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Requisites of Enlightenment

Venerable Ledi Sayadaw


The Requisites of Enlightenment

I shall now concisely show the thirty-seven Bodhi-pakkhiya-dhammas, the Requisites of Enlightenment, which should be practised with energy and determination by those persons who wish to cultivate Tranquillity and Insight and thus make worthwhile the rare opportunity of rebirth as a human being within the present Buddha Sàsana.

The Bodhipakkhiya dhammas consist of seven groups, namely:

1. Satipatthàna, Foundations of Mindfulness (4 factors)
2. Sammappadhàna, Right Efforts (4 factors)
3. Iddhipàda, Bases of Success (4 factors)
4. Indriya, Controlling Faculties (5 factors)
5. Bala, Mental Powers (5 factors)
6. Bojjhanga, Factors of Enlightenment (7 factors)
7. Magganga, Path Factors (8 factors)
(totalling 37 factors).

The bodhipakkhiya-dhamma are so called because they form part (pakkhiya) of Enlightenment or Awakening (bodhi) which here refers to the Knowledge of the Holy Paths (magga-nàna). They are dhammas (mental pheno-mena) with the function of being proximate causes (padatthàna), requisite ingredients (sambhàra) and bases, or sufficient conditions (upanissaya) of Path Knowledge (magga-nàna).



The Foundations of Mindfulness

The word satipatthàna is defined as follows:

Bhusam titthatì'ti patthànam; sati eva patthànam satipatthànam.

This means: What is firmly established is a "foundation"; mindfulness itself is such a foundation.

There are four Foundations of Mindfulness:

1. Kàyànupassanà-satipatthàna (Contemplation of the body as a Foundation of Mindfulness).
2. Vedanànupassanà-satipatthàna (Contemplation of Feelings as a Foundation of Mindfulness).
3. Cittànupassanà-satipatthàna (Contemplation of the Mind as a Foundation of Mindfulness).
4. Dhammànupassanà-satipatthàna (Contemplation of Mind-objects as a Foundation of Mindfulness).

1. Kàyànupassanà-satipatthàna means mindfulness which is firmly established on bodily phenomena, such as inhalation and exhalation.

2. Vedanànupassanà-satipatthàna means mindfulness which is firmly established on feelings (sensations).

3. Cittànupassanà-satipatthàna means mindfulness which is firmly established on thoughts or mental processes, such as thoughts associated with passions or dissociated from passions.

4. Dhammànupassanà-satipatthàna means mindfulness which is firmly established on phenomena such as the Hindrances (nìvarana), etc...

Of the four, if mindfulness or attention is firmly established on a part of the body, such as on out-breath and in-breath, it is tantamount to attention being firmly established on all things. This is because the ability to place one's attention on any object at one's will has been acquired.

"Firmly established" means, if one desires to place the attention on out-breath and in-breath for an hour, one's attention remains firmly fixed on it for that period. If one wishes to do so for two hours, one's attention remains firmly fixed on it for two hours. There is no occasion when the attention becomes released from its object on account of the instability of thought-conception (vitakka).

For a detailed account of the satipatthàna, see the Satipatthàna Sutta [1].

Why is it incumbent on us to firmly establish the mind without fail on any object such as the out-breath and the in-breath? It is because it is necessary for us to gather and control the six types of consciousness (vinnàna) [2], which have been drifting tempestuously and untrained throughout the past inconceivably long and beginningless samsàra (round of rebirths).

I shall make it clearer. The mind is wont to flit about from one to another of the six objects of the senses which lie at the approaches of the six sense-doors [3]

As an example, take the case of a mad man who has no control over his mind. He does not even know the meal-time, and wanders about aimlessly from place to place. His parents look for him and give him his meal. After eating five or six morsels of food he overturns the dish and walks away. He thus fails to get a square meal. To this extent he has lost control of his mind. He cannot control his mind even to the extent of finishing the business of a meal. In talking, he cannot control his mind to the extent of finishing or completing a sentence. The beginning, the middle, and the end do not agree with one another. His talk has no meaning. He cannot be of use in any undertaking in this world. He is unable to perform any task. Such a person can no longer be classed as a human being, and he has to be ignored.

