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Venerable Ledi Sayadaw
EIGHT PATH FACTORS
The eight factors or constituents of the Path are:
All these eight Path Factors are present in the "Supramundane Purification by Knowledge and Vision" (lokuttara-nànadassana-visuddhi). In the preceding mundane Purifications, Right Speech, Right Action and Right Liveli-hood are present only in the Purification of Virtue (sìla-visuddhi). They are not present in Purification of Mind (citta-visuddhi) and the rest.
Hence, in the context of the Requisites of Enlightenment (bodhipakkhiya-dhamma), Purification of Virtue (sìla-visuddhi) is of the nature "dependent on detachment" (viveka-nissita), etc., in accordance with the following text (from the Magganga Vibhanga):
"He develops Right Speech, dependent on detachment, dependent on absence of lust, dependent on cessation, culminating in relinquishment. He develops Right Action ... Right Livelihood, dependent on detachment..."
It does not refer to virtue (sìla) that has leanings towards happy forms of existence (bhava-sampatti) and depends on the round of rebirths (vatta-nissita). The sìla-visuddhi of those who have consciously given up attempts at attaining the Holy Paths and Fruits in this life, is not genuine àdibrahmacariyaka-sìla, "'Virtue belonging to the essence of the Holy Life", and thus is not of the genuine bodhipakkhiya class. If effort be made, however, towards the attainment of Nibbàna in the next life, it can be pàrami-sìla, which is part of vivattanissita sìla "Virtue tending towards the ending of the round of rebirths".
The Path factors of Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood are purely of the class of Morality (sìlakkhandha) and hence constitute genuine Perfection of Virtue. They are also called the three virati-cetasikà, mental factors of (vocal and bodily) abstention.
Right Thought (sammà-sankappa) is the mental factor "Thought-conception" (vitakka cetasika). As it is the harbinger of Wisdom, it is included in the Wisdom category (pannàkkhandha) of the Eightfold Path. It is threefold, namely: thoughts of renunciation, of non-hate and non-harming (nekkhamma-, abyàpàda-, and avihimsà-sankappa). Just as a person incarcerated in prison or besieged by enemy troops or encircled by forest fire, or as a fish caught in a net, tank or trap, or a bird caught in a cage, will be absorbed (without being able to sleep or eat) in the one thought how to escape from these confinements, so are the attempts of persons who contrive with energy of the sammappadhàna-type to escape from the confinement of the old and infinitely numerous, unwholesome kamma arisen in the past, (uppanna akusala kamma) and the new infinitely numerous "unwholesome kamma not yet arisen", (anuppanna akusala kamma) that is bound to arise in the future. The thoughts of such a person are the Path factor "Thoughts of Renunciation" (nekkhamma sankappa magganga). It is the sort of Thought (sankappa) which looks for the way to escape from the sufferings of the round of rebirths (vatta-dukkha).
The Thought that associates with Mettà Jhàna is called abyàpàda-sankappa,"'the thought of non-hate"; if associated with Karunà Jhàna it is called avihimsà-sankappa, "the thought of non-harming". The thought that associates with the remaining Jhànas is called "Thought of Renunciation".
The four Path Factors of Right View, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration have been dealt with in the Chapter on the Enlightenment Factors.
The àjìvatthamaka-sìla (see Note 2, page 12) that is taken and observed with the purpose of destroying the great kingdom of ditthi anusaya (proclivity to wrong views) belongs to the Path factors of the mundane Morality category (lokiya sìlakkhandha magganga). It is also Purification of Virtue.
That eightfold virtue ending with Right Livelihood (àjivatthamaka-sìla) is twofold: for layfolk and for monks. Abstention from the threefold evil conduct in deeds (kàya-duccarita) and fourfold in words (vacì-duccarita) comprise that virtue for layfolk. The eight or ten Precepts  are refinements of that virtue.
For monks, that Virtue is constituted by the observance of the 227 Vinaya rules, which cover bodily and vocal Kamma. The remaining rules laid down in the Vinaya Pitaka are refinements of it.
Just as trees grow in the soil, so the last six Purifications beginning with Purification of Mind, develop in the soil of the first, the Purification of Virtue (sìla-visuddhi). In particular, the Purification of Virtue does not mix with the five middle (Mundane) Purifications, but supports them by securing antecedent purity. In the case of the seventh Purification, the supramundane Purification of Knowledge and Vision, the Purification of Virtue operates in conjunction with it, being identical with the three constituents of the Morality Group (sìlakkhandha) of the (supramundane) Eightfold Path. The reason is that, in the case of the Purification of Virtue, the objects of attention are different from those of the five middle Purifications; but they are identical with those of the supramundane Purification, operating together with it as co-existent (saha-jàta).
This ends the explanation of the Sìla category of the Path Factors.
