I believe I would not be wrong in saying that in Buddhism the Seven factors
of Enlightenment are typically seen as the means or conditions of enlightenment
(nibbana/nirvana). The question really is how does one cultivate them? From
reading the suttas on meditation in the Pali canon it seems clear that the
seven factors of enlightenment emerge as a consequence of the practice of
1) Wisdom (panna/prajna) is often spoken of as cultivated through study and
reflection of the teachings of the Buddha which are recorded in the Sutta/Sutra
Pitaka, and the giving rise to insight (vipassana/vipashana). It is the
insight component that is the abstract quality of wisdom (panna/prajna) that
requires a contemplative practice to cultivate.
I believe insight (vipassana/vipashana) is too often interpreted as an
intellectual activity in which one reflects upon the "three marks" which are the
inherent dissatisfaction (dukkha) of sensory objects, because they are
impermanent (anicca), and we thus cling to them through self identification and
objectification (anatta). But, since there is no evidence in the suttas (sutras) that
the historic Buddha taught a meditation technique called "vipassana" and that
vipassana means 'insight,' then I believe it is clear that insight
(vipassana) is an attainment acquired through the contemplative practice regimen the
Buddha taught, which was mindfulness (Sati).
2) Energy (viriya) literally means virility, and it is often interpreted as
'energy' or 'enthusiasm' for the practice. However, since various charismatic
phenomena are characteristic of almost every mystic regardless of their
cultural context, and the term currently in use for that range of phenomena is
'kundalini,' then I believe it is reasonable to translate 'viriya' as 'kundalini.'
3) Tranquillity (passaddhi) is a place in which the thought processes of the
mind have come to rest, and the subject experiences a peaceful and relaxed
state of mind. From the suttas/sutras we know tranquillity (passaddhi) is a prod
uct of the third stage of absorption (jhana), and it seems to only be
associated with the absorptions, therefore I believe it is reasonable to say
absorption (jhana) cannot be avoided for one who seeks tranquillity.
4) Mindfulness (sati) is cultivated through the practice of meditation and
concentration techniques. The Buddha described a suite of such techniques and
they are recorded in three suttas, the Anapanasati sutta, the Satipatthana
sutta and the Maha-satipatthana sutta, please see below for their URLs.
5) Equanimity (upekkha) is a subjective state or condition in which there is
no longer a reaction in the mind of either 'pleasant' or 'unpleasant' to any
sensory experience. At this point all sensory phenomena are accepted as is on
face value. This state or condition is a product of the 4th stage of material
absorption, therefore it seems reasonable to say absorption (jhana) cannot be
avoided for one who seeks equanimity.
6) Ecstasy or bliss (piiti) is a state or condition of physical pleasure that
is not "born of sense contact," or due to sensory stimulation. This state is
typically a product of absorption, therefore it seems reasonable to say
absorption (jhana) cannot be avoided for one who seeks bliss or ecstasy.
7) Absorption (samadhi or jhana) is a subjective state or condition in which
the cognitive processes are under a relative degree of suspension. Under this
condition the six above properties are characteristic manifestations,
therefore it seems reasonable to say absorption (jhana) cannot be avoided for one who
seeks the seven conditions that support enlightenment.
The Seven factors of Enlightenment (bojjhanga, sambojjhanaga DN 22.16, n.689,
1) Wisdom panna
2) Energy (kundalini) viriya
3) Tranquillity passaddhi
4) Awareness (mindfulness) sati
5) Equanimity upekkha
6) Ecstasy or bliss (Rapture) piiti
7) Absorption samadhi
If you have not read the Buddha's three discourses on meditation (Sati),
Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translations of them are available online at these URLs:
Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118)
Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10)
Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN. 22)
I have rendered a few improvements in the translations of these suttas and
they are also available online at the Jhana Support Group at this URL: