Rev. Prof. Dr. Jyotisar Shrama Thero, PhD, Professor
The Tripitaka, also known as the Buddhist canon, is the version canonical to Theravada Buddhism generally referred in English as the Pali canon. This includes with references to the factors of enlightenment preached by the Enlightened One on different occasions under different circumstances to various beings.
In a special section under the title Bojjhanga Samyutta contains a series of three sermons preached by the Buddha as a protection against pain, disease and adversity. Bojjhanga dhamma, the factors of enlightenment or awakening consists of two pali words, Bodhi and anga where Bodhi denotes enlightenment (realization of the four Noble Truths; the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering) and Anga means factors. Therefore, Bojjhanga means the factors of enlightenment or factors of awakening.
As per the preaching of the Enlightened One, there are seven factors of awakening. They are:
Keen investigation of the dhamma (dhammavicaya)
Once a monk raised a question “Bodhaya samvattantiti kho bhikkhu tasma bhojjhanga ti vuccanti” meaning, “Bojjhanga! Bojjhanga! Is the saying, Lord. Lord, how far is this name applicable?”. The Buddha’s reply was ‘They conduce to enlightenment, monk, that is why they are so called’. The Enlightened One further preached “Just as, monks, in a peaked house all rafters, whatsoever go together to the peak, slope to the peak, join in the peak, and of them all the peak is reckoned chief, even so, monks, the monk who cultivates and makes much of the seven factors of wisdom, tends to Nibbana”.
The Buddha enumerates that the firm establishment of sati (mindfulness) is the proximate cause for developing the factors of awakening. It is at the stage of the fourth vipassana insight, udayabbhaya nana. Sati sambojjhanga, the first factor of enlightenment, is the four establishments of mindfulness. When these lead to the realization of the factors of Noble Truths, it is called Sati Sambojjhanga. Mindfulness should be regarded to be like a pillar or as a door keeper as it is firmly founded and guards the sense doors.
Basically, in our daily lives, many objects pass through our awareness, but mostly fail to notice as our attention is rather superficial. But when we are mindful, we become aware of the objects arising at each sense door. Only then we can separate one object from the other as they enter our stream of consciousness.
The best example to develop mindfulness is the anapanasati bhavana, known as the breath meditation where we keep our body erect, close our eyes and prioritize our attention towards our body. This is known as kayanupassana. We then reduce the frequency of objects entering our stream of consciousness.
The second factor is Dhammavicaya sambojjhanga. Dhamma is the mind and matter and vicaya is investigation. It is the result of investigation of the Buddha’s teachings and it is done by seeing impermanence as impermanent; suffering as suffering; uncontrollable actions as the uncontrollable; as well as comprehending the nature of dependent co-arising. When you are mindful, you are able to investigate the primary object. Investigation (dhammavicaya) is what differentiates samatha from vipassana. When constantly meditated with mindfulness, you will develop Dhammavicaya sambojjhanga and once developed within you, you will know it with mindfulness.
In practice, when practicing anapanasati meditation or the rising and falling of the abdomen, the main priority is given to the primary object and focuses on it. With each breath in and out, you experience the contact between physicality and mentality. In each inhalation, the four elements are present, so you observe the movement, contraction, expansion or rubbing sensation. A coolness or heat can also be observed during practice. So tathasato viharanto tam dhammam pannaya pavicinati pavicarati parivimamsam apajjati, meaning a person dwelling in mindfulness can observe the natural characteristics of all phenomena during meditation.
The third factor viriya or effort means the effort made to eradicate any unwholesome actions that have arisen, the effort to prevent unwholesome actions that have not yet arisen, the effort to develop wholesome actions that have arisen and the effort to cultivate wholesome actions that have not yet arisen. Viriya sambojjhaya is the effort you make to eradicate unwholesome actions like desire, anger. Revenge, envy and disobedience, if they arise in you and the effort you make to prevent these from arising and also the effort you make to cultivate the wholesome actions like loving kindness, compassion, virtue, gratitude and wisdom, when they arise in you.
