Bojjha’nga – Seven Factors of Enlightenment

This is one of my favourite themes in the suttas. The Bojjha’nga show a progression of dependence in various wholesome states arising from attending to bhikkhus who are accomplished in virtue, concentration, wisdom, liberation, knowledge and vision of liberation.  I believe it is also possible to do this in our imaginations in a virtual way. We can study the Dhamma and imagine visiting an accomplished bhikkhu.  We can record ourselves or others reading profound suttas and then later prepare a sacred moment to listen respectfully, with wise attention.  Of course if your do have convenient access to a an accomplished bhikkhu-monk or bhikkhuni-nun, then you are very fortunate…  
Sa.myuttanikaaya  translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi 
S46.1  The Himalayas 

At Saavattii. “Bhikkhus, based upon the Himalayas, the king of mountains, the naagas [dragons] nurture their bodies and acquire strength.  When they have matured their bodies and acquired strength, they then enter the pools. From the pools they enter the lakes, then the streams, then the rivers, and finally they enter the ocean. There they achieve greatness and expansiveness of body.   So too bhikkhus, based on virtue, established upon virtue, a bhikkhu develops and cultivates the seven factors of enlightenment, and thereby he achieves greatness and expansiveness in [wholesome] states…
S46.3  Virtue

“Bhikkhus, those bhikkhus who are
   accomplished in virtue, 
   accomplished in concentration, 
   accomplished in wisdom, 
   accomplished in liberation, 

   accomplished in knowledge and vision of liberation: 

   even the sight of those bhikkhus is helpful, I say; 
   even listening to them … 
   even approaching them … 
   even going forth after them is helpful, I say. 
For what reason?  Because when one has heard the Dhamma from such bhikkhus one dwells withdrawn by way of two kinds of withdrawal – withdrawal of the body and withdrawal of the mind.
[1] “Dwelling thus withdrawn, 
               one recollects that Dhamma and thinks it over
Whenever, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwelling thus withdrawn recollects that Dhamma and thinks it over, 
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of mindfulness is aroused by the bhikkhu; 
   on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of mindfulness; 
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.
[2] “Dwelling thus mindfully, 
                he discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom, 
                examines it, 
                makes an investigation of it.   
Whenever, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwelling thus mindfully, 
                discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom,  
                examines it, 
                makes an investigation of it,
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of discrimination of states is aroused by the bhikkhu; 
   on that occasion, the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of discrimination of states  [dhammavicaya]
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of discrimination of states comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.

[3] While he thus 
              discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom, 
              examines it, 
              makes an investigation of it, 
his energy is aroused without slackening.  
Whenever, bhikkhus, 
     a bhikkhu’s energy is aroused without slackening as he
               discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom, 
               examines it,
               makes an investigation of it, 
  on that occasion the enlightenment factor of energy is aroused by the bhikkhu;
  on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of energy [viriya]
  on that occasion the enlightenment factor of energy comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.

[4] When his energy is thus aroused,

    there arises in him spiritual rapture.
Whenever, bhikkhus, spiritual rapture arises in a bhikkhu whose energy is aroused,
  on that occasion, the enlightenment factor of rapture is aroused by the bhikkhu;
  on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of rapture [piiti];
  on that occasion the enlightenment factor of rapture comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu. 
[5] For one whose mind is uplifted by rapture

   the body becomes tranquil and the mind becomes tranquil.
Whenever, bhikkhus, the body becomes tranquil and the mind becomes tranquil in a bhikkhu whose mind is uplifted by rapture,
   on that occasion, the enlightenment factor of tranquility [passadhi] is aroused by the bhikkhu;
   on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of tranquility;
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of tranquility comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.

[6] For one whose body is tranquil and who is happy

   the mind becomes concentrated. 
Whenever, bhikkhus, the mind becomes concentrated in a bhikkhu whose body is tranquil and who is happy,
   on that occasion, the enlightenment factor of concentration [samaadhi] is aroused by the bhikkhu;
   on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of concentration;
   on that occasion the enlightenment factor of concentration comes to fulfilment by development in 
   the bhikkhu. 
[7] He closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated.

Whenever, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated,
  on that occasion, the enlightenment factor of equanimity [upekkhaa] is aroused by the bhikkhu; 
  on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of equanimity;  
  on that occasion the enlightenment factor of equanimity comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu. 

Bhikkhus, when these seven factors of enlightenment have been developed and cultivated in this way, 
seven fruits and benefits may be expected. What are the seven fruits and benefits?

[1]  One attains final knowledge early in this very life [full-enlightenment – Arahat].

[2]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life, 

          then one attains final knowledge at the time of death
[3]  If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life or at the time of death, 

          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes 
          an attainer of Nibbaana in the interval.
[4]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life … or become an attainer of Nibbaana in 

             the interval, 
          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes 
          an attainer of Nibbaana upon landing.
[5]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life … or become an attainer of Nibbaana

             upon landing,
          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes
          an attainer of Nibbaana without exertion.
[6]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life … or become an attainer of Nibbaana

             without exertion,
          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes
          an attainer of Nibbaana with exertion.