With reference to the Samàdhi category of the Path, there are two courses of action. Firstly, the way of one who practises pure Insight only (suddha-vipassanà-yànika). He, after fulfilling Purity of Virtue and setting up mindful Body Contemplation, does not follow the way of Tranquillity (samatha) but the way of Pure Insight such as Purification of View, etc. Secondly, there is the course of one who practises both Tranquillity and Insight (samatha-vipassanà-yànika). He, after attaining the first Jhàna etc., takes up the practice of Insight, by way of Purification of View, etc.
Of these two,
(1) in the practice of Pure Insight, the three Path Factors of the Concentration category (samàdhikkhandha) fulfill the functions of Tranquillity and Purification of Mind (citta-visuddhi), through the three kinds of Concentration known as Emptiness Concentration, Conditionless and Desireless Concentration.
(2) In the practice of Tranquillity followed by Insight, the three Path Factors of the Concentration category fulfill the functions of Tranquillity and Purification of Mind, by way of the three stages of Concentration, namely Preparatory Concentration (parikamma samàdhi), Access Concentration (upacàra-samàdhi) and Full Concentration (appanà-samàdhi); and thereafter, at the Insight stage, the above two functions are fulfilled by Emptiness Concentration, etc.
During the period of the preceding practice of Purity of Virtue and of mindful Body Contemplation, however, the three constituents of the Concentration category fulfil the functions of Momentary Concentration (khanika-samàdhi).
This ends the explanation of the Samàdhi category.
The two constituents of the Wisdom category fulfil the functions of Wisdom in the ways of both the practice of Pure Insight and that preceded by Tranquillity, after the setting up of the Purification of Virtue and of mindful Body Contemplation. These remarks apply to both the mundane and the supramundane Path Factors.
I shall now show the Path of Stream-entry (sotàpatti-magga) in the Supramundane Path Factors. It should be remembered that this book is aimed at the lowest of the stages of Sanctity, namely the "Bon-sin-san" sukkha-vipassaka sotàpanna (see Note 1, page 55). At the present time there are countless numbers of beings such as Visàkhà, Anàthapindika, Sakka the Ruler of Devas, the four Divine Great Kings (càtummahàràjika-deva) etc., who still continue to derive pleasure and ease within the round of rebirths, inhabiting their respective celestial abodes. They are beings who have before them seven more rebirths in the Sense-desire worlds (including the lower celestial worlds of the Sense Sphere) and one rebirth each in the six worlds on the level of the Fourth Jhàna or the Vehapphala Brahma worlds. The number of births in the Brahma worlds of the first, second and third Jhàna is undetermined.
Why are they called Stream-enterer (sotàpanna)? The five great rivers and the five hundred lesser ones that have their source in the Himalayas, do not flow up, but flow continuously down to the great ocean. Hence they are called sota (stream or current). Similarly, Noble Ones (ariya) do not fall back to the state of Worldlings (puthujjana) but proceed continuously (as ariyas) until they attain Anupàdisesa Nibbàna (where there is no remainder of the Aggregates of existence). In the case of the puthujjanas, although they may attain rebirth in the highest celestial worlds, they possess still the liability to be reborn in the lowest avìci hell. But in the case of Ariyas, wherever they may be reborn, they do not fall into the lower worlds of misery, but possess a continuous tendency of being reborn in a higher world. Though Worldlings may attain the state of tihetuka brahmas  in the fine-material (rùpa) or non-material (arùpa) worlds, they still possess the liability of being reborn in an unhappy form of existence (duggati) as ahetuka  creatures such as dogs or pigs.
Whether it be the place of rebirth or the status attained in each rebirth, Noble Ones (ariya) do not regress, but proceed higher and higher from one world to the next, or from one status to another, until after many rebirths and many worlds have passed, they reach the highest worlds and the highest status, when they discard the five Aggregates entirely and attain to Anupàdisesa-Nibbàna. The process by which this straight path of ascent is traversed is called dhammasota, the Stream of Dhamma. It comprises the Stream of Right View (sammà-ditthi-sota), the Stream of Right Thought (sammà-sankappa-sota) and so forth up to the Stream of Right Concentration (sammà-samàdhi-sota).
The "Stream of Right View" means the establish-ment of the great realm of Right View (sammà-ditthi) where the light of the Four Noble Truths can be clearly perceived. This great realm of Right View is established by replacing the great anusaya plane of Sakkàya-ditthi, the proclivity for Personality-belief.
This resembles the rising of the sun after the night is over, when darkness is dispelled and light is established. In the same way the great kingdom of light of Right View remains established throughout many lives and many world-cycles until the attainment of Anupàdisesa-Nibbàna. This light increases and becomes more and more firmly established from one rebirth to another.
It also resembles a person born blind due to cataracts covering both his eyes, who, on receiving good treatment, is cured of the cataract and gains sight. From the moment the cataract disappears, the view of the earth, the mountains, the sky with sun, moon and stars, etc., is opened to him and remains so throughout his life. Similarly, the Noble Stream-winners (sotàpanna ariya) gain the view of the three characteristics of existence (ti-lakkhana) and of the Four Noble Truths (and do not lose it).