This mad man becomes a sane and normal person again, if he meets a good doctor and the doctor applies stringent methods of cure. Thus cured he obtains control of his mind in the matter of taking his meals, and can now eat his fill. He has control over his mind in all other matters as well. He can perform his tasks till they are completed, just like others. Just like others, he can also complete his sentences. This is the example.

In this world, persons who are not insane but who are normal and have control over their minds, resemble such a mad person having no control over his mind, when it comes to the matter of samatha and vipassanà. Just as the mad man upsets the food dish and walks away after five or six morsels of food although he attempts to eat his meal, these normally sane persons find their attention wandering because they have no control over their minds. Whenever they pay respects to the Buddha and contemplate His noble qualities, they do not succeed in keeping their minds fixed on those noble qualities, but find their attention being diverted many times on to other objects of thought, and thus they even fail to reach the end of "Iti pi so" (a devotional text, beginning with these words, i.e. "Thus indeed is this Exalted One...").

It is as if a man suffering from hydrophobia who seeks water feverishly with parched lips, yet runs away from it with fear when he sees a lake of cool refreshing water.

It is also like a diseased man who when given a diet of relishing food replete with medicinal qualities, finds the food bitter to his taste and unable to swallow it, is obliged to spit and vomit it out. In just the same way, these persons find themselves unable to approach the contemplation of the noble qualities of the Buddha effectively, and cannot keep on dwelling on them.

If in reciting the "Iti pi so" their recitation is interrupted every time their minds wander, and if they have to start afresh from the beginning every time such an interruption occurs, they will never reach the end of the text even though they keep on reciting a whole day, or a whole month, or a whole year. At present they manage to reach the end because they can keep on reciting from memory even though their minds wander elsewhere. In the same way, those persons who, on uposatha days, plan to go to quiet places in order to contemplate the thirty-two parts of the body, such as kesà (hairs of the head), lomà (hairs of the body), etc... or the noble qualities of the Buddha, ultimately end up in the company of friends and associates, because they have no control over their minds, and because of the upheavals in their thoughts and intentions. When they take part in congregational recitations, although they attempt to direct their minds to the samatha (Tranquillity) work of the brahma-vihàras (Sublime States) [4], such as reciting the formula for diffusing mettà (Loving-kindness), because they have no control over their minds, their thoughts are not concentrated but are scattered aimlessly, and they end up only with the external manifestation of the recitation. These facts are sufficient to show how many persons resemble the insane while performing kusala kammas (merits).

"Pàpasmim ramate mano" (The mind takes delight in evil, Dhp. 116).

Just as water naturally flows down from high places to low places, the minds of beings, if left uncontrolled, naturally approach evil. This is the tendency of the mind.

I shall now draw, with examples, a comparison between those who exercise no control over their minds and the insane person mentioned above.

There is a river with a swift current. A boatman not conversant with the control of the rudder, floats down the river with the current. His boat is loaded with valuable merchandise for trading and selling at the towns on the lower reaches of the river. As he floats down, he passes stretches of the river lined with mountains and forests where there are no harbours or anchorages for his boat. He thus continues to float down without stopping. When night descends, he passes towns and villages with harbours and anchorages, but he does not see them in the darkness of the night, and thus he continues to float without stopping. When daylight arrives, he comes to places with towns and villages, but not having any control over the rudder of the boat, he cannot steer it to the harbours and anchorages, and thus perforce he continues to float down until he reaches the great wide ocean.

