Thirty-seven Factors

(bodhi-pakshana or bodhipakshika-dharma or bodhipakkhiya-dhammá)

The Sanskrit title literally means those things pertaining to enlightenment. They include the prerequisites for the attainment of enlightenment and form the foundation for all schools of Buddhism. They represent the most basic doctrine of the Buddha and the practical application of the Four Noble Truths of the first turning of the wheel of Dharma. They are:

I. The Path/Phase of Accumulation

In this phase you accumulate virtue so as to make your mind a suitable vessel in which realizations can arise.

The Four Foundations (applications) of Mindfulness (smrty-upasthana/ satipatthana) or the Four Frames of Reference. By deepening your practice of these four, you will develop greater enthusiasm for positive or “wholesome” activities, thus leading to the next four correct efforts or endeavors. The practice of mindfulness differs in the three vehicles of Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. See the Maha-satipatthana Sutta.
1. The foundation of mindfulness of the body or skandha of form (kayanupassana-satipatthana). Through mindfulness of body you realize the truth of suffering.
2. The foundation of mindfulness of the skandha of feelings (vedananupassana-satipatthana). Through mindfulness of feeling you realize the truth of the origin of suffering.
3. The foundation of mindfulness of the skandha of consciousness (mind or thoughts) (cittanupassana-satipatthana). Through mindfulness of the mind you realize the truth of cessation.
4. The foundation of mindfulness of the skandhas of perception and concept (Mahayana/Vajrayana-phenomena/dharmas) (Hinayana-mental qualities) (dhammanupassana-satipatthana). Through mindfulness of phenomena you realize the truth of the Bodhisattva path.

The Four Correct Endeavors/Four Abandonments / Four Right Practices–four right or perfect or supreme efforts/exertions or the four right kinds of striving (samyak-prahana/samappadhana). With a solid foundation of mindfulness and ethical conduct gained from practicing the first eight, you will be able to further develop a single-pointedness of mind that cannot be sustained by a lesser degree of concentration.
5. Abandoning or ceasing negative acts/ unskillful states or discard evil that has arisen–getting rid of existing evils and non-virtues (uppannanam akusalanam dhammanam pahanaya vayamo)
6. Preventing future negative acts/ unskillful states or prevent evil that has not arisen– never giving rise to evils and non-virtues that are presently absent (anuppannanam akusalanam dhammanam anuppadaya vayamo)
7. Enhancing existing positive qualities/ skillful states and past wholesome acts or promote good that has arisen–assuring the increase of those virtues which are already developed (anuppannanam kusalanam dhammanam uppadaya vayamo)
8. Laying the foundation for future wholesome acts/ skillful states or cultivate good that has not arisen–giving rise to virtuous remedies not yet present (uppannanam kusalanam dhammanam bhiyyobhaya vayamo)

The Four Supernatural Feats–bases of psychic or spiritual power or roads to power (riddhi-pada/iddhipadda) or means of accomplishment. Since they require a well-cultivated and unusually focused state of mind they can result in “supernatural” feats and form the bases of psychic (supernormal) power. The first twelve factors all enhance your capacity to remain focused on a chosen object of meditation which leads to the enhancement of all your positive spiritual faculties. The development of supernormal powers and the occurrence of supernatural events are merely a by-product that indicates progress. The exoteric schools, in general, do not emphasize the attainment of supernormal powers as they are thought to be distractions on the path, which they can be, but they are essential on the vajryana or tantric path to achieve the “quick path” to enlightenment.
9. The supernatural feat of aspiration/will–profound absorption through longing (chandiddhipado-chanda)
10. The supernatural feat of joyous effort/energy/perseverance–profound absorption through diligence (viryaddhipado-viriya)
11. The supernatural feat of concentration (thought)– profound absorption through intention (cittiddhipado-citta)
12. The supernatural feat of inquiry or investigation/ discrimination (wisdom)–profound absorption through analysis (vimamsiddhipado-vimamsa or panna)


II. The Path/Phase of Integration/Joining

In this phase you achieve a breakthrough in understanding which is conducive to realization of the Four Noble Truths. Integration refers to integration into a direct realization of truth. It consists of four sub phases:
Warming – one first warms to the real meaning of voidness.
Summit – one sees a panoramic view. The earth (defilements) has diminished to a point, whereas space (voidness) becomes more and more present. At peak one stands between heaven and earth, phenomena and voidness.
Forbearance – as an aspiration to certainty about phenomena and the skill needed to face up voidness and its implications.
The Highest Worldly Point – This is the highest point and the end of samsara. After this sub phase there will be no more samsaric rebirth. The whole quality of experience will change. The subsequent Phase of Insight has nothing to do with worldliness.

