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37 Constituents of Enlightenment

28/06/202008:48(Xem: 554)
37 Constituents of Enlightenment

duc the ton 3b

(37 Constituents of Enlightenment)

(An essay)

Ven. Balangoda Anandamaitreya

What we conventionally call ‘mind’ is not an unchanging entity but a stream of various kinds of consciousness going forward rising and vanishing, successively. Each and every consciousness of this mind-stream is associated with a number of mental characteristics or mental properties which are termed ‘Cetasikas’ in Pali. Some of those mentals are beautiful or wholesome, some are unwholesome (bad) or ugly and some others are neither good nor bad but neutral and imitating the good or bad mentals they associate with.

A consciousness which arises together with unwholesome or bad qualities like anger, jealously and the like is called unwholesome consciousness (akusala-citta); and that which arises together with kindness, compassion and the like is called wholesome consciousness (Kusala-citta). For details of the different types of consciousness one may read pages 12-72 of ‘A Manual of Abhidhamma’ by Ven. Narada.

Among the types of wholesome consciousness (Kusala-cittas), some deal with the objects (arammana) of the Sense-sphere (Kama-loka) and they are called Kamavacara-cittas (consciousness as experiences in the Sense-sphere).

Some persons who are tired of sensual pleasures, with a view to get out of Sense-sphere and to be born into subtle material sphere, develop a kind of concentration suppressing the desire for sensuality, anger and such other unwholesome states of mind and attain to a level of mental state called Jhana (Absorption). After death they will be reborn into a subtle material realm which is called Rupa-loka in Pali.

Still some others who are tired of the life in the Rupa-loka level, practise a kind of meditation suppressing the desire for entire material existence and rise up to a mental level at which they may be able to remain as pure mental beings with no material support at all. But when the force of will they have developed to exist in that state is exhausted, they will come back to a life where there is a physical support. The afore-mentioned pure mental sphere is called Arupa-loka in Pali.

The types of consciousness belonging to the afore-said three spheres or levels are all mundane or worldly and the existence in all those three levels are subject to change, decay and death.

Some persons who see and understand the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality (anattata) of the existence of this threefold world, expect to get out of them and to attain supramundane peace and try to tread a path that leads to expected Goal. The eternal Peace they expect to attain is called Nibbana in Buddhist terminology. This state of Nibbana is achieved by means of full realization of the nature of the world and that beyond the world, in other words, by realization of Four Great Truths or Full Enlightenment (Bodhi).

The virtues a man practises with a view to achieve any kind of welfare in any of the three spheres of the world are called mundane good karmas (lokiya-kusala-kammas). They do not side with the path that leads to Enlightenment.

The Path to Enlightenment (Bodhi) consists of three grades of practices namely, Sila (building of morally good character), Samadhi (control of mind) and vipassana (development of insight or looking into one’s own life and the life of others, investigating them and realizing what they really are).

When a person practises vipassana properly, he is always mindful and keeps his mind under control.

The meditator tries to understand the thing he calls “I”. He analyses himself mentally and sees what he calls “I” is nothing but mind and body. He examines his body thoroughly and finds at last it is a collection of ever changing material states and understands that all those material states are impermanent (anicca), and continually rising and vanishing with no rest at all, thus restless (dukkha) and lacking any unchanging substance (anatta). After perceiving and the three signata of the physical side of his life he turns towards his ‘mind’. When he keenly examines his mind he perceives mental states rise and vanish, and that every thought or consciousness that arises falls away momentarily together with its allied mental states (cetasikas). Thus he perceives impermanence (anicca), restlessness (dukkha) and non-ego entity (anatta) of the mental side of his life.

By inference he sees the same nature of the lives of other beings.

When he practises Vipassana in this way, the types of consciousness and mental characteristics that arise in the moments of his understanding are naturally siding with the realization of the nature of life. In other words, they are siding with Bodhi (realization) and they are not inclined to the desire for existence in the world.

