Balancing the Factors of Enlightenment

adapted from the Vissudhimagga

There are seven Factors of Enlightenment given by the Buddha. Of these, Mindfulness is the foremost. It must be developed at all times in full measure. The other six fall into two groups, those which tend to exert the mind when it needs to be exerted, and those that subdue the mind when it needs to be subdued. One important facet of Mindfulness is to determine which factor needs developing. The following list gives the methods recommended for developing each factor.

Factors which exert the mind

Investigation of States

  1. asking questions of a teacher; study
  2. making the basis clean; body, clothes and home clean and neat
  3. balancing the Five Faculties
  4. avoidance of persons without understanding
  5. cultivation of persons with understanding
  6. "reviewing the field for the exercise of profound knowledge"; i.e. applying your dharma knowledge to the mental factors as they arise
  7. resoluteness upon that investigation of states

Energy

  1. reviewing the fearfulness of the States of Loss (hell etc.) as a grounds for urgency
  2. seeing the benefits in obtaining the mundane and supramundane distinctions dependent upon energy (i.e. jhana and enlightenment)
  3. reviewing the Path as "this is the Path trod by Buddhas and is not for idlers"
  4. being a credit to the almsfood
  5. reviewing the greatness of the Buddha thus "the Buddha praised the energetic, not the slothful"
  6. reviewing the greatness of the heritage thus "it is the Great Heritage of the Dhamma that I seek and it cannot be obtained by an idler"
  7. removing stiffness and torpor by perception of light, change of posture, frequent the open air etc.
  8. avoidance of idle persons
  9. cultivation of energetic persons
  10. reviewing the Four Right Endeavours (encourage wholesome mental states already arisen and not yet arisen, discourage unwholesome mental states already arisen and not yet arisen)
  11. resoluteness upon that energy

Joy

  1. recollection of the Buddha
  2. recollection of the Dhamma
  3. recollection of the Sangha
  4. recollection of virtuous acts you have performed
  5. recollection of generous acts you have performed
  6. recollection of deities
  7. recollection of Peace
  8. avoidance of rough persons
  9. cultivation of refined persons
  10. reviewing encouraging discourses
  11. resoluteness upon that happiness

Factors which subdue the mind

Tranquillity

  1. using superior food
  2. living in a good climate (avoidance of temperature extremes and other bodily discomfort)
  3. maintaining a pleasant posture
  4. "keeping to the middle" ; avoiding extremes as too tense or too relaxed etc.
  5. avoidance of violent persons
  6. cultivation of persons tranquil in body
  7. resoluteness upon that tranquillity

Concentration

  1. making the basis clean; body, clothes and home clean and neat
  2. skill in the sign
  3. balancing the Five Faculties
  4. restraining the mind when it ought to be restrained
  5. exerting the mind when it ought to be exerted
  6. encouraging the listless mind by means of faith and a sense of urgency
  7. looking on with equanimity at what is occurring rightly
  8. avoidance of unconcentrated persons
  9. cultivation of persons who have obtained skill in concentration
  10. reviewing of the jhanas and liberations
  11. resoluteness upon that concentration

Equanimity

  1. maintenance of neutrality toward living beings
  2. maintenance of neutrality toward formations and inanimate things
  3. avoidance of persons who show favouritism toward living beings and inanimate things
  4. cultivation of persons who maintain neutrality toward living beings and inanimate things
  5. resoluteness upon that equanimity

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