The ‘ seven factors of enlightenment’ in Buddhism are mainly a deepening on three aspects of the ‘ Eightfold Path’ . Namely on proper effort, proper attention and proper meditation .
The seven factors of enlightenment are also a counterpart to ‘ The five obstacles ‘ (the five obstacles can overshadow the 7 factors of enlightenment).
According to Buddhist teachings, people who fully develop these seven factors of enlightenment experience true freedom.
The seven factors of enlightenment are therefore also called the seven factors for liberation. For some people, lighting is too ‘big’ and they have a better feeling with the word liberation.
The seven factors of illumination are as follows:
- Attention (mindfulness)
- Research (investigation of the truth, or also the dhamma)
- Energy (also called effort / commitment and dedication)
- Tranquility (also called peace of mind or (inner) peace)
- Concentration (as being-quality)
Passive factors of illumination
Three factors of lighting are passive factors. Namely: 1. Concentration, also called one-pointed attention of the mind) 2. Tranquility, also called inner peace 3. Equanimity, also detachment and balance of the mind in change.
Active factors of lighting
There are also three active factors of illumination. Namely: 1. Energy, also the dedication / commitment to be mindful / attentive. 2. Research, also silently observing what happens (not reactive) 3. Joy, which manifests itself as happiness and cheerful interest in spiritual development.
Neutral factor: Attention (mindfulness)
The first factor of lighting is a neutral factor. Namely: Mindfulness. With mindfulness you observe every object in the current moment. Either, you experience everything in the ‘now’.
By developing mindfulness, you also automatically develop all other factors of lighting. It also balances the other factors. Because when you have too much of a factor, it is possible that it shifts to an obstacle instead of a force. For example, too much calmness, without proper attention and energy, can result in drowsiness.
Energy is in this twofold. On the one hand is meant the commitment / dedication needed to actively create the conditions for the factors of awakening. On the other hand, the energy that comes from the practice and the development of the other factors of enlightenment.
Priority is also required here. We must consciously make the choice to have the intention to be attentive. After all, we can choose to hang on the couch in a good groove. That is nice on his time and relaxing. But it does not really help you. So there is dedication needed to really wake up / stay. A retreat is also a good example (and I do not mean retreats as you often see nowadays with a swimming pool and chatting, but more traditional Vipassana or Zen retreat). For example, during a traditional retreat we have to get up early, we encounter physical pain / discomfort and possibly also mental discomforts (when we look inside we do not always see the nice sides of ourselves).
For this dedication (especially for the novice yogi) the necessary trust is needed. Trust that this will bring you further. Get out of your existing conditioning and that it leads to deepening in the meditation process and transformation to further awakening.
Once we have been ready to be actively attentive, we need ‘right commitment’ or ‘right energy’. With proper use is meant that we do not try too tight to be attentive so that we are tense, but again not too loosely so that we always stray. We are looking for the middle way in this. Right bet.
Commitment in daily life
In daily life there is
- commitment needed to ‘leave’ what is not good (unkindly) for us (do not respond to desires that are not good for us)
- commitment needed to develop a basis from which to create less unholy tendencies
- commitment needed to develop a basis from which beneficial tendencies arise
- commitment needed to further develop what is beneficial
Developing / getting energy by being attentive
Besides deployment, energy is also meant to be the result of being attentive. Consider for yourself how energetic you feel when you are slumped to daydream on the couch in comparison with how you feel when you are sitting upright and aware of what is happening in and around you.
Research provides insight. Research into ‘the truth’ of existence. Elements on which you can reflect are for example:
- Investigate the fact that everything is subject to change
- Investigate the fact that suffering arises because everything is subject to change. Sources of suffering deal with unholy desires and aversion. Also read the Four Noble Truths
- Investigate the fact that there is no immutable, permanent ‘I’ or ‘self’.
Do not accept anything for truth. Research it yourself. Is this correct?
This research often leads to insights that in turn give the motivation for further research, and so on.
Joy can be a blissful feeling. In a state of high concentration, enormous delight and joy can even arise. In the end we mean more an inner joy. Also called ‘a smile in the heart’.
We can not completely command joy, but we can start the meditation with a cheerful interest. The intention to meet with what we notice with mildness and acceptance. This is one of the reasons why the Buddha is often portrayed with a smile.
This inner smile creates a peaceful basis. A basis for calm.
Tranquility, unlike the factors mentioned above, is a factor that you can not enforce. This is caused by the development of the active factors.
Concentration is a quality of being. Just like calm, we can not enforce this, but we can create the conditions for this. Concentration is sometimes confused with attention. However, we can be aware of anything and everything. Even on chaos in the mind. If there is concentration we manage to remain focused on 1 object for a longer period of time.
Equanimity is the balance between the two extremes of desire and aversion. We respond in a balanced way to what comes our way. We take life as it comes. In the knowledge that we experience one as unpleasant and the other as pleasant. We deal in a balanced way with loss and profit, success and failure, praise and blame.
Equanimity is sometimes confused with indifference. It is rather the opposite. We do care about what happens but do not let us get carried away. We experience completely.
Attention, also known as mindfulness (Sati). Be aware of what is happening in the here and now. Non-dual, without preference or rejection. ‘Being’ with that which presents itself.
Universal factors for awakening
Although this list with ‘The 7 factors of Enlightenment’ comes from Buddhism, it is universal. There are many currents and exercises with which you can develop these factors of awakening. Personally, I think the Osho Dynamic, for example, is a very powerful meditation in which we make the obstacles in a short period of time with complete commitment and thus make room for the factors of lighting to develop.