The Thirty-seven Factors Leading to a Purified State

Light CenterLecture by Alexander Berzin (2002)

The four close placements of mindfulness (dran-pa nyer-bzhag, Skt. smrtyupasthana, Pali: satipatthana) are the first four of the thirty-seven factors leading to a purified state (byang-chub yan-lag so-bdun). There are three purified states (byang-chub, Skt. bodhi) – that of a shravaka arhat, a pratyekabuddha arhat, and a bodhisattva arhat or Buddha.

The thirty-seven are:

    • the four close placements of mindfulness (dran-pa nyer-bzhag bzhi), on the body, feelings of levels of happiness, the mind, and phenomena;
    • the four factors for (attaining) correct riddances (yang-dag spong-ba bzhi, four pure abandonments): generating constructive (virtuous) phenomena not generated before, generating constructive phenomena already generated, stopping the further increase of destructive (nonvirtuous) phenomena already generated, and preventing the generation of destructive phenomena not yet generated;

  • the four legs for (attaining) extraphysical powers (rdzu-phrul-gyi rkang-pa bzhi): intention (dun-pa), joyful perseverance, pondering (sems-pa, thinking), scrutiny (dpyod-pa, analysis);
  • the five powers (dbang-po lnga): belief in fact (dad-pa, faith), joyful perseverance, mindfulness, absorbed concentration (ting-nge-dzin), and discriminating awareness (shes-rab, wisdom);
  • the five forces (stobs-lnga): belief in fact, joyful perseverance, mindfulness, absorbed concentration, and discriminating awareness;
  • the seven (causal) factors for (attaining) a purified state (byang-chub yan-lag bdun): mindfulness, thorough sorting of phenomena (chos rab-tu rnam-par ‘byed-pa), joyful perseverance, zest (dga-ba, fresh joyous interest), sense of physical and mental fitness (shin-sbyangs), absorbed concentration, and even-mindedness (btang-snyoms, equanimity);
  • the eight branches of an arya pathway mind (phags-lam yan-lag brgyad, eightfold noble path): right view, right thought, right speech, right boundary of action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right absorbed concentration.

The thirty-seven summarize practices progressively undertaken by shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas in common as they develop the five pathway minds (lam-lnga, five paths). They are directed at the four noble truths – true suffering, causes, stoppings (true cessations), and pathway minds (true paths) – and are aspects of an exceptionally perceptive state of mind (lhag-mthong, Skt. vipashyana, Pali: vipassana).



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