[7]   If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life … or become an attainer of Nibbaana 
             with exertion, 
          then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters one becomes 
          one bound upstream, heading towards the Akani.t.tha realm 
          [the exclusive heavenly realm for Non-returners-Anaagaami].
When, bhikkhus, the seven factors of enlightenment have been developed and cultivated in this way, these seven fruits and benefits may be expected. 

Note The first six of these seven benefits are the achievement of Arahat – full enlightenment, the fourth and final type of ariyapuggala-noble person. These six benefits are varied by time taken to attain Arahat. The series begins with the fastest and ends with the slowest in terms of time taken to attain full enlightenment. The seventh benefit is the attainment of anaagaami – non-returning, which is the second highest type of ariyapuggala and destined to attain full-enlightenment after a possibly very long life span as a Brahma being (diety, celestial being…).

Readers should note that a prerequisite to either Arahat or Anaagaami is very well developed indriya-controlling faculties and particularly well developed controlling faculty of concentration – samaadhi, also known as the enlightenment factor of concentration. The lower two ariyapuggala, the stream enterer – sotapanna, and the once-returner – sakadaagaami, have less well developed concentration. Even so, those lower two have well developed virtue – siila and unshakable confidence – saddhaa in the three refuges. Although the bojjhan’ga appear to be advanced training for sotapanna and sakadaagami seeking the higher paths and fruits, don’t be put off.  The bojjhan’ga are still open for faithful worldlings – putthujana to study and practice and reap great benefits.

S46.6 Ku.n.daliya Sutta
I  have summarised this sutta and provided a dependent sequence of fulfilment.  This is an important set of relations and well worth contemplating.

restraint of the sense faculties

three kinds of conduct (bodily, verbal and mental)

the four establishments of mindfulness

the seven factors of enlightenment

true knowledge and liberation [enlightenment].

There is a shorter version of this series in the Aanaapaanasa.myutta S54.13.

You can read more details about the three kinds of conduct (bodily, verbal and mental) in many sutta including M114 and M78.

For readers who are interested in academic study of the Bojjha’nga I recommend “The Buddhist Path to Awakening” by R.M. L. Gethin, published by Oneworld Publications in 2001.  This book covers the 37 Bodhipakkhiyadhamma; Chapter V Factors of Awakening specifically covers the Bojjha’nga. However, this book maybe too theoretical for Buddhists seeking practical advice on the path.  Even so, I transcribed and paraphrased below the bare headings of practices that assist in the arising of each of the seven Bojjha’nga.    These tips are very useful practical advice.

Mindfulness – Sati

  • mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati-samaja~n~na)
  • avoidance of people of lost mindfulness 
  • association with people of established mindfulness
  • commitment to the above

Discrimination of the Dhamma – Dhamma-vicaaya

  • asking questions
  • keeping the body and belongings clean
  • balancing the five controlling faculties
  • avoiding unwise people
  • associating with wise people
  • reflection on practice with deep knowledge
  • commitment to the above

Strength/Energy – Viriya

  • reflection on the dangers of decline to unfortunate existences such as hell, ghost, poor unhealthy human and so on.
  • seeing the benefits of rising to fortunate existences such as sensual heavens, brahma realms and wealthy healthy human worlds etc.
  • reflection on the course of the journey
  • honouring alms received
  • reflection on the greatness inheriting the Buddha’s dispensation
  • reflection on the greatness of the Buddha
  • reflection on the greatness of one’s birth
  • reflection on the greatness of the other practitioners
  • avoidance of idle people
  • association with strong energetic people
  • commitment to the above

Joy/rapture – Piiti

  • recollection of the Buddha
  • recollection of the Dhamma
  • recollection of the Sangha
  • recollection of virtue
  • recollection of generosity
  • recollection of devas
  • recollection of peace
  • avoidance of rough people
  • association with affectionate people
  • reflection on satisfying discourses
  • commitment to the above

Tranquility – Passadhi

  • consuming fine food
  • living in a pleasant climate
  • keeping a comfortable posture
  • maintaining balance
  • avoidance of violent people
  • association with tranquil people
  • commitment to the above

Concentration – Sammaadhi

  • keeping one’s person and belongings clean
  • balancing the five controlling faculties
  • skill regarding the sign-nimitta
  • appropriate application
  • appropriate easing off
  • appropriate encouragement
  • appropriate overseeing
  • avoidance of unconcentrated people
  • association with concentrated people
  • reflection on the jhaanas and liberations
  • commitment to the above

[some of these refer to jhaana techniques and for people unfamiliar with jhaana practice, I recommend you read meditation manuals such as the Vissudhimagga and Vimmuttimagga.]

