Seven Factors of Awakening

7 Factors of Awakening
7 Factors of Awakening

1. 7 Factors of Awakening

In Buddhism, the 7 Factors of Awakening (Pāḷi: satta bojjhaṅga; Sanskrit: sapta bodhyanga) are:

  1. Mindfulness (sati, Sanskrit: smṛti). To maintain awareness of reality, in particular the teachings (dharma).
  2. Investigation of the nature of reality (dhamma vicaya, Skt. dharma-pravicaya).
  3. Energy (viriya, Skt. vīrya) also determination, effort
  4. Joy or rapture (pīti, Skt. prīti)
  5. Relaxation or tranquillity (passaddhi, Skt. praśrabdhi) of both body and mind
  6. Concentration (samādhi) a calm, one-pointed state of mind, or clear awareness
  7. Equanimity (upekkhā, Skt. upekṣā). To accept reality as-it-is (yathā-bhūta) without craving or aversion.

This evaluation of 7 Awakening Factors is one of the 7 Sets of Awakening-related states (Bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma).

The Pāḷi word Bojjhaṅga is a compound of Bodhi (awakening, Enlightenment) and aṅga (Factor).

2. Etymology

Satta Bojjhaṅga:

  1. satta - 7;
  2. bodh - an abstract noun formed from the verbal root *budh- (to awake, become aware, notice, know or understand) corresponding to the verbs bujjhati (Pāli) and bodhati or budhyate (Sanskrit);
  3. aṅga - a part of a whole; Factor, cause.

3. Pāḷi literature

In the Sutta Piṭaka's Samyutta Nikāya, the Bojjhaṅgas refer to wholesome, mundane Factors leading to Enlightenment.

In the Abhidhamma and Pāḷi commentaries, the Bojjhaṅga tend to refer to supra-mundane Factors concurrent with Enlightenment.

Sutta Piṭaka

According to one discourse in the Samyutta Nikāya entitled Bhikkhu Sutta (SN 46.5):

[Bhikkhu:] Venerable sir, it is said, Factors of Enlightenment, Factors of Enlightenment.

In what sense are they called Factors of Enlightenment?

[Buddha:] They lead to Enlightenment, Bhikkhu, therefore they are called Factors of Enlightenment....

During meditation, one may contemplate the 7 Factors of Enlightenment as well as on their antithesis, the 5 Hindrances (sensual pleasure, ill-will, sloth-torpor, restlessness-worry, doubt).

In addition, one Samyutta Nikāya sutta (SN 46.54) identifies developing each of the Enlightenment Factors accompanied by each of the 4 brahma vihāras (loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity).

In the Samyutta Nikāya's Fire Discourse, (Aggi Sutta, SN 46.53) the Buddha identifies that mindfulness is always useful (sabbatthika);

while, when one's mind is sluggish, one should develop the Enlightenment Factors of investigation, energy and joy;

and, when one's mind is excited, one should develop the Enlightenment Factors of tranquillity, concentration and equanimity.

Again according to the Samyutta Nikāya (SN 46.16), once when the Buddha was gravely ill he asked Venerable Mahācunda to recite the 7 Factors of Enlightenment to him. In such a way the Buddha was cured of his illness.

Abhidhamma & commentaries

In the Visuddhimagga, in a section discussing skills needed for the attainment and maintenance of absorption (jhāna), Buddhaghoṣa identifies the Bojjhaṅga in the following fashion:

Strong mindfulness ... is needed in all instances....

When his mind is slack with over-laxness of energy, etc., then ... he should develop those [3 Enlightenment Factors] beginning with investigation-of-states... (i.e., dhamma vicaya, viriya, pīti).

When his mind is agitated through excess of energy, etc., then ... he should develop those [3 Enlightenment Factors] beginning with tranquillity... (i.e., passaddhi, samādhi, upekkhā).

4. Meditation

The 7 Factors of Awakening are closely related to the practice of dhyāna, resembling the various Factors that are part of the 4 Dhyānas.

In meditation everyone most likely experiences 2 of the 5 hindrances (Pāli: pañca nīvaraṇāni):

They are sloth and torpor (Pāli: thīna-middha), which is half-hearted action with little or no collectedness, and restlessness and worry (uddhacca-kukkucca), which is the inability to calm the mind.

As indicated above, in the Fire Discourse (SN 46.53), it is recommended that joy or rapture, investigation, and energy are to be developed when experiencing sloth and torpor.

Relaxation, concentration, and equanimity are to be developed when experiencing restlessness or worry.

Mindfulness should be constantly present to remain aware of physical change as well as mental change in either skilful or unskilful direction