AMERICAN BUDDHIST JOURNAL
Volume 1, ISSUE 2 Summer 1995
THE SEVEN FACTORS OF ENLIGHTENMENT
Venerable Paravahera Vajiranana
II. KEEN INVESTIGATION of dharma*
*Since "dharma" has two meanings (i.e., the "Buddha's teachings" as well as "mental and physical phenomena"), this second factor may be understood alternatively as referring to studying the Buddha's teachings for mental development as well as applying that teaching to its intended ends: keen investigation of mental and physical phenomena. The first is preparatory, whereas the second is its fulfillment [Editor's note].
The Buddha stated: "When the Enlightenment factor of mindfulness (sati) is present, one knows well, 'I have the Enlightenment factor of mindfulness.' Or when it is not present, one knows well that it is absent. One knows well how the arising of the non-arisen Enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to be how the fulfillment by meditation of the arisen Enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to be."
The same holds true for the six remaining Enlightenment factors or bojjhangas.
These Seven Factors of Enlightenment are of penultimate importance in the attainment of Enlightenment. However, the teaching in full considers seven groups of which these factors are but one. These are in fact thirty-seven constituents in all. These thirty-seven succinctly state the Buddha's teaching regarding the attainment of Enlightenment.
Meditation as a means of obtaining self-Enlightenment implies not only a systematic thinking upon a given subject, but also the systematic development of the higher qualities that tend to produce supramundane wisdom, which in turn makes Enlightenment possible.
The sutras, therefore, emphasize that the disciple should have developed the thirty-seven constituents or principles of Enlightenment in the course of his or her preliminary training.
In the Buddha's last sermon we find him exhorting his disciples in the following way:
"Now, monks, those doctrines which have been comprehended and taught by me you should grasp, follow, practice, and cultivate in order that this religious life may endure, that it may be of advantage to many, out of compassion for the world, bring profit, happiness, and advantage to deities and human beings alike.
"What are those doctrines comprehended and taught by me which you should learn?"
Grouped together they are:
I. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
II. The Four Right efforts.
III. The Four Bases of Psychic Power.
IV. The Five Faculties.
V. The Five Powers.
VI. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
VII. The Noble Eightfold Path.
It is in these seven groups that the whole teaching of the Buddha is said to have been summarized as a compendium of the doctrine known as the Bodhi-pakkhiya-dharma, the "qualities constituting Enlightenment." The Maha-Sakuludayi Sutra gives them in the list of the disciple's practices, being certain parts of the whole system of religious training. In the Maha-Vagga of the Samyutta Nikaya they are treated separately as independent methods of training, and they are there included in the Samyuttas, or collections of teachings arranged in various orders. It is noteworthy that these seven groups are repeated in different forms throughout the teachings...