Equinamity – upekkhaa

  • balanced regard for all beings
  • balanced regard for all mental forces
  • avoiding people with a bias regarding beings or a bias regarding mental forces
  • commitment to all that
Michael’s comments
Note the fundamental significance of virtue-siila [S46.1 quoted above].   “…based on virtue, established upon virtue, a bhikkhu develops and cultivates the seven factors of enlightenment, and thereby he achieves greatness and expansiveness in [wholesome] states…”

The seven Bojjha’nga are developed and the five hindrances are suppressed (see S46.38 & S46.40].  

The seven Bojjha’nga need to be balanced. Bojjha’nga 2, 3 & 4 are stimulating and Bojjha’nga 5, 6 & 7 are  tranquilising. If the stimulating group dominate, one may become overexcited whilst if the tranqulising group dominate, one may become sleepy. Either way, the Dhamma will not be clear and progress will be slow. The first Bojjha’nga, mindfulness-sati, is the most important factor because it helps one to know and see clearly when the other factors are undeveloped or out of balance. See S46.53 for more details and some explanatory similes about the stimulating and tranquillising groups in the bojjha.nga.

I have transcribed S46.3 above in such a way to enable the reader to see the structure of clauses.  This makes the sutta easier to read as well as highlight the differences between the stimulating group and the tranquillising group.  Maybe you can see that as soon as rapture arises, the discriminating, examining and investigating stops.  This is a very important point.  To progress, one must allow the rapture, tranquility and concentration to proceed without analysing. This is subtle and may take a while to get right.  I for one am quite prone to analysing.  There needs to be a balance though.  Analysis and rationality are useful but limited.  Profound wisdom may arise when the mind is tranquil and concentrated.

Note the final factor of upekkhaa-equinamity. “He closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated.”  I understand this to be conciousness-vi~n~naana being aware of the feelings-vedanaa, perceptions-sa~n~naa and intentional volitions-sankhaara (form/body-ruupa is not part of mind-naama) that occur in the “mind thus concentrated”. This would be a relatively peaceful mind but still subject to the three general characteristics-tilakkhana (unsatisfactoriness-dukkha, impermanence-annicca and not-self-annattaa). A person with a concentrated mind may not have well developed upekkhaa and due to craving and attachment to rapture-piiti and tranquility-passadhi (M138.12), may not initially have profound insight leading to a breakthrough. As soon as  upekkhaa is mature enough and there has previously been well developed right view, then a breakthrough in the Dhamma will occur – enlightenment. It is natural.

Note the similarities with the noble eightfold path which begins with right view – sammaadi.t.thi and ends with right concentration – sammaasamaadhi. There are differences in emphasis only. The Dhamma may be likened to a multifaceted jewel. One facet may look like seven factors another facet may look like four establishments (of mindfulness), another facet may look like an eightfold path and so on.

May the seven factors of enlightenment be developed and cultivated, may the seven fruits be realised.


Upgrading Your Uposatha Observance: five then eight and beyond

The Dhamma is internally consistent and truthful. It is amazingly complete and flawless.  It is possible to take almost any aspect of the Dhamma and see relations with most other aspects of the Dhamma.
Some people misunderstand precepts and think that more is better. Thus someone practicing ten precepts might be considered more virtuous than an eight preceptor and even more superior than a five preceptor. According to this incorrect understanding, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis would be inherently more virtuous than lay people because they are obliged to practice over 200 or over 300 rules respectively.  Think about it though: are bhikkhunis more virtuous than bhikkhus because they have more rules?  The first five bhikkhus (pancasaavakaa) and maybe even the first few hundred thousand bhikkhus did not have any rules. Vinaaya rules were created over time to guide worldling-putthujana monastics. Many of these lacked mindfulness and may have been motivated to join the Sangha for because the Buddhasangha was popular, well supported by lay benefactors and rapidly growing in size and influence.  So the number of precepts or rules is not a measure of virtue. 

Virtue-siila, concentration-samaadhi and wisdom-pa~n~naa are all related and integrated parts of the eightfold noble path.   Virtue and other aspects of the path are qualities rather than quantities.  Greater virtue necessarily implies deeper concentration and profounder wisdom. The three go together simultaneously developed and improved as qualities. 

We need to focus on the practice and the results, the cause and effect of actions – kamma.  Wholesome/skilful – kusala actions such as observing Uposatha precepts will lead to pleasant results and visa-versa.   The precepts are guides to daily life that help us reduce the chances of unwholesome/unskilful akusala actions that lead to harmful results.   Monastics who are supposed to be free from the usual distractions of sensuality, earning a living and supporting families are able to use the observance of so many rules to develop deep concentration – samaadhi and with that concentration are able to gain insight into the Dhamma and find liberation from suffering.  Lay people can do this as well. The principles are the same though the lifestyle may be different.    

First five precepts. By not taking life, we are compassionate and loving toward all beings that fear death and prefer to live. We also give the gift of life. By not taking what is not given, we reduce the fear that other beings have for losing their belongings.  We also give material things to others. By refraining from sexual misconduct or indeed any sexual conduct, we reduce opportunities for our minds and the minds of our lovers to be flooded with extreme emotions which reduce mindfulness and create conditions for suffering.  We also give social harmony to our communities.  By refraining from lies, abusive speech other wrong speech acts, we avoid harming other’s reputations, we avoid inflaming their anger and confusing them with ignorance.  By refraining from intoxicating drinks and other substances, we keep our minds relatively clear and sharp so we can remember the Dhamma and act wisely in all situations.   Intoxicated people are more likely to break the other precepts due to their degraded senses. 

The perpetrators and victims of acts of violence, theft, molestation, slander and so on are at least temporarily mentally disturbed and restless. Without a perspective of the Dhamma and some degree of Right View (sammaadi.t.thi) the victims may seek revenge and due to their confusion, harm others.  By doing so, they perpetuate the cycle of suffering and rebirth.  Only by love is hate quenched. Only by renunciation is lust abated. Only by wisdom is ignorance destroyed.  

Other beings will feel less fear in our presence due to our practice of virtue-siila.  This wholesome behaviour will immediately increase environmental peace and safety.  Our good example may inspire others to practice .  Imagine how peaceful our lives would be if we did not have to worry about murder, theft, molestation of self and family, verbal abuse and so forth. Thus with quieter and safer environmental conditions, people will be better able to see clearly what is happening in mind and body. There will naturally be more opportunities for developing the higher mind and possibly achieving a breakthrough in the Dhamma

The last three Uposatha precepts. Most lay people temporarily observe the last three Uposatha precepts either on meditation retreats or on Uposatha days.  Not observing these last three precepts doesn’t obviously lead to harm for ourselves and others so why observe them?  We observe the other three precepts in order to simplify our lives and avoid indulgence in sensual pleasure.  Sensual pleasure is the practice of the lay person in daily life, not the practice of a someone intensifying their progress on the eightfold noble path.  In itself, sensual pleasure is not wrong so don’t get all guilty about having fun.  However, sensual pleasure is distracting, reduces concentration and reduces the opportunities for wisdom to arise.  In other words sensual pleasures slow you down your progress on the spiritual path.  The suttas have many references to sensual pleasures being inherently disappointing and unsatisfactory with only the most fleeting sense of gratification.  Thus by observing the eight Uposatha precepts we can create more conditions for environmental peace and concentration (samaadhi). 

The last three precepts are like an upgrade on the first five. The reduced indulgence in sensuality will help us to maintain a clear peaceful mind in which samaadhi and the other controlling faculties (panc’indriya) can develop.   The difference between an enlightened being and an ordinary worldling is the development of the controlling faculties.

The benefits arising from observing the last three Uposatha precepts is highly dependent on successfully observing the first five precepts. The first five precepts are the basic foundation and the last three are the more advanced practice with more profound results.   

Upgrading Uposatha.  
Some Buddhists may not have convenient living conditions to formally observe Uposatha precepts in all respects. For example, they may feel obliged to wear cosmetics and jewellery to work and may have to eat an evening meal with non-Buddhist family.  Perhaps a non-Buddhist lover may seduce us or demand services on Uposatha day.

Some Buddhists may observe Uposatha precepts regularly but feel they are not making much progress or struggle to see how it is beneficial.  It is inconvenient and maybe they feel dissatisfied.  So how do we upgrade or revive our spiritual life in these two sets of circumstances?   

I suggest below a few ways to give some focus to your observance of Uposatha whether you can practice eight precepts or not. This should give you some ideas which you can adapt for your particular lifestyle and background.

Loving-kindness/friendliness – mettaa and compassion – karunaa. It is helpful to deliberately observe five precepts and Uposatha precepts with mettaa and karunaa in mind. Restraining ourselves from harming others is loving and compassionate. We wish other beings were happy and well. We wish other beings were free from harm and suffering.  It would be odd to attempt mettaa and karunaa practice while not keeping at least the first five precepts because in breaking any of these precepts, we would be directly harming others or intoxicating the mind so that it is unable to concentrate. Beware the near-enemies of mettaa and karunaa.  Beginners in the practice or those who are intoxicated may confuse mettaa with lust or karunaa with pity. 
Observing the five precepts or the Uposatha precepts is practicing love and compassion towards ourselves because we don’t create unwholesome/unskilful kamma that will result in our suffering.  Lord Buddha said that sincerely observing the five precepts will result in a heavenly rebirth, how much more beneficial would be the results of observing Uposatha precepts.  Note that aiming for a heavenly rebirth would be a ‘wrong aim’.  It is better to aim for liberation from the cycle of rebirths altogether.

Sympathetic joy – muditaa. When we go onto Facebook or attend the temple, we may come to know about other Buddhists who practice the five precepts or the eight Uposatha precepts. We can deliberately practice muditaa for these fellow Buddhists, recollecting that they are excellent, practicing in the good way, the true way, the straight way and the proper way.  By recollecting that these fellow Buddhists will be happier and will benefit greatly from this practice we also share in their merits. We say “saadhu, saadhu, saadhu…” congratulations, well done!  Beware the near enemy of muditaa is pride in the achievements of others. Pride in the achievements of others includes attachment.  Muditaa is similar to mettaa and karunaa because it has no aspect of attachment.

Equanimity – upekkhaa. In daily life we will meet many people who do not consciously practice the Uposatha precepts or any precepts. As a result these people wander about in ignorance and suffering. It is not easy for anyone to lead another person to follow the right path. There may be small chances here and there to influence others. Usually, we wait until others ask questions. So we practice equanimity for the sufferings of others.  Remembering that everyone will get the results of their actions. Note that equanimity is not the same as indifference which is allied with ignorance. Equanimity is allied with wisdom and insight.  Equanimity is an underlying component in the other three divine abodes and present in all wholesome mental states. 
It is possible to develop mental aborptions – jhaana with any of the four divine abodes above though traditionally mettaa, karunaa and muditaa can be used for 1st-3rd jhaana while upekkhaa can be used only for 4th jhaana. This is a technical topic for another post. You can read more in the Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga and other meditation manuals. However, there is a lot of benefit from just reflecting on the four divine abodes during the day. As we refrain from taking life, or stealing etc. we can say to our selves “may all beings be happy and well, may all beings be free from harm and suffering…” I find this useful on the bus crowded with noisy people when commuting to work.  When I find a cockroach or spider in the home I capture it and recite “may all beings be happy and well….” as I gently take the insect outside. 
It is also useful to just recite “may all beings be happy and well” at free times during the day. It is relaxing and wholesome. This practice helps keep unwholesome objects from taking over.  
Dhamma study. Choose one Dhamma topic, read a bit, write some brief notes and then reflect on it throughout the day. For example, read about the one of the seven sets in the 37 seven aids to enlightenment – Bodhipakkhiyadhamma. Maybe start with the seven factors for enlightenment – Bojjhanga. Try to remember the Paali words for the factors and memorise the correct sequence of factors. On another day, read about what the commentaries say for ways to cultivate and improve the seven enlightenment factors.  On another day read some more suttas that might refer to the seven factors and may refer to some of the benefits (such as improving health and length of life) in recollecting the seven factors.

As you contemplate the Dhamma in this way you will be practicing dhammanusati which is one of the six recollections recommended by the Blessed One for purifying the mind.  This works because the mind is focussed on a wholesome/skilful object and not distracted with lust, anger or delusion. 

Siilanusati – recollection of virtue.  As someone who is keeping precepts you may be feel confident enough to reflect on your accumulating virtue.  If you have been able to keep five precepts and eight precepts then you have good grounds for reflecting on the merits of your practice. Without necessarily getting  big-headed about it, you objectively realise that this practice is beneficial, it is purifying, creating conditions for happiness and leading you to more wholesome mental states.  Someone who is able to keep precepts is also someone who has enough mindfulness and Right View to control impulsive cravings and has learned to live peacefully to some extent. This is the foundation of training for higher mental development.  On occasions when there are breaks in the precepts (hopefully minor) then one immediately determines to sincerely refrain from breaking the precepts again. It is possible to recover a mind free from remorse, a mind settled and peaceful once again.  Do not underestimate the power of keeping precepts even for a short time such as one minute.  If one is sincere, there are great benefits here and now including greater self-esteem, courage and confidence.

Caaganusati – recollection of generosity. In being generous, by giving and sharing, you have been reducing attachment and clinging.  This wholesome conduct will benefit others and oneself and lead to more wholesome states. This is faultless behaviour. 

