2-8- Seven Factors of Enlightenment

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From the Ānāpānasati Sutta:

28] “Monks, that is how Mindfulness of Breathing, developed and cultivated, fulfills the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

Fulfillment of the Seven Awakening Factors

29] “And how, Monks, do the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, developed and cultivated, fulfill the Seven Awakening Factors?

30] “Monks, on whatever occasion a monk abides observing the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world—on that occasion unremitting mindfulness is established in him. On whatever occasion unremitting mindfulness is established in a monk—on that occasion the Awakening Factor of Mindfulness is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development, it comes to fulfillment in him.

Let us use a description from the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta for more clarification. It says:

42] “Again, Monks, a monk abides observing mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the Seven Awakening Factors. And how does a monk abide in observing mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the Seven Enlightenment Factors? Here, there being the Awakening Factor of Mindfulness in him, a monk understands: ‘There is the Awakening Factor of Mindfulness in me’; or there being no Awakening Factor of Mindfulness in him, he understands: ‘There is no Awakening Factor of Mindfulness in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen Awakening Factor of Mindfulness, and how the arisen Awakening Factor of Mindfulness comes to fulfillment by development.

This is rather straightforward. It simply says that you know when your mind is silent, sharp, clear, and joyfully interested in the breath and relaxing and the other things which arise. You also know when mindfulness is dull, not sharp, and mind’s attention tends to be a little bored or disinterested.

When that happens, you know that you must pick-up your interest and see how everything that arises is truly different.

You then see how every breath and relaxing is different. It is never exactly the same.

This is “how the arisen Awakening Factor of Mindfulness comes to fulfillment by development.”

From the Ānāpānasati Sutta:

31] “Abiding thus mindful, he investigates and examines that state with wisdom and embarks upon a full inquiry into it. On whatever occasion, abiding thus mindful, a monk investigates and examines that experience with wisdom and embarks upon a full inquiry into it—on that occasion the Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

It is very important to be familiar with the Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience. This means whatever arises, whether it is any of the Five Hindrances, an emotional state, or a physical feeling, you impersonally examine how this arose. We are not interested in why it arose! The “why” is for psychologists.

For Buddhists, “how” the process actually works is the most important thing to observe, and seeing it with interest is very important. This is done by not getting involved with thinking about that phenomenon, but only observing its presence, allowing it to be there, then 6R-ing it, letting it go mentally by opening up that tight mental fist which has grabbed onto it, relaxing, expanding, and allowing that distraction to be there by itself without keeping your attention on it; then, relaxing the tightness in mind/head, smiling, and redirecting mind’s attention back to the breath and relaxing.

Every time mind is pulled away, you see the different aspects about that distraction. Then let it go, relax mind, smile, and come back to the breath and relaxing. In this way, you become more familiar with “how” the distraction arises and are able to recognize it more quickly. This type of investigation is described in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta as:

“Here, there being the Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience in him, a monk understands: ‘There is the Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience in me’; or there being no Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience in him, he understands: ‘There is no Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience, and how the arisen Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience comes to fulfillment by development.

To bring forth the Awakening Factor of Investigation of Experience, you have to take a strong interest in how everything works.

In other words, you have to discover what happens first, what happens next, what happens after that? The more you examine your experience, the easier it is to recognize all of the different and unusual aspects about the hindrances and distractions. When you see these things clearly, it is much easier to let go of them and to relax into them. It is also important to develop the perspective that this is an impersonal (anattā) process, which is unsatisfactory (dukkha) and is always changing (anicca). This perspective enables you to progress without periods of confusion.

From the Ānāpānasati Sutta:

32] “In one who investigates and examines that state with wisdom (seeing how Dependent Origination works) and embarks upon a full inquiry into it, tireless energy is aroused. On whatever occasion tireless energy is aroused in a monk who investigates and examines that state with wisdom and embarks upon a full inquiry into it—on that occasion the Awakening Factor of Energy is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

It takes a lot of energy and effort when one takes sincere interest into what is happening in the present moment and examines it with care. As you use your energy and have a strong joyful interest, this causes even more energy to arise.

This is described in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta as:

“Here, there being the Awakening Factor of Energy in him, a monk understands: ‘There is the Awakening Factor of Energy in me’; or there being no Awakening Factor of Energy in him, he understands: ‘There is no Awakening Factor of Energy in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen Awakening Factor of Energy, and how the arisen Awakening Factor of Energy comes to fulfillment by development.

From the Ānāpānasati Sutta:

33] “In one who has aroused energy, unworldly joy arises. On whatever occasion unworldly joy arises in a monk who has aroused energy—on that occasion the Awakening Factor of Joy is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

The “unworldly joy” (pharaṇapīti) refers to all pervading joy.

