The Four Bases of Mental Power (Satara Iddhipada)


I used to have this post titled, “The Four Factors of Accomplishment”. I changed it because those words do not do justice to these four mental qualities. They are called satara Iddhipada in Pāli or Sinhala, meaning factors that are critical to accomplishing any goal, whether mundane or transcendental.

  • Iddhi is conventionally taken to mean “magical” powers. Those yogis who could see things that are far away, hear sounds that are far away, read minds of others, etc., were supposed to have iddhi powers. They acquired those powers by harnessing the power of these four factors to KEEP THEIR DEFILEMENTS SUPPRESSED.
  • When one works towards attaining Nibbāna, one can use the same factors to REMOVE defilements from the mind.
  • One could use the same factors to attain mundane goals, such as achieving financial independence, excelling in academics or a sport, improving health, etc.

They are chanda (liking, but close to an obsession), citta (thoughts), viriya (effort), and vimansa (analysis). Chanda is NOT greed, it is the determination to attain a goal.

  • Any innovator, business person, scientist, architect, in fact anyone who is an expert at his/her occupation, knows these factors are critical, even though they may not have thought about them.

1. One needs to have an liking (more like an obsessed liking) for the project; this is called chanda which we can translate as liking. It is not greed, but pure in quality and grows to become a life goal.

2. When one has this “obsession”, one keeps thinking about it all the time. When one gets up at night to go to the bathroom, one thinks about it; it is the first thing that comes to mind when one wakes up. This is called citta; we will call it thought or contemplation.

3. Thus one makes one’s best efforts (viriya) to achieve the goal. This is what makes swimmers get up early morning to do laps, a scientist/innovator forgets about his/her meal, an innovator stays awake thinking about how to make improvements to his products, etc.

4. One is always on the lookout for any faults or possible improvements in current efforts. If the concepts involved do not make sense, one is always looking for a better explanation, a better way to make something, etc. This is reasoning/investigating (vimansa).

  • These factors are mutually supportive of each other. Because of this, once getting started (slowly), they can lead to explosive growth; these factors feed on each other, and the project becomes self-sustaining. This is called exponential growth. Thus it is hard to calculate the time taken to finish the project by linear extrapolation.
  • The same is true for someone starting on the Path. Initially, it takes time to absorb the concepts. But IF THE CONCEPTS ARE CORRECT (i.e., no contradictions), then progress  is made very quickly. The principle of Paṭicca Samuppāda starts working and one will be attracting resources that will help in ways one would not have even thought about; see, “The Law of Attraction, Habits, Character (Gati), and Cravings (Āsavas)“.

I know this by experience both as a scientist and now as a follower of the Path. After working for over four years, up until 2013, I had made only slow, steady progress on the Path. But I progressed enough that I kept looking for better explanations, discarding many things on the way. Since the middle of 2013, the growth exploded. That is when, just by the law of attraction (see, “The Law of Attraction, Habits, Character (Gati), and Cravings (Āsavas)“) I came across the pure Dhamma.

  • By the way, this is process the Buddha called bhavana (meditation). One keeps contemplating, clarifying, investigating, etc. it all the time, i.e.,  “Asevitaya, bhavithaya, bahuleekathaya,…..”.
  • One can be meditating in all four postures: sitting, standing, walking, and lying down (on a bed). Of course one can concentrate better sitting down in one of the more formal sitting postures.
Deeper Meanings when Cultivating the Noble Eightfold Path

See, “Javana of a Citta – The Root of Mental Power” for an anlysis based on Abhidhamma.

1. Chanda (cha + anda, where “cha” is mind and “anda” is “anduma” or clothes) means wrapping one’s mind with appropriate “attire”, which here means samma vaca, samma kammaṃta, and samma ajiva. This is what fuels the “liking” for Nibbāna with increased niramisa sukha.

  • By the way, a different meaning of “anda” (blind) is implied when chanda is used in “kāmachanda” (= “kāma” + “cha” + “anda”), i.e., mind blinded by kāma or sense pleasures.

2. Citta here means the mindset to attain Nibbāna.

3. However, even if one has liking and mindset on attaining Nibbāna, one needs to make an effort or viriya.

4. Even if one is exerting effort, it needs to be directed in the right direction. Thus one needs vimansa (investigation/reasoning) to comprehend anicca, dukkha, anatta, and to get to samma diṭṭhi.

5. “Iddhi” means “grow”, and “pada” means “headed direction”. Thus with iddhipada one is accelerating in the direction that one sets one’s mind. Thus all four factors of chanda, citta, viriya, vimansa need to be there.

Next, “Why is it Necessary to Learn Key Pāli Words?“, …

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