This is how the Path Factor "Right View" is firmly established.
The canonical text says: 
sammà-sankappo pahoti. 
According to this, if Right View is established, also Right Thought, which consists of intention and plan to escape from worldly ills (nekkhamma) and to protect others from harm and suffering, becomes established and thrives from one rebirth to another until the attainment of the final goal. This is how Right Thought is established.
Sammà-sankappassa sammà vacà pahoti.
If the intention and plan to escape from worldly ills and to see others happy and unharmed, is established, there will be Right Speech free from the four faults (the vacì-duccarita) and this will become progressively established. This is how Right Speech is established.
Sammà-vàcassa sammà-kammanto pahoti.
If speech from verbal misconduct is established, the acts will be free from the threefold bodily misconduct (kàya-duccarita) and this will become progressively established. This is how Right Action is established.
Sammà-kammantassa sammà-àjìvo pahoti.
When views, intentions, speech and acts become pure, the forms of livelihood will also be pure and one will never resort to low and base forms of livelihood. This is how Right Livelihood is established.
Sammà-àjìvassa sammà-vàyàmo pahoti.
When views, intentions, speech, acts and livelihood become pure, energy and effort of a kind that is never devoted to misconduct or wrong livelihood becomes permanently established. This is how Right Effort is established.
Sammà-vàyàmassa sammà-sati pahoti.
Similarly, Right Mindfulness that has its root in the efforts for Morality, Concentration and Wisdom, becomes firmly established from one rebirth to another. This is how Right Mindfulness is established.
Sammà-satissa sammà-samàdhi pahoti.
In the same way also Right Concentration becomes permanently established, which is rooted in mindful attention to the work of Morality, Concentration and Wisdom, and thus become endowed with a great control over the mind. This is how Right Concentration is established.
It is in this way that the eight Path Factors (magganga), called Dhamma streams (dhamma-sota), become progressively established throughout many lives and many worlds, from the moment a being attains the stage of a Stream-winner (sotàpanna) until he finally attains Anupàdisesa-Nibbàna.
Although from the moment when Body Contemplation is set up there is such progress as has been shown earlier, yet so long as the state of Stability (or constancy of progress; niyàma) is not reached, that being is not as yet a Noble One (ariya). It is the Path of Stream-entry (sotàpatti magga) that is the starting point of the ariya-sota, the Holy Stream. As soon as beings reach the Path of Stream-entry, they enter the domain of the Noble Ones. Hence it is said:
Sotam àdito Pajjimsu pàpunimsù' ti sotàpannà.
"They are called Stream-enterers as they enter or reach the Holy Stream for the first time."
This ends our answer to the question, "Why are they called Sotàpannas?"
As soon as beings reach the stage of Noble Ones, they transcend the state of Worldlings (puthujjana). They are no longer beings of the "world", the Mundane, but have become beings of the Supramundane (lokuttara). They are no longer committed to the sufferings of the round of rebirths (vattadukkha), having become "beings of Nibbàna". Throughout the series of many existences that may still be before them, they will never fall back from the first stage of their realization of Nibbàna, which they have achieved as Stream-winners. They are no longer liable to return to the anusaya plane of Sakkàya-ditthi, the proclivity for Personality Belief, or to the state of Wordlings. They are firmly established on the first stage of Sa-upàdisesa-Nibbàna, the Nibbàna realised during life-time, and will, during their remaining existences, enjoy at will the happiness of humans, devas and Brahmàs.
These eight Path Factors occur simultaneously to these Noble Ones only at the instant of their attaimnent of a Path or a Fruition (i.e. in supramundane consciousness). Where, however, mundane wholesome volitional acts (lokiya-kusalakamma) are concerned, the three constituents of the Sìla category associate only with sìla-kusala-kamma. But the three constituents of the Samàdhi category and the two of the Pannà category associate with many kinds of kusala kamma.
Although the three Path Factors of the Sìla category associate only with sìla-kusala-kamma, they are firmly established in Noble Ones as "non-contravention" (avitikkama) throughout their remaining lives.
This ends the explanation of the eight Path Factors.
The "pure phenomena" (sobhana cetasika) involved in the 37 Bodhipakkhiya-dhamma, are 14, namely:
 See notes 4, page 12 and note 1 page 13.
 The term tihetuka refers to rebirth consciousness having all three wholesome root conditions (hetu), i.e. Non-greed, Non-hate, and Non-delusion.
 Ahetuka refers to a rebirth consciousness without any of the three wholesome root conditions.
 Magga Samyutta, 1. Vagga, 1. Sutta.
 According to Commentary, the word pahoti has the meaning of vaddhati, to grow, to increase.
Sincere thanks to Mr. Sunanda
Pham Kim Khanh for supplying this electronic copy
(Binh Anson, 05-2002)
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