“Because they lead to awakening they are called factors of awaking.”
(The Buddha, in Samyutta Nikaya XLVI, 5)
The Pali word bojjhanga means ‘factor of awakening’ or ‘factor of enlightenment’, and as awakening/enlightenment (bodhi) is the ultimate aim of all serious Buddhists, the seven factors constitute those properties required in the aspirant to further his or her awakening to the way things are. In brief, the seven factors of awakening are as follows:
- Sati-sambojjhanga: Mindfulness
- Dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga: Investigation of the Teaching
- Viriya-sambojjhanga: Energy
- Piti-sambojjhanga: Rapture
- Passaddhi-sambojjhanga: Tranquility
- Samadhi-sambojjhanga: Concentration
- Uppekkha-sambojjhanga: Equanimity
In the development of mindfulness (see below), the meditator attains each of the bojjhanga in turn. So, with regards to sati, or mindfulness, when it is present and undisturbed contemplating the body, feelings, mind and mind objects, the factor of sati is said to be attained. Following on from this, whenever the Teaching is investigated, examined, and reflected upon, while the meditator dwells in mindfulness, the factor of investigation of the Teaching (Dhamma-vicaya) is considered to be gained and under development. Contemplating the Teaching includes reflecting on the Four Noble Truths, the Three Characteristics, and other important aspects of the Dharma (the way things are).
Energy is an important factor in the cultivation of meditation, for although one is physically still when one meditates, mentally a lot of energy is required to keep up the practice. If the awakening factor of energy (viriya) is known by the meditator to be firm and unshakable, then it too is considered to be gained and in development, which enables further advance along the Path to Awakening. With the factor of energy sustained consistently in meditation, the next factor of awakening arises: rapture or bliss (piti). Bliss makes meditation fun, encouraging a deepening of one’s practice. And when it is sustained, the mind can become composed and the factor of tranquility (passaddhi) is established and developed. The mind has become serene.
If the meditator is both composed in his body and happy in his mind, he or she is said to have gained, and be developing, the factor of concentration (samadhi). Concentration is fundamental to Buddhist meditation, equipping the meditator with the mental power needed to fully investigate the nature of the mind (i.e. impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self). Finally, when in such concentrated states of meditation the mind can be looked upon with indifference, and the seventh factor of awakening, equanimity (uppekkha), is developed. In such balanced and detached states of mind, the mind itself can be let go of, revealing the truth of awakening.