As one has more energy in staying on the breath, their mindfulness becomes sharper and their energy increases little by little. When this happens, mind becomes quite happy and delights in staying on the breath and expanding mind. This happy feeling is a type of feeling without so much excitement and is very nice and cooling to mind.

These states of mind are not to be feared or pushed away. It is a natural process when one develops and progresses along with their practice of meditation to experience these states. If they stay on the breath and open their minds with interest and do not get involved with the joy, no problems will arise.

The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta says:

“Here, there being the Awakening Factor of Joy in him, a monk understands: ‘There is the Awakening Factor of Joy in me’; or there being no Awakening Factor of Joy in him, he understands: ‘There is no Awakening Factor of Joy in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen Awakening Factor of Joy, and how the arisen Awakening Factor of Joy comes to fulfillment by development.

These first four Awakening Factors are very important when one experiences sloth and torpor. Sloth means sleepiness, and torpor means dullness of mind. When one gets into the fourth jhāna and above, the two main hindrances which arise are restlessness and sloth and torpor.

However, when one brings up the Investigation Factor of Awakening and examines this torpor, they have to use more energy and this helps to overcome the dullness. When you get into the higher jhānas you must learn to fine tune your practice little by little. By being familiar with these Awakening Factors, you will learn how to eventually balance all of the factors. This directly leads to the supra-mundane state of Nibbāna.

The most important key for success in meditation is the first Awakening Factor of Mindfulness. Without mindfulness, one cannot possibly reach any of these meditation stages. Mindfulness is the main key to overcome both sloth and torpor, and restlessness.

Remember these hindrances can come at any time and knock the meditator right out of any of the meditation stages, even up to the Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception. Thus, you must be very careful to recognize these Awakening Factors and be skillful in learning how to use them when it is appropriate. The next three Awakening Factors are important to overcome restlessness.

From the Ānāpānasati Sutta:

34] “In one who is joyful, the body and mind become tranquil. On whatever occasion the body and mind become tranquil in a monk who is joyful—on that occasion the Awakening Factor of Tranquility is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

When joy arises in mind, one feels very pleasant feelings in the body and mind. This is true even in the higher stages of meditation, like the immaterial states of jhāna (meditation stages). After a while the joy fades a little and one’s mind becomes exceptionally calm and peaceful. This state is called the Awakening Factor of Tranquility. At that time, one’s body and mind become extraordinarily peaceful and calm.

The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta describes it thus:

“Here, there being the Awakening Factor of Tranquility in him, a monk understands: ‘There is the Awakening Factor of Tranquility in me’; or there being no Awakening Factor of Tranquility in him, he understands: ‘There is no Awakening Factor of Tranquility in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen Awakening Factor of Tranquility, and how the arisen Awakening Factor of Tranquility comes to fulfillment by development.

Actually, the strongest part of the Awakening Factor of Tranquility is the mental feeling, which is very nice, calm, and with a feeling of strong peace. This is especially noticed when one is experiencing the first three immaterial jhānas (meditation stages) which are the Realm of Infinite Space, the Realm of Infinite Consciousness and the Realm of Nothingness.

From the Ānāpānasati Sutta:

35] “In one whose body is tranquil and who feels pleasure, mind becomes still and composed. On whatever occasion mind becomes still and composed in a monk whose body is tranquil and who feels pleasure—on that occasion the Awakening Factor of Stillness is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

(This is frequently called the Awakening Factor of Concentration, but this term is too misunderstood. So the author prefers to use Awakening Factor of Stillness.)

As your mind and body become more tranquil and at ease, mind stays on the breath and relaxing, and mind expands more naturally without any distractions. It is much easier to open and relax mind with each in-breath and out-breath. Mind is definitely composed and unruffled by any external or internal distractions. There comes a time when mind prefers to stay still on the meditation object, without undue force or trying to concentrate. It stays on the breath for very long periods of time. Of course, at this time, there is very sharp mindfulness and full awareness.

You still have full awareness even when you reach the Realm of Nothingness. Mind does not waver or move away from the breath and relaxing even though one hears sounds or knows that a mosquito has landed on them.

Mindfulness of breathing and stillness are very clear and sharp to observe. When you are in the Realm of Nothingness, you can explore and watch many different aspects of mind.

The mind is also very clear, even though one is in the lower meditation stages. Since mind is still, you can observe things quite clearly, too. This can be called the action of silence. When mind is absolutely silent, it is the blessing that everyone is seeking.

The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta describes this as:

“Here, there being the Awakening Factor of Stillness in him, a monk understands: ‘There is the Awakening Factor of Stillness in me’; or there being no Awakening Factor of Stillness in him, he understands: ‘There is no Awakening Factor of Stillness in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen Awakening Factor of Stillness, and how the arisen Awakening Factor of Stillness comes to fulfillment by development.