In satipatthana sutta, the Lord Buddha, after the introduction of anapanasati meditation, preaches the four postures to be mindful of walking. “Gaccantova gacca nom hiti pajanati”. During retreats, walking meditation (sakman bhavana) is recommended as a practice, prior to commencing sitting meditation.
During a session of walking meditation, one must intentionally move the feet thereby exerting energy for the action of the feet. At the end of the meditation energy is well mobilized and then the focus on the primary object is continuous and one can directly observe the physicality and mentality involved.
The fourth factor piti /happiness/joy comes from the application of mindful energy. When wholesome acts increase and unwholesome actions decrease, the meditator’s mind is filled with a spiritual happiness or piti. This is developed as a result of the effort from within you and that you are eradicating unwholesome actions and cultivating wholesome actions. There are two types of piti, amisa and niramisa, meaning sensual and spiritual pleasure.
Lord Buddha preached that materialistic pleasure is inferior to unmaterialistic joy. One can experience unmaterialistic pleasure only if you accept and understand kamma and vipaka. The right view preached by the Enlightened One is based on the foundation of cause and effect. It is that the good reaps good and the unwholesome deeds lead to unsatisfactory results. Without an understanding of this principle, life will be a constant never-ending cycle of birth and death.
The tranquility factor of awakening (passaddhi sambojjhanga) represents the calmness and stilling of the mind in practice. Calmness is possibly due to the already developed factors of mindfulness and the piti/ joy arises due to the calmness and tranquility of the mind. When this grows within you, you develop a sense of physical and mental tranquility known as kayapassaddhi and cittapassaddhi. Passaddhi sambojjhanga is geared towards the comprehension of the four Noble Truths.
Whenever you perform a wholesome act, develop concentration and wisdom, you experience joy in various forms and quantities. If one is not joyous of the wholesome act committed, their merit has not yet matured or developed. In the anapanasati sutta, Lord Buddha preaches that the breath manifests in sixteen different ways. In practice we are able to observe this as long, short, whole breath and finally as
calming of the body (passambayan kayasankharan).
When passaddhi sambojjhanga is grown within you, it leads to concentration, samadhi sambojjhanga. The Liberated Ones and non-returners (Buddha, paccekabuddha, arahant) possess higher levels of concentration and once-returners and stream-enterers (sowan, sakurudagami, anagami) possess a certain level of concentration. In general, concentration must be developed up to the fourth jhana at the stage of non-returning. Those who practice tranquility meditation (samatha bhavana) experience joy, gladness and peace. Vipassana meditators will experience only a refined form of joy and tranquility as they progress deeper into their practice. However samatha samadhi(concentration based on tranquility) is good and vipassana bhavana (insight) or kanika samadhi (momentary concentration) is what leads to the Nibbana.
The final factor of enlightenment is equanimity or upekkha sambojjhanga. Once a meditator develops concentration, he stops clinging to this and instead to grasping that state he begins to see in it the ever changing five aggregates of clinging He sees the impermanence of this state of concentration and this is when his mind reaches equanimity. At times we have neither a liking nor a disliking towards an object. That is the feeling of indifference and it is called the equanimity.
A mind that dwells in the past will not experience equanimity. When the mind is in the past, it is full of regret. If the mind is in future, mind is agitated due to planning and excitement. A mind that is full of regret, excited or expecting results will be scattered. A mind in this state is ready to practice even more advanced meditation or face the challenges that arise in life.
Using the comparison of a roof, Lord Buddha preached that just as all rafters slope towards the peak, so the seven factors of enlightenment lead toward awakening. These seven bojjhangas are developed profoundly within you and would lead you to inner purity. Buddhist texts note that cultivating the seven factors weakens the five hindrances. By all of the above-mentioned points, it is very clear that the Buddha’s teachings show us the perfect way to realize the true nature of life and attain the state of happiness and blissfulness in this birth and the next births as well.