The foundations of Buddhism began more than 2500 hundred years ago in India. With over 540 million practitioners today, Buddhism is practiced worldwide, and about 10% of the population is estimated to be Buddhist. There are many different traditions and common fundamental beliefs followed by most Buddhists. One of those beliefs is that there are seven skills are required to reach enlightenment. These seven factors are required for individuals to gain insight into themselves and the environment in which they inhabit. They are known as the 7 Factors of Enlightenment. I believe that practicing these seven factors can help any individual live a more productive and purpose-filled life.
1. Mindfulness (Pamáda)
Mindfulness is the first factor, and it relates to the ability to be fully present and maintain an unbiased awareness of the reality of things. It can cure delusion by providing clarity to what is going on around us. When someone is in a state of mindful awareness, they will not find themselves becoming lost in ruminative thoughts about the past or fortune-telling about things that have not occurred. They will also find themselves able to experience emotions without judgment which can end unnecessary mental and emotional stress.
Mindfulness is conducive to great profit — that is, highest mental development — and it is through such attainment that deliverance from the sufferings of saísára is Possible
– Buddha, taken from the Dhammapada, which is a collection of 423 verses as uttered by Guatama Buddha himself to his disciples
2. Investigation (Dhammavicaya)
The second factor is Investigation. It requires investigating the truth for ourselves. It is the acceptance that to understand something, it must be questioned and not just accepted blindly. Understanding and experiencing ideas and things for ourselves allows us to increase our ability to comprehend different concepts and ways of thinking.
“Right is it to doubt, right is it to question what is
doubtful and what is not clear. In a doubtful matter, wavering does arise.”
3. Energy (Viriya)
Energy, also referred to as effort or fortitude is the ability to remain consistent in pursuits without being distracted by outside influences or obstacles is a factor that takes consistent effort. In a world that offers more distractions than ever before, the ability to remain diligent and maintain the energy needed to follow the path of enlightenment can be difficult.
The Buddha did not consider himself not a savior who endeavors to save ‘souls’ utilizing a revealed religion. The concept that one person can raise another from lower to higher levels of consciousness or offer salvation, takes away the power from that individual and can make them unwilling or unable to find the resolve needed to take control of their destiny. To offer help or guidance is noble but each individual should take their journey towards enlightenment upon themselves.
The function of energy has four purposes:
1. The effort to eradicate evils that have arisen in the mind
2. The effort to prevent the arising of unarisen evil
3. The effort to develop unarisen good; (4) the effort to promote the further growth of good already arisen.
‘’Each individual has himself to put forth the necessary effort and work out his deliverance with diligence.’’
4. Rapture (Pìti)
The fourth enlightenment factor is Rapture or Happiness. Also, a mental property and includes the body and mind. Both are understandably connected. Those lacking in this quality cannot proceed along the path of enlightenment. Participating in life with a lack of joy makes one unable to reach enlightenment.
There will be an avoidance of the practice of meditation and may manifest itself in negative expressions. Any individual who strives to attain enlightenment and deliverance from repeated wandering should try to cultivate the factor of happiness. No one can give another the gift of rapture; it must be created with effort, reflection, and concentrated activity.
Happiness is a thing of the mind and should be sought internally and not in material things, though they may in a small way be instrumental. Those who are joyful individuals are usually content and find pleasure in meaningful things. Some seem to think that it is difficult to cultivate and develop contentment but through courage, determination, systematic attention, and thought about the challenges one meets within everyday life, the ability to obtain joy will be much more attainable.
5. Tranquility (Passaddhi)
It is only when the mind is in a state of peaceful tranquility and on the path of orderly progress that it becomes useful to the possessor and society. A disorderly mind is a liability to both the owner of it and others. It is not hard to be calm when all things around us are favorable. To be composed in mind amid unfavorable circumstances is hard and it is this quality that is worth achieving; for by such control, one builds up the strength of character. The man who cultivates calm of the mind does not get upset, confused, or excited when confronted with the eight vicissitudes of the world. He endeavors to see the rise and fall of all things conditioned, how things come into being and pass away. Free from anxiety and restlessness he will see the fragility of the fragile.
6. Concentration (Samádhi)
Concentration is our willingness to focus. When the ability to concentrate is increased, the potential to gain deeper insight into our lives is created. This skill must be worked at and developed over time. Improving the ability to concentrate benefits one’s life in several ways (for instance, our ability to be loving attentive partners or obtaining a new skill or talent).
It is only a tranquil mind that allows you to easily concentrate on a subject and see things as they truly are. Concentration is the strengthened stability of the mind, like the shielded light of a candle that is not affected by the wind. Concentration keeps the mind and the mental properties in a harmonious balance.
7. Equanimity (Upekkhá)
Equanimity is the ability to face whatever life offers you without attachment. Of all the 7 factors it may be the most challenging to attain. When dealing with situations that occur in our lives that we do not feel are ideal or when something goes wrong it can be challenging to maintain one’s composure, but those who can master equanimity are not easily discouraged or upset. No matter what the experience is, gain and loss, positive and negative interaction, joy and pain – the individual who has mastered equanimity are far less likely to stumble in their quest to reach enlightenment.
To allow one’s problems to become bigger than oneself is a choice, and by surrendering the need to control that which outside of your locus of control you are empowering yourself with the understanding that no matter what comes your way you can manage the situation with grace.
Question – Of all 7 Factors of Enlightenment, which ones do you understand and put into daily practice the most? And which of the 7 Factors of Enlightenment do you feel you could benefit from gaining a stronger understanding and practice?