In a fight the soldiers who go forward to attack their enemies are counted as the heroes of the battle. Though there are with them the servants who supply food and other requisites for them the latter are not called heroes. Likewise in this spiritual fight against the ignorance and attachment to the world, only those mental characteristics (cetasikas) and consciousness in which they arise are counted as the “Constituents of Enlightenment (Bodhi-pakkhiyas)”.

They are all 14 mentals (Cetasikas-consciousness) in brief and in detail when counted with their subdivisions are numbered as 37 states, which are called 37 constituents of Enlightenment (Satta-timsa-Bodhi-pakkhiya-dhammas).

14 Nama-dhammas (mentals) and their 37 subdivisions known as Bodhi-pakkhiyas (Constituents of Gnosis) are as follows:

i.               citta (consciousness in vipassana-javana) – cittiddhipada (impulsive consciousness as basis of success in practice)


ii.              chanda (desire to practise) – chandiddhipada (desire for practice as basis for success)



iii.            ekaggata (one-pointedness of mind) (of 4 divisions) – samadhindriya (one-pointedness as controlling faculty), Samadhi-bala (one-pointedness as a power to dispel mental defilements).
samadhi-sambojjhanga (one-pointedness as a factor in realizing truths).
samma-samadhi (right concentration as an action of fixing mind and all its states on the object of vipassana meditation).


iv.             viriya (effort of 9 subdivisions) – 4 Sammappadhanas (effort to prevent unrisen defilements, effort to dispel already arisen defilements, effort to produce wholesome states of mind, effort to develop already arisen wholesome states), viriyiddhipada (effort being a basis of success in vipassana-practice), viriyinfirya (effort as a controlling faculty in vipassana practice), viriyabala (effort to drive away opposing unwholesome states), viriya-sam-bojjhanga (effort as an encouraging factor in Realization of truths), sammavayama (effort as a factor pushing forward at every step of practice or treading the path).

v.              vitakka (shifting the mind on the object of vipassana) – Sammasankappa (Right thinking)


vi.             piti (joy, zest) – piti-sambojjhanga (zest or joy as an encouraging factor of the action of realizing truths)



vii.           saddha (self – confidence, confidence in the Buddha or in meditation teacher)
2 kinds – saddhindriya (confidence as a controlling faculty), saddha-bala (confidence as a power in dispelling opposing unwholesome states)


viii.          sati (mindfulness working in 8 ways) – satindirya (mindfulness as a controlling faculty), sati-bala (mindfulness as a power that dispels opposing unwholesome states) sati-smabojjhanga (mindfulness as a factor in helping the realization of truths), sammasati (right mindfulness as a step on the path of practice), four sati-patthanas (mindfulness developed in four ways in discerning the physical body, feelings, different types of consciousness that rise at every step of practice, and mental formations or ideas)


ix.             virati – Samma-vaca (abstention from wrong speech)


x.              virati – Samma-kammanata (abstention from wrong actions)


xi.             virati – Samma-ajiva (abstention from wrong livelihood)


xii.           passaddhi (tranquillity) – passaddhi-sambojjhanga (tranquillity of mind as a factor of realization of truths)


xiii.          panna (reasoning, insight, understanding, wisdom) working in five ways
samma-ditthi (right views as to the nature of mind-matter-flow or right view of four truths), vismamsiddhipada (investigation as a basis of success in vipassana), pannindriya (insight as the controlling faculty in perceiving truths), panna-bala (insight and reasoning faculty as power in dispelling opposing unwholesome states or akusalas)


xiv.          tatramajjhatthata (equanimity) – Upekkha-sambojjhanga (balance of mind and mental states as a factor of mind in realization of truths)



  1. citta – cittiddhipada
  2. chanda – chandiddhipada
  3. ekaggata – samadhindriya
  4. viriya – 4 sammappadhanas, viriyiddhipada, viriyindriya, viriya-bala, viriya-sambojjhanga, sammavayama
  5. vittaka – sammasankappa
  6. piti – piti-sambojjhanga
  7. saddha – saddhindriya, saddha-bala
  8. sati – satindriya, sati-bala, sati-sambojjhanga, sammasati, four satipatthanas
  9. virati – samma-vaca, samma-kammanta, samma-ajiva
  10. passadhi – passaddhi-sambojjhanga
  11. panna – sammaditthi, vimamsiddhipada, pannindriya, panna-bala, dhammavicaya-sambojjhanga
  12. tatramajjhatthata – upekkha-sambojjhanga

Here is the list of 37 factor of Gnosis (Bodhi-pakkhiya-dhammas) as given in the Texts:

Cattaro Satipatthana – Four Ways of mindfulness

Cattaro Sammappadhana – Four kinds of Right efforts

Cattaro Iddhi-pada – Four Bases or Supports of the success in practice

Panca Indriyani – Five Mental Faculties

Panca Balani – Five Mental Powers

Satta Bojjhanga – Seven Factors of Enlightenment

Attha Magganga – Eight Factors of the Path

Satta-timsa Bodhi-Pakkhiya-Dhamma – 37 constituents of Enlightenment (Gnosis)



Cattaro Satipatthana, Kayanupassana, Vedananupassana, Cittanupassana, Dhammanupassana

Four ways of the development of Mindfulness: Development of mindfulness with regard to the body, feelings, types of consciousness that arise at every moment, and the mental staes and ideas that arise in mind at every moment.

Cattaro Sammappadhana: Uppannanam akusalanam dhammanam pahanaya vayamo, Anuppannanam akusalanam dhammanam anuppadaya vayamo, Anuppannanamm kusalanam Dhammanam uppadaya vayamo, Uppannanam kusalanam dhammanam bhiyyobhavaya vayamo.

Four kinds of Right Effort: Effort to reject or overcome unwholesome states of mind that have already arisen; Effort to avoid the arising of unwholesome states; Efforts to arouse the wholesome states rising in mind; Effort to develop the wholesome states already arisen in mind.

Cattaro Iddhi-pada: Chandiddhipado, Viriyiddhipado, Cittiddhipado, Vimamsiddhipado.

Four bases of success in attaining to full Realization: Excessive desire for completing the practice as a basis; Effort for completing the practice as a basis of success; Consciousness wholly devoted to complete the practice as a bases; Investigation (one aspect of reasoning faculty) as a bsis of completing the practice.

Panca indriyani: Saddhindriyam, Viriyindriyam, Satindriyam, Samadhindriyam, Pannindriyam.

Five Controlling or ruling faculties among mental states which influence all other mentals at the practice and at the realization of truths as well: Controlling faculty of confidence, Controlling faculty of Effort or Energy, Controlling faculty of Mindfulness, Controlling faculty of Concentration and Controlling faculty of Insight.

Panca Balani: Saddha-balam, Viriyabalam, Sati-balam, Samadhi-balam, Panna-balam.

Five Mental Powers which oppose and dispel the opposing unwholesome Confidence, as a power of mind, Effort as a power of mind, Mindfulness as a power of mind, Concentration as a power of mind, and Insight (or full understanding) as a power of mind

Satta Bojjhanga: Sati-sambojjhango, Dhamma-vica-ya sambojjhango, Viriya-sambojjhango, Piti-sambojjhango, Passaddhi-sambojjhango, Samadhi-sambojjhango-Upekkha-sambojjhango.

Seven Factors of Enlightenment: Mindfulness, Investigation of all states mental and physical and also those that lead to Realization, Supreme Effort, Joy at the Realization of Truths. Tranquillity that accompanies the Insight-knowledge, Concentration that accompanies the Insight-knowledge, The Mental Equipoise.

Attha Magganga: Samma-ditthi, Samma-sankappo, Samma-vaca, Samma-kammanto Samma-ajivo, Samma-vayamo Sama-sati, samma-samadhi.

Eight Factors of the Path: Right Understanding, Right Thinking, Right Speech (abstention from wrong speech), Right Action (abstention from wrong actions), Right Livelihood (abstention from wrong Livelihood), Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration)

Two ways of the Development of 37 constituents of Enlightenment

The whole Buddhist Practice is divided into seven stages called “Seven Stages of Purification” (Satta-Visuddhiyo), namely Sila visuddhi (self purification through building perfectly good moral character), Citta-visuddhi (purification of mind through suppression of mental defilements by means of concentration), Ditthi-visuddhi (purification of view attained by means of analysing bodily and mental states, Kankha-vitarana-visuddhi (self purification attained by clearing doubts about the causes and condition through investigation of the rising and vanishing natures of mental and physical states of one’s life), Magga-Magga-nana-dassana-visuddhi (purification of knowledge which discriminates between right and wrong ways at the attainment of some psychic powers which would deceive the Vipassana-meditator to wrongly think that he has attained Arahantship). Patipada-nana-dassana-visuddhi (purification of self-knowledge through the development of nine kinds of insights), Nana-dassna-vissuddhi (Full purification of knowledge or attainment to Perfection of Wisdom gradually eliminating mental defilements which occur at four stages, namely Stream-entry (Sotapatti), once-returnership (Sakadagami) Non-returnership (Anagami) and Perfection (Arahantship).

Now, according to the afore-given explanation there are Seven stages of purification, which is the whole practical Buddhism or the Path to Freedom from Suffering as shown by the Lord Buddha. The afore-mentioned 37 constituents or factors of Self-enlightenment (Bodhi-pakkhiya-dhammas) which arise in the thought-stream at the first six stages of Purification are called Mundane (lokiya) as the thought-stream in these practices deal with the conditioned states (i.e. mind and matter), trying to realize their innate characteristics such as impermanence (anicca-lakkhana), unsatisfactoriness or restlessness (dukkha-lakkhana) and non-ego-entity (anatta-lakkhana).

At the seventh stage (the last stage) of Purification, as it has opened the mind’s eye to see both the sides namely conditioned states (i.e. the world) and the unconditioned (i.e. Nirvana), the Impulsive (javana) consciousness fixes itself fully for the first time on Nirvana. Thus the thought-stream gets over or surpasses the worldly stage and rises upon the Supra-mundane level (Lokuttara or Ariya level). On the four occasions (of stream-entry, Once-returnership, non-returnership, and arahantship at last) mind (or impulsive consciousness) gradually eliminates mental defilements from mind. The Purification of knowledge or insight that occurs in these four occasions is called Nanana-dassana-visuddhi (Purification of insight and vision) and this one is on the supramundane level and the 37 constituents that arise in these four kinds of Supramundane Consciousness are called Supramundane 37 constituents of Enlightenment (Lokuttara-Bodhipakkhiya-dhamma), which arise together in each of the four Supramundane Kusala-consciousness. The four types of this supramundane consciousness are called Magga-cittas (Path-consciousness).

Nine kinds of insight which form into the knowledge of the purification of the knowledge of the way are called Nava Maha-vipassana-nanas (nine great stages of the development of insight) they are as follows:

Udaya-nana – insight which perceives the rise of the material and mental states every instant.

Vaya-nana – insight which sees passing away of all mental and material states immediately after they arise

Bhanga-nana – insight which perceives the momentary dissolution of material states

Bhaya-nana – insight which perceives the momentary dissolution of material and mental states as a fear and danger

Adinava-nana – insight which sees the vanity, uselessness and wretchedness of the continuity of material and mental states which are subject to momentary rise and dissolution

Nibbida-nana – insight which perceives and feels tired of and disgusted with the material and mental states so fearful

Mucnitukamyata-nana – insight which perceives and wills to get rid of material and mental states which are subject to such momentary death

Patisankhanupassana-nana – insight which perceives impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and absence of any ego-entity to be the innate nature of all conditioned things

Sankharupekkha-nana – insight which perfectly perceives the exact nature of conditioned things and thereby feels indifferent and balanced in mind

Next to the ninth Insight (Sankharupekkha-nana) the meditator gets to the insight which sees nibbana hazily and gest over the worldly lineage (Gotrabhu-nana), which is followed by the stage of Stream-entry. For details, see page 420 Nos. 44-48 in “A Manual of Abhidhamma” by Ven. Narada.



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