The infinitely lengthy samsàra (round of rebirths) is like the swift-flowing river. Beings having no control over their minds are like the boatman who is unable to steer his boat. The mind is like the boat. Beings who have drifted from one existence to another in the "sunna" world-cycles, where no Buddha Sàsanas appear, are like the boatman drifting down those stretches of the river lined by mountains and forests, where there are no harbours and anchorages. When at times these beings are born in world-cycles where Buddha Sàsanas flourish, but are in ignorance of them because they happen to be in one or other of the eight atthakkhanas (inopportune situations), they resemble the boatman who floats down stretches of the river lined by towns and villages with harbours and anchorages, but does not see them because it is night. When, at other times. they are born as human beings, devas or Brahmas, within a Buddha Sàsana, but fail to secure the Paths and the Fruits because they are unable to control their minds and put forth effort to practise vipassanà (Insight) exercises of the satipatthànas (the four Foundations of Mindfulness) thus continuing still to drift in samsàra, they resemble the boatman who sees the banks lined by towns and villages with harbours and anchorages, but is unable to steer towards them because of his inability to control the rudder, and thus continues perforce to drift down towards the ocean. In the infinitely lengthy samsàra, those beings who have obtained release from worldly ills within the Sàsanas of the Buddhas who have appeared, whose numbers exceed the grains of sand on the banks of the river Ganges, are beings who had control over their Minds and who possessed the ability of retaining their attention on any desired object at will through the practice of the satipatthànas.

This shows the trend of the wandering, or "course of existence", of those beings who do not practise the satipatthànas, even though they are aware of the fact that they have no control over their minds when it comes to the practice of samatha and vipassanà (Tranquillity and Insight).

Comparisons may also be made with the taming and training of bullocks for the purpose of yoking to ploughs and carts, and to the taming and training of elephants for employment in the service of the king, or on battlefields.

In the case of the bullock, the young calf has to be regularly herded and kept in a cattle-pen, then a nose-rope is passed through its nostrils and it is tied to a post and trained to respond to the rope's control. It is then trained to submit to the yoke, and only when it becomes amenable to the yoke's burden is it put to use for ploughing and drawing carts and thus effectively employed to trade and profit. This is the example of the bullock.

In this example, just as the owner's profit and success depends on the employment of the bullock in the drawing of ploughs and carts after training it to become amenable to the yoke, so do the true benefit of lay persons and bhikkhus within the present Sàsana depends on training in samatha and vipassanà (Tranquillity and Insight).

In the present Buddha Sàsana, the practise of sìlavisuddhi (Purification of Virtue) resembles the training of the young calf by herding it and keeping it in cattle-pens. Just as, if the young calf is not so herded and kept in cattlepens, it would damage and destroy the properties of others and thus bring liability on the owner, so, if a person lacks sìla-visuddhi, the three kammas [5] would run riot, and the person concerned would become subject to worldly evils and to the evil results indicated in the Dhamma.

The effort to develop kàyagatà satipatthàna [6] resembles the passing of the nose-rope through the nostrils and training the calf to respond to the rope after tying it to a post. Just as when a calf is tied to a post it can be kept wherever the owner desires it to be, and it cannot run loose, so when the mind is tied to the body with the rope of satipatthàna, that mind cannot wander but is obliged to remain wherever the owner desires it to be. The habits of a disturbed and distracted mind acquired during the inconceivably long samsàra, become appeased.

A person who performs the practice of samatha and vipassanà without first attempting Body-Contemplation, resembles the owner who yokes the still untamed bullock to the cart or plough without the nose-rope. Such an owner would find himself unable to drive the bullock at his desire. Because the bullock is wild, and because it has no nose-rope, it will either try to run off the road, or try to break loose by breaking the yoke.

On the other hand, a person who first tranquillises and trains his mind with Body-Contemplation before turning his mind to the practice of samatha and vipassanà (Tranquillity and Insight), his attention will remain steady and his work will be successful.

