Seven factors of the Enlightenment (Bojjhanga Suttas)
Rev E .Gunasiri Thero
Article from FORYOU MAGAZINE – SINGAPORE February 2018
Health is the highest gain in one’s Life( Arōgyā paramā lābhā). Every sentient being suffers from different kind of sicknesses and diseases. Illness is a part of our real life. It may be caused due to many different physical causes or some psychological factors or hidden factors as past Kamma. According to the discourse of Upajjhatthana Sutta(“Subjects for Contemplation”)in Anguttara_Nikaya, there are five remembrances facts regarding life’s fragility and our true inheritance. The discourse advises that these facts are to be reflected upon often by all. Among these five facts ,one of the factor is “I am sure to become ill; I cannot avoid illness and I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness(Vyādhidhammomhi vyādhiṃ anatīto….).We are used to take medicine when we got sick. In most cases, medicine helps for recovery. Medicine may cause to regain our lost physically energy and to resettle it. However, medicine itself cannot help to keep health of our mantel energy.
Buddhism leads us to gain and to keep good health physically and mentally. Three Bojjhanga discourses: Maha kassapa Bojjhanga; Maha Moggallana Bojjhanga; and Maha Chunda Bojjhanga, can be shown as example for this. All these three events are directly related with Sakyamuni Buddha’s life.
01. On one occasion, the Buddha was residing at Rajagaha in the bamboo grove, the feeding ground of black squirrels. At that time, Venerable Kassapa who was living in the Pipphali Cave was affected with a disease and was seriously ill. The Lord visited him and recited the Discourse on Seven Factors of Enlightenment. After the recitation the Lord preached a discourse on it. At the end, Venerable Kassapa recovered.
02. On another occasion, Venerable Maha Moggalana was living at Vultures’ Peak and was also gravely ill. So the Lord visited him. In the same way the Lord recited and taught the discourse to him. After hearing it he too recovered from his illness.
03. On the third occasion, The Buddha who was living in the Bamboo Grove and he was afflicted with a disease and suffered great pain. Then Venerable Maha Cunda approached the Lord, paid respect to Him and took care of Him. The Lord requested the Elder Cunda to recite the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. Then the Lord recovered from all the illness when it was recited.
In all these three occasions Venerable Kassapa, Venerable Maha Moggallana and the Sakyamuni Buddha were recovered by listening to recitations on seven factors of enlightenment. Each of them was gravely ill and wished to recover. It is significant here to inquire about those seven factors that are directly related with enlightenment, the supreme bliss that Buddhists highly aspire. The seven enlightened factors are named as mindfulness, investigation of the Law, energy, rapture, repose, concentration and equanimity. These seven are to be practiced by an enlightenment seeker.
Having listened to the Buddha’s recitation on these seven factors the two venerables got cure and The Sakyamuni Buddha himself also was recovered by listing the same seven factors. It is wonderful to know that the Buddha himself got the help of recitation by his disciples. The content of these factors should be so strong to react in that marvelous way.
Here in all the three parittas the bojjhangas were known factors to all of them since all were already enlightened destroying all the unwholesome cankers. The message here is that dhamma can cure both mental and physical sicknesses. Recitation of them generates hidden power. Such generated power may come from these great factors or the great quality of reciters or else by blend of both. However, the rationale is that by reciting them and listening to them we can generate power. That power may cause to change our physical and mental conditions. Consequently, the hidden strength can be waken up. Thus, in addition to taking medication, it is important to keep faith in the ability of healing powers of such recitations. Anyone can get good results by reading, listening to these factors in one’s life – difficulties.
This Sutta is normally used for protection against sickness. It is found in Bojjhanga Sutta, Mahavagga Samyutta Nikaya.
Most of the people in the world are not happy about what they are now and what they have at present. This is a general fact. It does not matter what you are doing or what amount of wealth, refutation or power you possess. People may be frustrated or unsatisfied very easily and very often in their life. The most recent two examples are Michael Jackson and Britney Houston. It looks till the end of their lives that they got everything to lead a wonderful life. However, this belief was not true. They who were lucky to get all the material possessions one wish to gain in this life, too got many issues to deal with. This indicates that life is a very complicated phenomenon. This further implies that it is not wise to see on success or failure in one’s life only from a particular point of view.
The Buddha’s insight is that gaining a human life is very rare. Leading a human life is harder. Why does Buddha identifies human life in this way is one of the most serious and greatly significant questions that each and everyone should ask from oneself. Have you ever thought of this question? Let us try to analyze the significance of this statement.
All the statements that the Buddha made were based on his experience. The Buddha himself claimed that He never talks about anything that he did not ‘know’ and did not ‘see’ (ahametam jaanaami ahametam passaami). In other words, this explains that Buddha talked with his experience. This experience is not based on mere perception. He realized both human life and world as it is. For that he used both ordinary perception and super-human perception. Ordinary man’s experience is based on only mere perception. Thus, the knowledge one gains via such an incomplete way, is necessarily full of weaknesses. The dreams of life made based on such superficial and artificial perception may break down any time. So Buddhist insight on life-related-issues of ordinary life has some deep insight.
Can you recall that one day Buddha asked a Brahmin that he had a sound sleep under a tree even in a winter night? The message of this is that if we are fully and really aware who I am and what is life, problems of the life would not make us worry. Till the final nibbaana, even enlightened people have certain issues related to their physical body. For instance, they have to take feed their body even though it was not like that of ordinary human beings. Just imagine how The Lord Buddha requested some water from his attendant Venerable Ananda when the Buddha was thirsty. However, it is true that there is a difference between reactions that ordinary human being and enlightened being have on such problems they face with. The simplest insight here is that when we are living, it is simply natural that we have to undergo different kinds of life-issues. The success of the life depends on how far one can manage them.
The gist of the insight found here is that problems have causes and reasons. Some such causes and reasons are visible while others are invisible. Some of them are easily deal while others are so difficult to deal with. Some issues can be overcome by using one’s personal skills and talents while some others cannot be solve like that. Some issues necessarily require collective effort to resolve while somecan be resolved personally.
You may have felt in your life that when I am in a real trouble where there is no one to help me, what should I do? For instance, when your spouse acts carelessly the whole responsibility of your family life may come on your soldiers. Then, your skills may not be enough to recover from such a hard situation. For Buddhism, everyone is subjected to face to such serious situation in one’s life at any time. Buddhism does not produce readymade answers for each and every question of one’s life. However, Buddhism teachers us need of a long term training on one’s life. This training consists of both skills needs for the success of material life and success of spiritual life. Consequently, it is instructed that living a human life is infinitely important regardless of the hardships it may face. We as potential human beings should endeavourer to sharpen ourselves to see things as they are and to work in accordance with the conditions. That will make ease us to live this hard life.
Rev E .Gunasiri Thero
Resident MonkBodhiraja Buddhist Society