From the Ānāpānasati Sutta:

36] “He closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus stilled and composed. On whatever occasion a monk closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus stilled and composed—on that occasion the Awakening Factor of Equanimity is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

The Awakening Factor of Equanimity is again a very important factor to develop. It balances mind when it becomes unsettled. The Awakening Factor of Equanimity is the only factor which allows mind to lovingly accept whatever arises in the present moment. For example, if there arise any kinds of pain (physical or emotional), it doesn’t disturb mind’s attention.

The Awakening Factor of Equanimity is the factor which helps you to see things impersonally and without the ego-identification of getting involved with distractions. It is the seeing of what arises in the moment, then going beyond it with balance. The seeing of anattā (impersonal nature of everything) is the very thing which allows you to progress rapidly along the Buddha’s Path. But you must be somewhat careful with equanimity because it is often mistaken to be indifference. Indifference has some dissatisfaction and aversion in it, but not equanimity. Equanimity has sharp mindfulness in it; dissatisfaction has no mindfulness in it.

Equanimity has only openness and complete acceptance of everything that arises in the present moment. It is the complete impersonal perspective. Equanimity opens mind totally. Indifference closes it, and tries to ignore what is happening in the moment.

The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta describes it thus:

“Here, there being the Awakening Factor of Equanimity in him, a monk understands: ‘There is the Awakening Factor of Equanimity in me’; or there being no Awakening Factor of Equanimity in him, he understands: ‘There is no Awakening Factor of Equanimity in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the unarisen Awakening Factor of Equanimity, and how the arisen Awakening Factor of Equanimity comes to fulfillment by development.

These last three Awakening Factors of Tranquility, Stillness, and Equanimity will greatly assist you when restlessness arises in mind. Restlessness makes mind think many thoughts and causes lots of unpleasant feelings to arise in the body. As a result, you feel like breaking your meditation and distracting yourself in one way or another. To say the least, it is a noticeable hard tight mind that causes suffering.

The only way to overcome restlessness is by developing stillness of mind and tranquility of body. When mind has restlessness in it, there is no balance of mind at all. Instead, there is a lot of ego-identification with that feeling. Thus, to overcome this hindrance, you have to allow it to be there by itself and relax. By bringing forth the Awakening Factors of Tranquility, Stillness, and Equanimity and focusing mind on these different factors, you will overcome the restlessness.

The two major hindrances that always seem to trouble meditators are torpor, dullness of mind, and restlessness.

You had better become friends with these two hindrances, because they will stay around until you become an Arahat. The sooner we drop all resistance to these states when they arise and begin to explore them with joyful interest, the faster we will be able to recognize them. As a result, we will be able to let them go faster and to return into the jhāna (meditation stage).

From the Ānāpānasati Sutta:

37] “Monks, on whatever occasion a monk abides observing feeling as feeling, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world, the Awakening Factor of Mindfulness … (This whole formula repeats itself again starting at section 30 and continuing on until section number 36.) … the Awakening Factor of Equanimity is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

Please realize that you must use these Awakening Factors whenever any hindrance or distraction arises. It does not matter if the hindrance arises during your sitting meditation or during your daily activities. These factors put mind in balance whenever it gets bumped by a distraction.

And so, this goes on through all of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. It shows you how to use the Seven Awakening Factors at all times while practicing Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation. These Awakening Factors do arise one by one as they occur and not all at the same time. Also, it shows the importance of jhānas (meditation stages) for the development of mind and how there is great fruit and great benefit to be enjoyed when you follow these simple instructions.

38] “Monks, on whatever occasion a monk observes mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world, the Awakening Factor of Mindfulness … (Again, this repeats from section 30 to section 36.) … the Awakening Factor of Equanimity is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

39] “Monks, whatever occasion a monk abides observing mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world, the Awakening Factor of Mindfulness … (Again, this repeats from section 30 to section 36.) … the Awakening Factor of Equanimity is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.

40] “Monks, that is how the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, developed and cultivated, fulfill the Seven Awakening Factors.

When the Seven Awakening Factors are in perfect balance, the possibility of attaining the supra-mundane Nibbāna occurs. As you go higher and higher in the jhānas (meditation stages), the balance of the Awakening Factors becomes finer and much more subtle. This fine tuning of mind becomes so interesting that you want to naturally sit for much longer periods of time. This meditation is by far the best show in town!

Some meditators get up very early in the morning so that they have enough time to watch and learn the balance of mind and still go to work. This meditation turns out to be the most gratifying and fun exploration that you could ever experience, during any of your activities.

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