I’ve had a very full spring, and I apologize for my lapse in keeping in touch. With two teacher trainings on the schedule, a retreat in Vermont and a trip to Ireland, I’ve found it challenging to get to the computer.
But no matter, I’m back in Boston now, with a spacious schedule ahead, and I’ll be dropping these Minutes with greater consistency; I promise.
This summer, I’d like to take a closer look at a collection of mind factors that support and facilitate one’s awakening from sorrow and suffering. The Buddha referred to these seven faculties as theFactors of Enlightenment (bhojangas).
Jack Kornfield writes, “These seven factors of enlightenment are like the sap that runs through the Buddha’s tree of liberation, nourishing all parts of it. They are the qualities of heart and mind that arise from spiritual practice and represent the core, the essence of where his practical and systematic teachings lead us (Goldstein and Kornfield, 1987)
So what are these factors?
Three are arousing qualities (yang in nature):
Three are stabilizing qualities (yin in nature):
And one has a balancing quality:
Over coming weeks, I’ll be looking at each of these factors, individually.
But this week, I’d like you to get a feel for them as a whole.
A while back, I was in an interview with one of my teachers, complaining to him that the quality of my attention had gone dull and fuzzy. Sure, I was comfortable and calm, but the crispness of my focus was entirely absent.
He asked me, “Which of the Factors of Awakening are too strong and which are too weak?”
I had no idea. Hadn’t thought to ask that question. But, sure enough, bringing that question into my meditation revealed an excess of tranquility, a deficiency of investigation, and it was mindfulness that was able to discern the imbalance. In a very short amount of time, the dullness evaporated and things started to unfold with greater clarity again.
So this week, I invite you to take that question into your practice. Have a look over the list, and ask, “Are these factors in balance? Is one more excessive than another? Or is one deficient?”
You may not know at this point what they all mean or refer to. Don’t worry about that. We’ll flesh them out in coming weeks. Just begin with the innocent curiosity of the question itself.
Originally published on June 1, 2011