How to correctly practice 37 factors of awakening

Hi reverends,

Upcoming, I will have a few free months, I would like to spend these month for intense Dhamma practice. I have heard about 37 factors of awakening. I would like to know how to correctly practice all of these factors, like Which order to practice? How many factors to be cultivated at one time? etc.

As I’ve learnt from the suttas, the Buddha said by practicing mindfulness of breathing, we will cultivating as well the 7 factors of awakening, but what to do with the other 30 factors?

5 Likes

I’ll briefly relate my understanding of the 37 Wings of Awakening.

Four Noble Truths
Noble Eightfold path
Four Satipatthanas
Seven Factors of Awakening
Five Faculties
Five Powers
Four Right Efforts

The Buddha’s teachings could be encompassed within the Four Noble Truths.
The Noble Eightfold Path leads to liberation.
The Four Satipatthanas develop the full range of awareness required to see things as they really are.
The Seven Factors of Awakening address each aspect of practice necessary.
The Five Faculties and powers are the mental faculties to develop and maintain.
The Four Right Efforts purify the mind.

I don’t think there is a particular sequence, each needs to be understood, practiced, developed and perfected.

6 Likes

Greetings lavantien :slight_smile:

You may find the following topic useful.

The 37 Factors of Enlightenment - Bodhipakkhiya Dhamma

I’ve also found doing on-line sutta classes really helpful when planning to investigate a topic like this. Both Ajahn Brahmali and Bhikkhu Bodhi (as well as many others) have extensive recorded sutta classes on you-tube. By using the suttas listed by @Erik_ODonnell in the linked topic, one can search for the specific online resources. There may even be links to these in the AV category here on the forum.

In particular, the recordings of sutta retreats and series’ of classes are great for in-depth study.

The 37 awakening factors - a pretty fabulous focus for a few months!! Sadhu!

6 Likes

It is recommended to bypass the 37 factors and focus on the 7 factors of awakening as the latter is an important peak component of the mainstram teaching and will enable one to begin to understand how the other groupings relate to each other and fit together. ‘Peak component’ (the Buddha described the 7 factors as the rafters of the roof of a peaked house in SN 46.7) means that the structures of Anapanasati and the four foundations of mindfulness support the development of the 7 factors of awakening, and this relationship is set out in the Anapanasati sutta MN 118, where mindfulness of breathing (Part A) leads to the four foundations of mindfulness (Part B), which in turn leads to the development of the 7 factors of awakening (Part C).

The four tetrads correspond to the four foundations of mindfulness (body, feelings, and mind), so it is easily understood how meditation on the breath constitutes elementary exercises which are expanded in the four foundations of mindfulness.

The 7 factors of awakening are in fact a dynamic system which requires mindfulness in order to be set in motion. This energy is why the Buddha recommended they be taught to sick people (SN 46.14). It can be seen that of the remaining 6 factors, three side with energy and three with calm, and for the dynamic to be set in motion, there needs to be balance between those two groups, the first three relating to insight and the last three to serenity, the former of the element fire, the latter of water:

“Now, on any occasion when the mind is restless, that is the wrong time to develop analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, persistence as a factor for awakening, rapture as a factor for awakening. Why is that? The restless mind is hard to still with those mental qualities. Just as if a man, wanting to put out a large fire, were to place dry grass in it, dry cow dung, & dry sticks; were to blow on it with his mouth and not smother it with dust. Is it possible that he would put it out?” etc.—SN 46.53

So it depends on one’s mind state which group of factors can be developed at a particular time, and that requires mindfulness of the state of mind, the third foundation.

When the 7 factors of awakening are mentioned in the suttas, it is often in opposition to the 5 hindrances. This is set out in the Satipatthana sutta proper (DN 10, MN 22) in the fourth foundation, and also in SN 46.51 where practical instructions are given on how to feed the 7 factors of enlightenment and starve the 5 hindrances.

3 Likes

Hi lavantien,

Much gladness and appreciation for your good intention to make excellent use of your upcoming 3 months free time.

My understanding is that we don’t try to take up all 37 Bodhipakkhiya Dhamma as a practice. The number 37 is a sum of all the factors found in the 7 practices grouped within the list. You can see there is some overlap among factors; energy or effort appears in each [correction: most] of the 7. That’s because each of the 7 is a complete practice in itself, enough to attain liberation.

The point of mastering all 7 would be to help others and pass the Buddha’s teachings down to future generations.

This perspective is supported by the story of the last time that the Buddha talked about the 7 lists (totalling 37 factors). He advised that the monks should,

“practice, develop and make a lot of them, so that the spiritual life may last long, and may endure for a long time, and that will be for the benefit of many people, for the happiness of many people, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, benefit, and happiness of divinities and men” SuttaCentral

It was a solemn, weighty occasion, for the Buddha then 1st publicly announced his intention to pass away into parinibbana, hence the focus on passing along his teachings.

(Minor edit & a correction)

6 Likes

Hi @lavantien, I was lucky enough to attend a Sutta retreat given by Ajahn Brahmali on the 37 Wings to Awakening in 2019. It was a great experience. If you have retreat time coming up this could be good for you. The audio is in this list here, part 3,

There are also videos on the bswa YouTube channel but I found it difficult to find all the videos - doesn’t seem to be a playlist so you have to search for each one. Here’s the first

7 Likes

Someone collected them all :smiley:

[Edit: to see all the talks from Ajahn Brahmali’s retreat, click the little 3-line sandwich w/arrow in upper right-hand corner.]

6 Likes

It is a really great series. Highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to watch it yet :smiley:

Be warned… they get addictive :rofl:

Also for those with low band-width, the series of audio only uploads are linked above, in Ven Akalikos post and also here via the BSWA website.

Added:

This link includes the sutta booklet, that is used as the basis for the retreat. A treasure trove in itself, that you can download :slight_smile:

4 Likes

Just some general observations that might be useful. The factors seem to be all about training the mind. Like training a batsman in cricket. There are so many components that make a good batsman. It up to the batsman himself or the couches to understand the deficiencies and train in them. The different components are not necessarily separate. For example training in footwork means there is a parallel development coordination, strength, timing etc. They all come together in the final match.

3 Likes