32 parts of the body. For those of us who are living a celibate life, I recommend memorising the 32 parts of the body in forward and reverse order as outlined in the Visuddhimagga.  I found this practice is very effective in temporarily overcoming lustful states of mind.  Remembering this famous list is a useful way to concentrate the mind and give it temporary relief from worry and strife. Note there are intensive ways of practicing the 32 parts of the body which can lead to first mental absorption – jhaana though that need not be the goal of the practice.  There are many benefits without necessarily attaining jhaana. Again I refer keen readers to the various meditation manuals for more details.  
Devanusati.  On Uposatha day and other days deliberately recollect that the devas attained their fortunate rebirth and powers on account of previously virtuous conduct such as practising the five precepts and the eight Uposatha precepts. Now you and other sincere Buddhists are practicing in this same way and likely to attain a fortunate rebirth in a heavenly realm. As you practice in this way, you may sometimes  recite “may the devas be happy and well…”.  Remember that many devas are Buddhists and have attained various paths and fruits in the Buddha’s dispensation.  You may recollect these noble devas as part of the ariyasangha
In times when you feel afraid that someone maybe going to hurt you, recollect the devas and maybe you can overcome your fears. But don’t just rely on the devas to protect you. Use common sense and find safety.  Note that overcoming fears in this way is possible with other wholesome objects such as recollecting any or all of the three refuges (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha)
Death – maranaanusati. On Uposatha day and other days, deliberately recollect the certain fact that you will die and so will all the people you know. Recollecting death is a way to put our lives in perspective and determine what is really important.  In Australian culture, recollecting death is considered a negative and gloomy occupation. Actually it is a wholesome and sensible activity.  Some people may find it difficult at first to overcome previous preconceptions and biases. If you persevere you may develop some equanimity and a completely different set of priorities will emerge. I found that recollecting the inevitable nature of death gave me a greater sense of spiritual urgency – sa.mvega. This really motivates and intensifies the practice.  You may find it much easier to practice the five precepts and eight Uposatha precepts after you have deepened your maranaanutsati.
Summary. By simplifying our lives and deepening our practice of the 4 divine abodes and other methods outlined above we will definitely be upgrading our Uposatha observance.   The basic peace in life created by the first five precepts can be deepened by the 8 Uposatha precepts. This results in greater peace and concentration – samaadhi. The deliberate practice of the 4 divine abodes and other methods is further deepening of the practice that will bring enormous benefits to ourselves and all others in the environment.
May you dear reader feel inspired to go deeper into the Dhamma. May you be free from harm and suffering.

Nine ways to Sharpen the Controlling Faculties – Indriyas

I copied/paraphrased these nine ways from two different English language translations of Ven. Sayadaw U Kundala’s Burmese language transcriptions of Dhamma talks. I’m sorry I don’t have the citation details since I left the books in Yangon.

These nine ways are also in the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification) by Ven. Buddhaghosa, in the section on Samaadhi. Buddhaghosa appears to have provided them to strengthen the five controlling faculties (panc’indriya) and develop samatha – one pointedness of mind. Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw and the Mahasi tradition of vipassana meditation have adapted these nine ways for vipassana meditation.

1. Direct the mind on the nature of cessation of phenomenon; incline the mind towards the dissolution or passing away of the observing and noting object.

2. Note respectfully and penetratively; note respectfully, closely and intensely to actually see the dissolution.

3. Note continuously without disruption in noting; note incessantly without break or gap so the noting will be continuous throughout.

4. Cultivate seven types of suitable (beneficial) dependables during the retreat including:

  1. accommodation – meditation centre
  2. alms – convenient to obtain food, not having to walk far etc.
  3. conversation on Dhamma that is relevant to attaining liberation
  4. fellow practitioners – who are enthusiastic for bhavanaa-mental development
  5. nourishment – food that is suitable for the individual
  6. climate – not too hot, not too cold etc.
  7. posture – straight back and not too much pain

5. Note the causes of development of vipassana samaadhi (insight concentration), remember the causes for attaining the tranquillity of mind, the causes of samaadhi, the signs (nimitta) of past samaadhi.

6. Contemplate the Bojjhanga Dhammas to strengthen the Indriya-controlling faculties. [This also amounts to balancing bojjhangas 2-4 (the investigation group) with bojjhangas 5-6 (the concentration group). Sati-mindfulness is neutral as far as balancing goes and is never in excess relative to any other factor.]

  1. Sati-mindfulness
  2. Dhammavicaaya-investigation of phenomena
  3. Viriya-energy
  4. Piiti-joy, rapture, thrill
  5. Passaddhi-tranquillity
  6. Samaadhi-concentration
  7. Upekkhaa-equanimity

7. Be detached from body and life [be ready to sacrifice the bodily comfort for progress in Dhamma].

8. Practice to overwhelm all painful sensations/feelings [not by force of will but by patient noting and perseverence].

9. Make a determination/resolution for non-stop continuous noting until reaching perfection, don’t give up observing and noting until reaching path and fruition (magga and phala) [this is for an advanced stage and usually after being instructed to do so by the teacher].


Yogis on retreats sometimes note pleasant feelings or painful feelings. Early in the retreat, the yogi may have relatively weak controlling faculties indriya [1. confidence saddha 2. wisdom/discernment panna 3. mindfulness sati 4. concentration samaadhi and 5. energy viriya] and not be very well developed or resilient. The yogi may be distracted by the various feelings and feel compelled to move the body or to speak. Some yogis even give up the retreat.

For those yogis who persevere, the controlling faculties will gradually strengthen and stay in balance with each other. The yogi will be able to note feelings without allowing them to weaken the factors for enlightenment bojjha.nga and other wholesome mental conditions [1. mindfulness sati 2. investigation dhammavicaya 3. energy viriya 4. joy/rapture piiti 5. tranquillity passadhi 6. concentration samaadhi and 7. equanimity upekkhaa]. The body also becomes more resilient though not in a tense way. The body becomes suffused with delight and tranquil.