In the case of the elephant, the wild elephant has first to be brought out from the forest into the field hitched on to a tame trained elephant. Thence it is taken to stockade and tied up securely until it is tame. When it thus becomes absolutely tame and quiet, it is trained in the various kinds of work in which it will be employed in the service of the king. It is only then that it is used in state functions and on battle-fields. The realm of sensual pleasures resemble the forest where the wild elephant enjoys himself. The Buddha Sàsana resembles the open field into which the wild elephant is first brought out. The mind resembles the wild elephant. Faith (saddhà) and desire (chanda) in the sàsana-dhamma resemble the tame elephant to which the wild elephant is hitched and brought out into the open. Sìla-visuddhi (Purification of Virtue) resembles the stockade. The body, or parts of the body, such as out-breath and in-breath resemble the post in the stockade to which the elephant is tied. Kàyagatàsati [7] resembles the rope by which the wild elephant is tied to the post. The preparatory work towards samatha and vipassanà resembles the preparatory training of the elephant. The work of samatha and vipassanà resembles the parade ground or battlefield of the king.

Other points of comparison can now be easily recognised.

Thus have I shown by the examples of the mad man, the boatman, the bullock, and the elephant, the main points of Body Contemplation, which is by ancient tradition the first step that has to be undertaken in the work of proceeding upwards from sìla-visuddhi within the Sàsanas of all the Buddhas who have appeared in the past inconceivably long samsàra.

The essential meaning is, whether it be by out-breathing and in-breathing, or by iriyàpatha (four postures -- going, standing, sitting, lying) or by sampajanna (clear comprehension) or by dhàtu-manasikàra (advertence of mind on the elements), or by atthika-sannà (contemplation of bones), one must put forth effort in order to acquire the ability of placing one's attention on one's body and its postures for as long as one wishes throughout the day and night at all waking hours. If one can keep one's attention fixed for as long as one wishes, then mastery has been obtained over one's mind. Thus does one attain release from the state of a mad man. One now resembles the boatman who has obtained mastery over his rudder, or the owner of the tamed and trained bullock, or the king who employs the tamed and trained elephant. There are many kinds, and many grades, of mastery over the mind. The successful practice of Body Contemplation is, in the Buddha Sàsana, the first stage of mastery over one's mind.

Those who do not wish to follow the way of samatha (Tranquillity), but desire to pursue the path of pure vipassanà (Insight) which is the way of the sukkha-vipassaka [8] individual, should proceed straight to vipassanà after the successful establishment of Body Contemplation.

If they do not want to practise Body Contemplation separately and if they mean to practise Insight with such industry that it may carry kàyagatàsati with it, they will succeed, provided that they really have the necessary wisdom and industry. The Body Contemplation (kàyagatà-sati) that is associated with udayabbaya-nàna (Knowledge arising from contemplation of the arisings and vanishings of mental and physical phenomena, which clearly sees their coming into existence and passing away, is very valuable indeed.

In the samatha method, by practising the Body Contemplation of out-and in-breathing, one can attain up to rùpàvacara catuttha jhàna (the fourth Jhàna of the FormSphere); by practising vanna manasikàra [9] of the kàyagatà-sati of the thirty-two parts of the body, such as kesà (hair of the head), lomà (hair of the body), etc..., one can attain all the eight samàpattis [10]; and by practising patikkùla manasikàra [11] of the same Body Contemplation one can attain the first Jhàna. If vipassanà (Insight) is attained in the process, one also can attain the Paths and the Fruits.

Even if completion is not arrived at in the practice of samatha and vipassanà (Tranquillity and Insight), if the stage is reached where one attains control over one's mind and the ability to keep one's attention fixed on wherever one wishes it to be, it was said by the Buddha that such a one can be said to be one who enjoys the savour of amata nibbàna [12].

"Amatam tesam paribhuttam, yesam kàyagatà sati paribhuttà." [13]

"Those who enjoy mindful Body Contemplation (kàyagatàsati), enjoy the Deathless (Nibbàna)."