The five faculties are employed during the sub phases of “warming” and “summit.” As these faculties are developed and reach an advanced state in the sub phases of “forbearance” and “highest worldly point,” they become the five powers.

The Five Faculties–five roots or controlling factors, dominants, or forces (panchaindryani/indriya) that lead to peace and enlightenment.
13. The faculty of faith or devotion/ confidence/ trust (saddhindriya)
14. The faculty of joyous effort or energy/ perseverance/ diligence(viriyindriya)
15. The faculty of mindfulness/ recollection (satindriya)
16. The faculty of deep meditative absorption or concentration (samadhindriya)
17. The faculty of profound wisdom or insight (pannandriya)

The Five Powers (bala/balani). As you develop these powers, you will naturally be able follow the core of the Buddha’s teaching–The Eight-fold Path.
18. The power of faith or devotion/ confidence/ trust (saddha)
19. The power of joyous effort or energy/perseverance/ diligence (viriya)
20. The power of mindfulness/ recollection (sati)
21. The power of deep meditative absorption or concentration (samadhi)
22. The power of profound wisdom or insight (panna)


III. The Path/Phase of Insight/Seeing-First Bhumi

For the first time you gain authentic insight into the Truths of the Realized. On the Mahayana path this means you enter the first bhumi or level of a Bodhisattva. During this stage you are endowed with seven aspects of enlightenment.

The Seven Limbs or Aspects (factors, elements, or branches) of Enlightenment or awakening (bodhyanga/sambojjhanga). See the Maha-satipatthana Sutta and Anapanasati Sutta.
23. The factor of enlightenment consisting of right mindfulness (smriti/sati-sambojjhanga).
24. The factor of enlightenment consisting of right aspiration or discriminative knowledge (discerning appreciation / investigation)–investigation into the nature of phenomena (dharmavicaya/dhammavicaya-sambojjhanga).
25. The factor of enlightenment consisting of right joyous effort or persistence/ diligence/ energy (virya/viriya-sambojjhanga).
26. The factor of enlightenment consisting of right joyfulness, rapture, bliss, delight (priti/piti-sambojjhanga).
27. The factor of enlightenment consisting of right proficiency/ tranquility, subtleness, suppleness, or serenity (passaddhi/passaddhi-sambojjhanga).
28. The factor of enlightenment consisting of right profound absorption/ concentration, one-pointedness (four jhanas or samadhi/samadhi-sambojjhanga).
29. The factor of enlightenment consisting of right equanimity or elimination of the mind’s tendency to wander (upeksha/upekkha-sambojjhanga).


IV. The Path/Phase of Cultivation/Meditation-Second to Tenth Bhumis

You cultivate familiarity with meditation that rests within the universal essence realized. through the Phase of Insight. During this stage you are endowed with the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eight-fold Path (marga/maggana/ atthangika magga). See the Maha-satipatthana Sutta.
30. Correct view or understanding (Samma-Ditthi)
31. Correct thinking or thoughts/ concept/ intention (Samma-Sankappa)
32. Correct speech or expression (Samma-Vaca)
33. Correct action (Samma-Kammanta)
34. Correct livelihood (Samma-Ajiva)
35. Correct effort (Samma-Vayama)
36. Correct mindfulness (Samma-Sati)
37. Correct profound absorption/ concentration (Samma-Sanadgu)

These plus the five vidyas, six superknowledges or supernormal powers (abhijna), and eighteen emptinesses (sunyata) are the supramundane dharmas that are practiced by saints or holy ones.


V. The Path/Phase of No-More-Learning/Complete Accomplishment

When the training has been completed there are ten qualities without training. They are the eight qualities of the eightfold path plus total liberation and immaculate primordial wisdom. These ten factors form five groups of untainted aggregates:

1. right conduct
– training-free right expression,
– training-free right action
– training-free right livelihood.
2. profound absorption
– training-free right mindfulness
– training-free right profound absorption
3. highest wisdom
– training-free right view
– training-free right concept
– training-free right effort
4. perfect liberation
– training-free total liberation
5. primordial wisdom insight of total liberation
– training-free immaculate primordial wisdom

Maha-satipatthana Sutta

Patrul on Stages of the Path