Revised January 20, 2016; May 13, 2019; March 11, 2020; August 20, 2022 (added references)
1. The 37 factors of Enlightenment (Bōdhipakkhiya Dhamma) are the combined number of individual factors in:
- Four Factors of Mindfulness (Cattārō Satipaṭṭhāna); see “Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta,”
- Four Supreme Efforts (Cattārō Sammāppadhāna); see, for example, “Padhāna Sutta (AN 4.13).”
- Four Bases of Mental Power (Cattārō Iddhipāda); see a series of suttas starting with the “Apāra Sutta (SN 51.1).”
- Five Faculties (Pañca Indriya); see a series of suttas starting with the “Suddhika Sutta (SN 48.1).”
- Five Powers (Pañca Bala); see, for example, “Punakūṭa Sutta (AN 5.16).”
- Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Satta Bojjhaṅga); see the series of suttas starting with “Himavanta Sutta (SN 46.1).”
- Factors of the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya Aṭṭhaṅgika Magga); see the series of suttas starting with “Kalyāṇamitta Sutta (SN 45.49).”
2. These factors focus on various mental factors (cetasika) and citta that incorporate those cetasika. They are labeled with different names under each category in the table below to highlight their application.
- For example, the paññā cetasika is labeled as vīmaṁsā in Four Bases of Mental Power, as dhammavicaya in Satta Bojjhaṅga, and as Sammā Diṭṭhi in the Noble Eightfold Path.
- Under each category, I have listed the term used for that cetasika in that category. For example, in the Noble Eightfold Path, Sammā Vāyāma is the viriya cetasika.
- Thus even though there are 37 factors of Enlightenment, there are only 14 cetasika that will be cultivated while cultivating all seven above categories.
- Those seven categories are all interrelated. Thus all 37 factors may be cultivated by focusing only on Cattārō Satipaṭṭhāna, Satta Bojjhaṅga, or the Noble Eightfold Path.
3. In the “Bhāvanā Sutta (AN 7.71),” the Buddha explained that one needs to cultivate those 37 factors to reach Nibbāna.
- However, there is no need to go through all of them individually. Cultivation of one set in full WILL fulfill the others.
- For example, in the “Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta (DN 22)” Buddha explained that the cultivation of Satipaṭṭhāna is a guaranteed way to Nibbāna.
- Similarly, “Ānāpānassati Sutta (MN 118)” explains that the cultivation of Ānāpānasati will fulfill Satipaṭṭhāna.
- Therefore, there can be many different ways to get to Nibbāna (Arahanthood.) The key step is to get to the Sotapanna Anugami stage by comprehending the Four Noble Truths/Paṭicca Samuppāda/Tilakkhana. See “Mahā Cattārisaka Sutta (Discourse on the Great Forty).”
4. It is also important to realize that cetasika is related to one’s character (gati): “Cetasika – Connection to Gati”
5. The Four Supreme Efforts (Cattārō Sammāppadhāna) are the efforts to purify the mind: (i) remove defilements (akusala) that have arisen, (ii) prevent new defilements (akusala) from arising, (iii) enhance wholesome states (kusala) that have arisen, (iv) initiate new wholesome states (kusala).
6. All 37 factors of enlightenment are fulfilled at the Arahant stage.
|Parameter Involved||Four Supreme Efforts||Iddhipada||Five Faculties||Five Powers||Four Factors of Mindfulness||7 Factors of Enlightenment||Path Factors|
|Panna (wisdom)||vimansa||panna||panna||dhammavicaya||samma ditthi|
|Vitakka (initial application)||samma sankappa|
|Samma vaca||samma vaca|
|Samma kammanata||samma kammanata|
|Samma ajiva||samma ajiva|
|Viriya||four efforts (see #4 above)||viriya||viriya||viriya||viriya||samma vayama|
|Samadhi (one-pointedness)||samadhi||samadhi||samadhi||samma samadhi|
6. Also, see “Two Versions of 37 Factors of Enlightenment.”