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On the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, Part Three: Arousing Energy and Attaining Rapture


The third factor of enlightenment is energy (Pali: viriya), a mental property (Pali: cetasika) and the sixth factor in the Noble Eightfold Path, known as Right Effort. It is the same zealous effort that the Buddha made to attain enlightenment. The Noble Eightfold Path is not for the lazy, lethargic, and indolent. The Buddha is not a savior who will give the gift of salvation to the indolent, rather a teacher who can set people on the path and show them how to save themselves from wrong view and wrong attitude if they are ready to rouse the required effort. In this way, we can overcome the allusive powers of the world of appearance that seem to bid us welcome; that seem to beckon us to come in and enjoy ourselves; while aware that they are alluring us by appealing to a false sense illusion that leads us to imagine that we are forms of a personalized self that may be satisfied through personal psychophysical lust, craving, and greed, with no ultimate substance and no pleasing permanence or reality.  

Those who are mindful in the search for ultimate truth and who cultivate keen investigation need to be able to arouse the energy necessary to fight their way free from the inclination to fall for vain hopes of satisfaction in the world of appearances. Through keen observation and analysis, they will come to see that truth lies in the very opposite view—that appearances are void and empty of any abiding substance that can fulfill individual expectations of happiness. As this realization gradually begins to dawn, those so threatened must be able to keep rousing the energy to overcome the power of the illusions that arise out of sense perception, to ultimately defeat them in their continuous attempts to captivate the mind. Thus, through heedfulness and energy, one may escape the perils of self delusion and may learn to gradually cool the heat of burning passion and craving. Having conquered this sense of self and its inclinations, the seeker may live and breathe in a state of balance, with a calm and tranquil mind. Those who accomplish this become their own refuge through their own efforts.

To quote Venerable Piyadassi Thera: 

Thus the path of purification is impossible for an indolent person. The aspirant for enlightenment (bodhi) should possess unflinching energy coupled with fixed determination. Enlightenment and deliverance lie entirely in his own hands.

To quote the Buddha:

The idler who does not strive, who, though young and strong, is full of sloth, who is weak in resolution, that lazy and idle man will not find the way to wisdom, the way to enlightenment.


The fourth factor of enlightenment is Rapture (Pali: piti), which, in Buddhist language, means a state of pure bliss, joy, or happiness, as opposed to a romantic state of ecstasy with associations of being carried away by sensations and emotions. This bliss, joy, or happiness (it is difficult to translate) is a mental property (Pali: cetasika) described as “a quality of the joy that suffuses both the body and the mind” and according to Ven. Piyadassi:

The man lacking in this quality cannot proceed along the path to enlightenment. There will arise in him a sullen indifference to the Dhamma, an aversion to the practice of meditation, and morbid manifestations.

Here we are talking not about a kind of happiness that comes not from seeking satisfaction in the external world, but of a happiness that develops within as a result of being free from the stresses of suffering arising out of coveting material external objects.

The kind of happiness we are talking about here may better be called a sense of contentment arising out of effort to relinquish inclinations toward lust, hate, and delusion. It also grows out of the insight that leads to realization and the abandonment of external things that do not make one healthier or happier. 

It is a happiness that grows in proportion to the development of purity and holiness of the mind. It is a happiness which increases in proportion to harmlessness. It grows as a result of the development of morality, meditation, and insight, and culminates in wisdom. 

It arises concomitantly with the wisdom which reveals that sense-pleasure is inconstant as compared to mental-contentment, which becomes calmer in proportion to abandonment of interest in the images of fleeting consciousness. It is a sense of contentment that can be developed through bhavana by one who knows the effects of the mind watching the mind, guiding it on the path to purity.

Concerning pleasure, Ven. Piyadassi writes:

Seeing a form, hearing a sound, perceiving an odor, tasting a flavor, feeling some tangible thing, cognizing an idea, people are moved, and from those sense objects and mental objects they experience a certain degree of pleasure. But it is all a passing shadow of phenomena. Unlike the animal whose sole feeling is to derive a feeling of pleasure from ay source at any cost of pleasure, man should endeavour to gain real piti or happiness. Real happiness or rapture comes not through grasping or clinging to things animate or inanimate, but by giving up (nekkhamma). It is the detached attitude towards the world that brings about true happiness.

Concerning harmlessness, Ven. Piyadassi writes:

Unalloyed joy comes to a man who ponders thus, ‘Others may harm but I will become harmless. Others may slay human beings, but I will become a non-slayer. Others may live unchaste but I will live pure. Others may utter falsehood, but I will speak the truth. Others may talk harshly, indulge in gossip, but I will use only words that promote concord, harmless words agreeable to the ear, full of love, heart courteous, worthy of being borne in mind, timely, fit and to the point. Others may be covetous. I will not covet. Energetic, steeped in modesty of heart, unswerving as regards the truth and rectitude. Peaceful, honest, contented and truthful and generous in all things will I be.’ Thus conducive to full realization, perfect wisdom to Nibbana is this fourth enlightenment factor.

As one continues to practice with heedfulness and diligence, unalloyed joy comes to one who through directed, sustained effort has attained release.


Piyadassi Thera. 2008. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment: Satta Bojjhaga.  Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society. BPS Online Edition.

Related features from BDG

On the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, Part One
On the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, Part Two: Mindfulness and Keen Awareness
On the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, Part Four: Tranquility, Concentration, and Equanimity

More from Theravada Teachings by Prof. David Dale Holmes

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