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Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – Part 4f

37 Limbs of Enlightenment – 7 factors of Enlightenment

Satta Bojjhaṅgāni (七菩提)

– (1) Mindfulness (2) Investigation (3) Effort (4) rapture (5) Relaxation (6) Concentration, (7) Equanimity 

Thank you for joining and staying with me in this wonderful journey. By the way, interpreting the 37 limbs of enlightenment from the verse “surrounded by seven rings of railings, and seven layers of nets, and seven rows of trees,” is not my invention. It is derived from a teaching from Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua.

I am simply amazed by this interpretation because it basically provides a complete road map towards enlightenment, and is even in line with Theravada practices.

Let us continue ….

The 7 factors of awakening refers to 7 qualities in our mind that leads towards Enlightenment. Therefore, experiencing these factors in our mind is an indication that we are moving in the correct direction. Experiencing the opposite should raise an alarm bell and it is probably good to check with an expert.

Sati-sambojjhaṅgo – The mindfulness factor of complete awakening

In practice, this is an advance state of mindfulness. In the scripture,” Ānāpānasatisuttaṁ, MN 118” it is stated as follows:

Monastics, a monastic who, at whatever time, dwells contemplating (the nature of) the body in the body,
ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world,
at that time has mindfulness established and he is not forgetful,
and monastics, at whatever time
a monastic’s mindfulness is established and he is not forgetful,
at that time the mindfulness factor of complete awakening has been undertaken for that …..

If you refer to the above and cross-reference to Kevatta sutta, then I believe, the mindfulness that is required here relates to a deeper mindfulness after one has achieved 4th Jhana. Otherwise, the 37 limbs of enlightenment seems repetitive? But if we interpret it along this way, this 7 factors of enlightenment is talking about more advanced state of mindfulness.

Thus, the above mindfulness seems to be discussing Vipassana Meditation after one has cultivated the skills of Jhana, the exploration of Where is the “I” , “who am “I”. Is there a “being” in our physical body? That’s my personal interpretation of the verse “contemplating (the nature of) the body in the body,”

In Kevatta Sutta, it was mentioned about recollecting one’s past lives and rebirth. Thus, in this verse “he is not forgetful,”

In Pureland Buddhism, great masters had also achieved profound samadhi. (4th Jhana) through chanting. Therefore, the above task stated in the Theravada Sutta is also within the capability of Mahayana practitioners.

Dhammavicaya-sambojjhaṅgo – the investigation of (the nature of) things factor of complete awakening

Living mindfully in this way he investigates that state with wisdom,
examining and entering into a deep enquiry (into it),
and monastics, at whatever time
a monastic living mindfully in this way investigates that state with wisdom,
examining and entering into a deep enquiry (into it),
at that time the investigation (of the nature) of things factor of complete awakening has been undertaken for that monastic…

The mindfulness that is achieved by a practitioner who has reached 4th Jhana will be stronger. Following that, one engages in investigation and contemplation. The Theravada sutta is actually an instruction manual for the monastic community. Their full time job is to meditate. Having achieved strong mindfulness, we probe our “sense of being”. Or as the zen practitioners would say “uncover our original look (本来面目)”

If our Pureland practices have matured into Samadhi / (jhana), I think it is logical to use our mind to discover the ultimate Truth? But for a beginner, such is not mentioned because it may encourage delusive thinking instead. Since this 37-limbs of enlightenment in embedded in the Amitabha Sutra, I think pureland practitioners are not deprived of the opportunity to do Vipassana or higher meditation investigation as recorded in Kevatta Sutta.

Viriya-sambojjhaṅgo – the energy factor of complete awakening,

For he who is investigating that state with wisdom,
examining and entering into a deep enquiry (into it),
there is an undertaking of unshaken energy,
and monastics, at whatever time
for a monastic investigating that state with wisdom,
examining and entering into a deep enquiry (into it),
there is an undertaking of unshaken energy,
at that time the energy factor of complete awakening has been undertaken for that monastic…

Personally, I think this is a very important factor. The verse alludes to a state of wakefulness that is energetic and not slothful. Some practitioners may mistaken drowsy stupor during meditation as “achievement”, because time “passes quickly”? In short, one is actually sleeping or spacing out. That’s not Jhana. SO beware.

I had an opportunity to watch some old video of Master GuangQin on Youtube, you can see the sparkle and “fire” in his eyes even though he was very old then.

Pīti-sambojjhaṅgo – the joy factor of complete awakening,

For he who has undertaken energy spiritual joy arises,
and monastics, at whatever time
for a monastic who has undertaken energy spiritual joy arises,
at that time the joy factor of complete awakening has been undertaken for that monastic…

Enlightenment means the end of suffering and it is important to take note of that. Besides the mind becoming energetic, there is also joy! Practicing Buddhism, shouldn’t make us depressive or sad.

In our initial exploration of life as it truly is, we are taught to face the sufferings of life head on. We know that our life is not permanent, we know that departure from our love ones is inevitable. There is something sad about it. But that is not all to it, and it is important for us to advance beyond that mourning and mobbing.

As we progress in our practice, joy starts to develop in our mind when we gain more wisdom and is no longer attached.

Likewise, chanting Amitabha shouldn’t lead to sadness and depression……’

Passaddhi-sambojjhaṅgo – the calmness factor of complete awakening,

For one who has a joyful mind the body is calm, and the mind is calm,
and monastics, at whatever time
a monastic has a joyful mind and a body that is calm, and a mind that is calm,
at that time the calmness factor of complete awakening has been undertaken for that monastic…

Have you come across the term “Mad wisdom”? In Chinese folk Buddhism, this is best demonstrated by the mystical character “Mad Monk”(known as Ji Gong). Likewise, some “advanced” meditator demonstrate their “joy” by behaving erratically happy? Nah, those are not the same joy relating to enlightenment.

Buddhist joy arising from enlightenment leads to tranquility. There is no agitation in the mind. (which is the opposite of sloth) From here, we become knowledgeable of the misunderstanding out there…..

Samādhi-sambojjhaṅgo – the concentration factor of complete awakening,

For one with a calm body and happiness his mind becomes concentrated,
and monastics, at whatever time
a monastic has a calm body and happiness and a mind that becomes concentrated,
at that time the concentration factor of complete awakening has been undertaken for that monastic…

It is said that Buddha is constantly in Jhana and is capable of adjusting his state of Jhana with flexibility. Jhana is only achievable if we drop discursive thinking. Thus, the factor of awakening is really a focused mind without discursive thoughts. (一心不乱)

For Pureland practitioners, holding the Buddha’s name and ceasing our discursive thoughts is a must. It is a goal.

Upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo – the equanimity factor of complete awakening.

He who has a well-concentrated mind in this way becomes completely equanimous,
and monastics, at whatever time
a monastic’s well-concentrated mind in this way becomes completely equanimous,
at that time the equanimity factor of complete awakening has been undertaken for that monastic,
at that time that monastic is cultivating the equanimity factor of complete awakening,
at that time that monastic’s equanimity factor of complete awakening
is cultivated and heading towards fulfilment

In short, the mind of a good practitioner reaches a profound state of equilibrium and is no longer troubled by “likes” and “dislikes”. This naturally produce a person that is constantly calm and not agitated by things happening around them. They look upon all living beings as equal and live their life in equanimity. (regardless of situations)

The above 7 factors are positive qualities that we develop as we practice correctly. If we acquire traits that are contrary to the above, it means something had gone wrong in our practice.

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.

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