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37 aspects of the Path to Enlightenment

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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The general structure of Buddha’s teachings, as it was described at First Turn of Dharma Wheel, consists of 37 aspects of the path to enlightenment (sometimes called also thirty-seven steps to Enlightenment). These aspects are divided into seven categories.
First category consists of four types of mindfulness and particularly:


1. mindfulness of body,
2. feelings,
3. mind and
4. objects of the mind.



By “Mindfulness” here we understand types of contemplative practice, directed towards unsatisfactory nature of samsara itself and the transient nature of our conditioned existence, eternal cycle of our usual patterns of thinking and behavior. It is through this kind of contemplation that practitioner develops a true commitment to liberate himself from the cycle of conditioned existence.

Next follows four types of supreme efforts. They are called this way because during the process, when practitioners develop a sincere determination towards liberation with the method of four types of mindfulness, they start to lead a lifestyle of renunciation from causes of future sufferings and are creating causes of future happiness.



The four supreme efforts are:


1. Renunciation of unwholesome thoughts and actions created in the past.
2. Renunciation of unborn unwholesome thoughts and actions of the future.
3. Strengthening the wholesome thoughts and actions created in the past.
4. Creating unborn yet wholesome thoughts and actions of the future.



When we will be able to refrain from creating negative actions and negative emotions that motivate them and strengthen positive tendencies of our mind (called also “class of pure phenomena”), when the concentration of mind is very strong, can arise so called four types of miraculous abilities. These four aspects are very tightly connected with concentration ability. They are also known as four “legs (supports)”, which means they are necessary as conditions to attain concentrated states of the mind that can further develop as extraordinary abilities.



These four conditions of miraculous abilities are:


1. Diligence
2. Effort
3. Intention and
4. Analysis



The fourth category includes five skills and the fifth – five strengths. In both categories included qualities are the same: confidence, joyful effort, mindfulness, concentration and intelligence.



1. Confidence
2. Joyful effort
3. Mindfulness
4. Concentration
5. Wisdom


The difference between skills and strengths here depends on practitioner’s level of attainment for each quality: skills at sufficient level turns into strengths.




Then the seven branches of the Path to Enlightenment follow:



1. Perfect Attention (sati)
2. Perfect Analysis (dhamma vicaya)
3. Perfect Effort (viriya)
4. Perfect Joy (pīti)
5. Perfect humbleness (passaddhi)
6. Perfect concentration (samādhi)
7. Perfect Equanimity (upekkhā)




The seventh and final category is the Noble Eightfold Path:



1. right views
2. right intention
3. right speech
4. right action
5. right livelihood
6. right effort
7. right mindfulness
8. right concentration



These 37 aspects of the Path to Enlightenment create the general structure of the Buddha teachings in the way Buddha represented it in First Turn of Dharma Wheel.

Source

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