37 Limbs of Enlightenment – 5 roots & 5 powers
The next 2 parts of the 37 limbs of enlightenment can be discussed together. Known as 5 roots (五根）and 5 powers (五力)
5 roots (五根) or Five spiritual faculties (pañca indriya)
This 5 factors or roots is important for Buddhist practice. The term “root” is used because it represent the idea of a stable base. Just like a strong tree growing up from a stable root system, likewise our spiritual practices can be strong if we have the following mental factors.
 Faith / Conviction
Foremost is our faith in the Triple Gems and what they represent. (Buddha-Enlightenment, Dharma – the method to Enlightenment, Sangha – testimony of enlightenment being achievable) To put it simply, Buddhism becomes meaningless if you don’t believe in Enlightenment and /or gaining enlightenment for yourselves. And to simplify it further, enlightenment simply means to put an end to our experience of sufferings.
Following that, we also need faith in karma. Primarily, that means we believe that our Buddhist practice will bear results. In another word, we have faith in our practices or our Buddhist morality.
Faith helps us face obstacles without losing direction. We need to develop this into our spiritual strength. Thus, each spiritual root produces the corresponding spiritual power.
Buddhism encourages us to develop faith through right understanding. We contemplate and think about Dharma to form a rationale conclusion before practicing it. Instead of blind faith, we try out the Buddhist practices to determine their benefits. Once we experience the benefits, we become motivated to advance further.
In Pureland practices, we need to have faith in Amitabha Buddha and the Pureland. The idea about Buddha’s pureland practice is all about compassion.
For most of us, enlightenment seems like an unreachable goal. We cannot even enter jhana/samadhi, so how can we achieve anything? Many people believe that meditation is impossible for them. If we insist on following the traditional curriculum, most people would not sign up for enlightenment.
In pureland practice, we start simple and aim simple. Instead of forcing ourselves to sit quietly, we start off by recitation of Amitabha’s name. (You can even sing it if you want) Instead of Samadhi, we strive to be focused during our practice (一心不乱). Instead of becoming enlightened in this life, we strive to be reborn in a “paradise” where Amitabha presides.
This compassionate approach opens the Dharma door to many people who are otherwise, too scared to try.
Effort refers to our commitment of putting Dharma into practice, CONTINUOUSLY. (refer to the 4right efforts – 37 limbs of enlightenment)
For example, Buddhism teaches right speech. After contemplation and gaining faith in this Dharma, we put it into practice. (let wholesomeness arise and maintain it[right speech]) If we are used to abusive speech, we try our best to stop it (stop current unwholesomeness and prevent new unwholesomeness from arising)
When we witness our environment changing for the better after practicing right speech, we become more convinced that it is the correct way of life (faith). As we continue to put in our effort in keeping right speech, it becomes habitual. Thus, our effort becomes our spiritual strength as we practice more.
The above refers to effort to practice right speech. Effort can also be placed upon maintaining the 4 mindfulness (part of the 37 limbs of enlightenment) or being mindful of our breathing (if we practice breathing meditation)
In pureland practice, effort refers to our ceaseless endeavor to focus our mind on Amitabha’s name. As we keep our effort going, it becomes habitual. Thus, it develops into our spiritual strength.
In Buddhism, we are taught to be mindful or attentive to the following:
- Body and its deportment – A famous Chinese Mahayana phrase teaches “Stand like the pine tree, walk like the wind, sit like the bell and lie down like a bow (the one that shoots an arrow)
- Our feelings and emotion
- Our thoughts and state of mind (Are there craving, hatred and ignorance? Are there any unwholesome thoughts?)
- Teachings of Buddha (the four noble truths, the 4 mindfulness, and etc)
In short, be mindful of our practices. For pureland practitioners, we are to be mindful of Amitabha and our will to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pureland.
As we practice mindfulness. it becomes habitual. Thus, it becomes our spiritual strength.
This refers to getting our mind to focus on our practice. The development of Jhana/Samadhi. (the 4 stages of Jhana)
In pureland practice, we want to achieve an unwavering focused recitation of Amitabha’s name without delusive thoughts in mind.
As we practice, it becomes habitual. Thus it becomes our spiritual strength.
Wisdom refers to maintaining the 4 noble truths in mind, comprehending them and ultimately realizing them.
5 powers (五力) or Five Strengths (pañca bala)
These 5 are the results from the above. Thus, they are corresponding to the above 5 roots.
May all be well and happy.
For Reference (37 limbs of enlightenment)
4 mindfulness (四念处) – Being mindful that (1) Our physical body is impure and repulsive (2) All sensations leads to sufferings (3) Mind is impermanent (4) there is no “I”
4 right efforts (四正勤) – (1) cease all unwholesomeness (2) do not create new unwholesomeness (3) preserve and maintain existing wholesomeness (4) Create new wholesomeness
4 bases of miraculous power (四如意足) – (1) Concentration build upon desire (desire for samandhi) (2) Concentration based on persistence (3) Concentration build upon intention (4) Concentration of contemplation (Reference Link)
5 roots ( 五根) – (1) Faith/conviction (2) Energy/persistence (3) Mindfulness (4) Stillness / jhanas (5) Wisdom/understanding
5 powers (that arises from the 5 roots) – (1) Faith/conviction (2) Energy/persistence (3) Mindfulness (4) Stillness / jhanas (5) Wisdom/understanding
7 factors of Enlightenment (七菩提) – (1) Mindfulness (2) Investigation (3) Effort (4) rapture (5) Relaxation (6) Concentration, (7) Equanimity
8 fold path (八正道) – (1) Right Understanding (2) Right Intent (3) Right Speech (4) Right Action (5) Right Livelihood (6) Right Effort (7) Right Mindfulness (8) Right Concentration.