T 1670B Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra

Part 2: Dialogues

2.10. The Thirty-Seven Factors of Enlightenment

The king asked, “What is filial piety?”

Nāgasena answered, “All good qualities are filial piety. The thirty-seven factors of enlightenment have filial piety as their basis.”

“What are the thirty-seven factors?”

“They are: the four abodes of mindfulness or subjects of reflection, the four modes of spiritual exertion, the four bases of extraordinary powers, the five spiritual faculties of moral sense, the five mental powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the noble eightfold path.”

(a) “What are the four abodes of mindfulness?” asked the king.

“The first is to observe the body with consideration of the body; the second is to observe pain and itching with consideration of pain and itching; the third is to observe the mind with consideration of the mind; and the fourth is to observe the Dharma with consideration of the Dharma.”

(b) “What are the four modes of spiritual exertion?”

“The Buddha has said, ‘Having analyzed the four states of mindfulness, one would not think further.’ These are the four modes of spiritual exertion.

When one has gained the four modes of spiritual exertion, one has also gained the four psychic powers.”

(c) “What are the four psychic powers?”

“They are: (1) The divine eye; (2) the divine ear; (3) the ability to know other’s mind; and (4) being able to fly with the physical body.”

(d) “What are the five spiritual faculties of moral sense?”

“(1) When the eyes see pleasant of unpleasant forms, but there is no attachment of the mind to them; (2) when the ears hear pleasant, bad or abusive sounds, but there is no attachment of the mind to them; (3) when the nose smells pleasant or unpleasant odors, but there is no attachment of the mind to them; (4) when the mouth receives delicious, bitter or astringent tastes, but there is no attachment of the mind to them, (5) and when the body receives a soft or smooth touch, there is no attachment of the mind to them, or when the body receives a harsh and rough touch, there is no dislike. These are the five spiritual faculties of moral sense.”

(e) “What are the five mental powers?”

“They are (1) to control the eyes; (2) to control the ears; (3) to control the nose; (4) to control the mouth; and (5) to control the body, so that the mind does not (fall into the evil states).

(f) “What are the seven factors of enlightenment?”

“They are: (1) mind, (2) discrimination, (3) exertion, (4) joy, (5) serenity, (6) concentration, and (7) protection.”

(g) “What is the noble eightfold path? “They are: right view, right thought, right speech, right livelihood, right action, right means, right mind and right concentration. Thus the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment are based on filial piety (sila).”

Nāgasena continued, “Just as a person carrying a heavy load reaches a faraway (place) and makes his business successful. All these are due to the earth. In the world, the five kinds of grain, trees and other grass all grow up due to the earth.”

Then Nāgasena went on to give a simile, “It is just like an architect who constructs a large city. First he should measure and lay the foundations, then he will be able to build a city. Again it is like a performer who wants to give a performance. First he should clear the ground and make it even.

(In the same way), the Buddha’s disciples, in search of the Path, should first act according to the Dharma and perform good deeds. They understand suffering and so they eliminate lustful craving by following the noble eightfold path.”

“How do they eliminate lustful cravings?” asked the king.

“When they completely absorb their mind into the Path, the lustful cravings naturally disappear.”

“Excellent, Nāgasena.”