Here, amata (Nibbàna) means great peacefulness or tranquillity of mind. [14]

In its original natal state, the mind is highly unstable in its attentiveness, and thus is parched and hot in its nature. Just as the insects that live on capsicum are not aware of its heat, just as beings pursuing the realm of tanhà (Craving) are not aware of tanhà's heat, just as beings subject to anger and pride are not aware of the heat of pride and anger, so are beings unaware of the heat of unsettled minds. It is only when through kàyagatà-sati, the unsettled condition of their minds disappear, do they become aware of the heat of unsettled minds. Having attained the state of the disappearance of that heat, they develop a fear of a relapse to that heat. The case of those who have attained the first jhàna, or Knowledge of Rise and Fall (udayabbaya nàna), through Body Contemplation (kàyagatà satipatthàna), needs no elaboration.

Hence, the higher the attainments that one reaches, the more difficult does it become for one to be apart from kàyagate-sati. The ariya puggalas (Holy Ones) use the four satipatthànas as mental nutriment until they attain parinibbàna.

The ability to keep one's attention fixed on parts of the body, such as out-breath and in-breath, for one or two hours takes one to the culmination of one's work in 7 days, or 15 days, or a month, or 2 months, or 3 months, or 4 months, or 5 months, or 6 months or a year, or 2 years, or 4 years, according to the intensity of one's efforts.

For the method of practising out-breathing and inbreathing, see my "Ànàpàna Dìpanì" [15].

There are many books by past teachers on the method of the thirty-two parts of the body. In this method, kesà (hair of the head), lomà (hair of the body), nakhà (nails), dantà (teeth), taco (skin) are known as taca pancaka (Group ending with taco as the fifth). If attention can be firmly fixed on these five, the work of kàyagatàsati (Body Contemplation) is accomplished.

For catu dhàtu vavatthàna (Analysis of the Four Great Primaries), rùpa vipassanà (Contemplation of Physical Phenomena), and nàma-vipassanà (Contemplation of Mental Phenomena), see my "Lakkhana Dìpanì", "Vijjà-magga Dìpanì", "Ahàra Dìpanì", and "Anattà Dìpanì". [16]

Here ends a concise explanation of kàyagatàsati bhàvanà, which is one of the four satipatthànas, and which has to be established first in the work of bhàvanà (Mental Contemplaltion) by Neyya and Padaparama individuals for the purpose of attaining the Paths and the Fruits within a Buddha Sàsana.


[1] Translation in "The Wheel" No. 18. -- See also the Commentary to this Sutta in "The Way of Mindfulness", translation by Soma Thera. Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy).

[2] Eye-consciousness, ear-, nose-, tongue-, body-, and mindconsciousness.

[3] Eye-door, etc...

[4] The 4 Sublime States, namely, mettà (loving-kindness), karunà (compassion), mudità (altruistic joy), and upekkhà (equanimity). See The Wheel No. 6.

[5] The 10 fold unwholesome action:-

Kàyakamma -- 3 fold bodily action: killing, stealing, improper sexual intercourse;
Vacìkamma -- 4 fold verbal action: lying, slandering, rude speech, foolish babble;
Manokamma -- 3 fold mental action: avarice, ill-will, wrong views.

[6] Mindfulness with regard to the Body.

[7] Kàyagatàsati: "Mindful Contemplation directed on the Body." In the following called, for short, "Body Contemplation."

[8] One who practises Vipassanà (Insight) only.

[9] Attention to the colour or appearance, which is a part of the meditation of the 32 parts of the body.

[10] The 4 meditative Absorptions (jhàna) of the Form Sphere and the 4 of the Formless Sphere.

[11] Contemplation of Loathsomeness.

[12] The Deathless -- a term for Nibbàna.

[13] Anguttara-Nikàya, Ekaka-nipàta; tr. in "The Wheel", No.155/158, p. 6.

[14] This refers to kilesa-nibbàna, the "extinction of the defilements" during the life-time of the Arahant.

[15] Not available in English. -- See "Mindfulness of Breathing", by Nànamoli Thera (Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy).

[16] Not available in English translation.


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Vietnamese translation

Sincere thanks to Mr. Sunanda Pham Kim Khanh for supplying this electronic copy
(Binh Anson, 05-2002)

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updated: 11-05-2002