Majjhima Nikaya MN.36.9. Mahaasaccaka Sutta: The Greater Discourse to Saccaka. (มหาสัจจกสูตร)

“And how, Aggivessana, is one developed in body and developed in mind?

Here, Aggivessana, pleasant feeling arises in a well-taught noble disciple. Touched by that pleasant feeling, he does not lust after pleasure or continue to lust after pleasure. That pleasant feeling of his ceases. With the cessation of the pleasant feeling, painful feeling arises. Touched by that painful feeling, he does not sorrow, grieve, and lament, he does not weep beating his breast and become distraught. When that pleasant feeling has arisen in him, it does not invade his mind and remain because body is developed. And when that painful feeling has arisen in him, it does not invade his mind and remain because mind is developed.

Anyone in whom, in this double manner, arisen pleasant feeling does not invade his mind and remain because body is developed, and arisen painful feeling does not invade his mind and remain because mind is developed, is thus developed in body and developed in mind.

Majjhima Nikaya MN.37. Cuu.lata.nhaasankhaya Sutta: The Shorter Discourse on the Destruction of Craving (จูฬตัณหาสังขยสูตร)

2. Then Sakka, ruler of gods, went to the Blessed One, and after paying homage to him, he stood at one side and asked: “Venerable sir, how in brief is a bhikkhu liberated in the destruction of craving, one who has reached the ultimate holy life, the ultimate goal, one who is foremost among gods and humans?”

3. “Here, ruler of gods, a bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth adhering to, he directly knows everything having directly known everything, he fully understands everything; having fully understood everything, whatever feeling he feels, whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant, he abides contemplating impermanence in those feelings, contemplating fading away, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment. Contemplating thus, he does not cling to anything in the world. When he does not cling, he is not agitated. When he is not agitated, he personally attains Nibbaana.

He understands: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’ Briefly, it is in this way, ruler of gods, that a bhikkhu is liberated in the destruction of craving, one who has reached the ultimate end, the ultimate security from bondage, the ultimate holy life, the ultimate goal, one who is foremost among gods and humans.”

Jhaana – Absorption

Jhaana is a Paali word that may be translated as absorption. “The jhānas are states of meditation where the mind is free from the five hindrances (craving, aversion, sloth, agitation, doubt) and (from the second jhāna onwards) incapable of discursive thinking. The deeper jhānas can last for many hours. When a meditator emerges from jhāna, his or her mind is empowered and able to penetrate into the deepest truths of existence.” [source: wikipedia]

Leigh Brasington has lots of links on his jhaana page that I found independently before I found his website. I won’t paste the links we have in common on this post.

Ven. Maháthera Henepola Gunaratana‘s book on jhaanas (PhD thesis), other books and online videos of interviews with him are interesting and very useful. The jhaana book is online and linked fromLeigh Brasington’s website. Ven. Maháthera Henepola Gunaratana is featured on DhammaTube videos on YouTube and There are also many excellent Dhamma resources produced by the Ven. Maháthera on the Bhavana Society website.

Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw: Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw’s websites and his books in English translation are also linked from Leigh Brasington’s website. From what I have read of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw’s jhaana methods, they appear quite consistent with the Visuddhimagga and Sutta. Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw is very thorough and detailed.

Without practice and seeing for myself, I have so far relied on textual sources. Ven. Pa Auk’s teaching as described in books and by his followers is quite consistent with the Paali Canon. The only part of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw’s teaching I don’t understand is kalaapa. I have not found kalaapa in the Sutta and only found the word as a minor reference in the Visuddhimagga. The Concise Pali-English Dictionary by Ven. A.P.Buddhadatta Mahaathera defines Kalaapa as 1. a bundle; sheaf; 2. a quiver; 3. a group of elementary particles. Childers refers to it in conjunctions of string of pearls and a peacock’s tail feathers. The definition of a “group of elementary particles” comes closest to the meaning used by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. Perhaps the term is significant in Abhidhamma texts.  I haven’t yet found any references on the Internet for articles that refer to this use of Kalaapa by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw.  [UPDATE]

Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw suggests that once yogis have completed the jhaana training up to the eight jhaana (four ruupa jhaana and four aruupa jhaana) and attained the five jhaana mastery’s, they will begin four element vipassana practice and see the kalaapa as individual glowing particles or as bundles of them. The yogi will see these kalaapa are the fundamental particles of ultimate reality that lie beneath apparent reality [look out, I’ve paraphrased].

Maybe I need to attain full mastery of all eight jhaana and then I’ll understand. The concept also seems like a simsapa leaf from another tree. It may be true, it may exist, but is it useful or essential to the path of liberation? Perhaps yogis that can see kalaapa may truely see the emptiness of self, the lack of substance in body and mind. Then detachment, dispassion and liberation follow.

Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder manage the website, teach and train. I ordered their book “Jhanas Advice from Two Spiritual Friends: Concentration Meditation as Taught by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw” and a CD ROM with MP3 talks. Their talks maybe downloaded from their website too. The book appears aimed toward yogis who may be relatively new to jhaana practice. They refer sometimes to yogis who may be trying jhaana practice after some experience (months or years…) with Mahasi vipassana or Goenka vipassana techniques.

I sense they are very sincere and respect them for their efforts to teach meditation and spread Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw’s system of meditation to a wider range of yogis. They are very gentle and not in the least bit critical of other meditation techniques. They also refer to kalaapa…

I also recommend Ven. Buddhadhasa Bhikkhu‘s book “Anapanasati” which has been translated from Thai for two quite different English editions. Ven. Buddhadasa’s book is a commentary on the Aanaapanasati Sutta – Mindfulness of Breathing.
1. translated from the Thai by Ven. Santikaro Bhikkhu
2. translated from the Thai by Ven. Bhikkhu Nagasena

I prefer Ven. Bhikkhu Nagasena’s translation which is more detailed than Ven. Santikaro Bhikkhu’s version. It seems closer to the original Thai volume which I bought in 1984 and gave away to a friend earlier this year. Ven. Santikaro Bhikkhu refers to the tapes and may not have used tapes rather than the published Thai book. They are both good though.

The Visuddhimagga is the core text for describing various samatha and vipassana meditation techniques taught by contemporary teachers including Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. I visited the Mahasi Centre in Yangon in January 2007, where I saw all the inside walls of the Mahasi Sayadaw Mausoleum beautifully decorated with Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw’s Burmese language translation of the Visuddhimagga. Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw cited the Visuddhimagga as support for the vipassana meditation technique he promoted.

Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso (Ajahn Brahm) based in Perth has written and spoken a lot about jhaana. I have a recent published book of his called “Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Mediator’s Handbook” which describes the technique for attaining jhaanas. The book has a tentative forward by Jack Kornfield. I haven’t practiced jhaana yet so I can’t comment with authority of experience. However, I note that some of Ven. Ajahn Brahm’s assertions about the nature of jhaana and requirements for attainment of ariyamagga and phala are not consistent with Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw tradition or even other Samatha traditions. For example, Leigh Brasington’s description of jhaanas differ markedly.

In describing a lay follower’s experience, Ven. Ajahn Brahm writes (p. 154) “Another strange quality that distinguishes jhaana from all other experiences is that within jhaana, all the senses are totally shut down. One cannot see, hear, smell, taste or feel touch. One cannot hear a crow cawing [magpies caw a lot at his centre near Perth Western Australia] or a person coughing… no heart beat registered on the ECG, and no brain activity was seen by the EEG.” The lay follower had been meditating at home and gone into first jhaana for the first time. His wife found him and couldn’t wake him or feel a pulse so she called an ambulance…

Ven. Ajahn Brahm also writes (p. 225) “A recurring topic among our Sangha is, can one attain to stream winning without any experience of jhaana? As should be obvious from what has been written so far, I cannot see a possibility of penetrating to the fully meaning of anattaa, dukkha and anicca without the radical data gained in jhaana experience. Yet, there are some stories in the Tipitaka … that suggest that it might be possible.” He then refers to the story of 31 soldiers of King Ajaatasattu sent by Ven. Devadatta to kill the Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha interrupts them, teaches them Dhamma and they all became Sotapannas just by listening to the Dhamma. These are soldiers who live a rough life, probably never kept even five precepts and yet they attained Sotapanna. Ven. Ajahn Brahm over looks many other examples in the Suttas including Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Moggallana who both attained Sotapanna by listening to Dhamma (Vinaaya 1:39). Ven. Sariputta attained Arahat by listening to the Dhamma (he was fanning the Lord Buddha at the same time) in the Dighanaka Sutta (MN 74). Ven. Ajahn Brahm writes that in our cynical modern world it would be impossible for someone to have enough confidence and energy to attain Sotapanna without jhaana. This is the difference between saddhaanusaarii and dhammaanusaarii (faith follower and a dhamma follower).

Many of Ven. Ajahn Brahm’s video, audio and text discourses are available for download from the following website:

Ven. Dhammavuddho writes that attaining up to Sakidagaami is possible without jhaana but further attainments to Anaagaami and Arahat are only possible with jhaana. In an article “Liberation: Relevance of Sutta-Vinaya“on the following website, you can go to page 12 for the Sutta references.

Ven. Dhammavuddho was a Mahayana monk in Malaysia described in a video available from YouTube/DhammaTube and how he was forcibly disrobed on orders from his master because he had published many books indicating the contradictions and problems in Mahayana Buddhism. He then went to Thailand and ordained as a Theravada monk and then went to Wat Pananachaht for training. Now he is an Abbot of Vihara Buddha Gotama in Malaysia. He is a meditator and scholar. The VBG website has many photos of the centre and many excellent Dhamma articles in English, Chinese and Bahasa.