural pattern.
on the 4 frames of reference:
What is Right Awareness?,
Causes of Sati,
4 Foundations of Awareness,