Five spiritual faculties

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Thirty-seven factors of enlightenment
Sets of factors
1-4: Four foundations of mindfulness
5-8: Four right exertions
9-12: Four bases of miraculous power
13-17: Five spiritual faculties
18-22: Five powers
23-29: Seven aspects of enlightenment
29-35: Eightfold path
Related topics

The five spiritual faculties (Pali: pañca indriyāni) are five faculties that are essential for spiritual progress.

The five faculties are identified as:


Edward Conze wrote:

Spiritual progress depends on the emergence of five cardinal virtues — faith, vigor, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. The conduct of the ordinary worldling is governed by his sense-based instincts and impulses. As we progress, new spiritual forces gradually take over, until in the end the five cardinal virtues dominate and shape everything we do feel and think. These virtues are called, in Sanskrit and Pali, indriya, variously translated by faculties, controlling faculties, or spiritual faculties. The same five virtues are called powers (bala) if emphasis is on the fact that they are "unshakable by their opposites."[1]

Sanskrit tradition

In the Sanskrit tradition, the five spiritual faculties are:

  • The faculty of saddha (faith) (Skt. śraddhendriyam; Tib. དད་པའི་དབང་པོ་, Wyl. dad pa’i dbang po)
  • The faculty of viriya (diligence) (Skt. vīryendriyam; Tib. བརྩོན་འགྲུས་ཀྱི་དབང་པོ་, Wyl. brtson ‘grus kyi dbang po)
  • The faculty of sati (mindfulness) (Skt. smṛtīndriyam, Tib. དྲན་པའི་དབང་པོ་, Wyl. dran pa’i dbang po)
  • The faculty of samādhi (concentration) (Skt. samādhīndriyam; Tib. ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་གྱི་དབང་པོ་, Wyl. ting nge ‘dzin gyi dbang po)
  • The faculty of prajna (wisdom) (Skt. prajñendriyam; Tib. ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱི་དབང་པོ་, Wyl. shes rab kyi dbang po)

This set of five faculties is one of the seven sets of the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment.

Pali tradition

In the Pali tradition, the five faculties (Pali: pañca indriyāni) are identified as:[2]

  • Faith (P. saddhindriyaṃ) is faith in the Buddha's awakening.[3]
  • Energy (P. viriyindriyaṃ) refers to exertion towards the four efforts.
  • Mindfulness (P. satindriyaṃ) refers to focusing on the four satipatthana.
  • Concentration (P. samādhindriyaṃ) refers to achieving the four jhanas.
  • Wisdom (P. paññindriyaṃ) refers to discerning the Four Noble Truths.[4]

In SN 48.51, the Buddha declares that, of these five faculties, wisdom is the "chief" (agga).[5]

Relation to the five powers

In the Sāketa Sutta, the Buddha declares that the five spiritual faculties are the five powers and vice-versa. He uses the metaphor of a stream passing by a mid-stream island; the island creates two streams, but the streams can also be seen as one and the same.[6] The Pali commentaries remark that these five qualities are "faculties" when used to control their spheres of influence, and are "powers" when unshakeable by opposing forces.[7]

The five spiritual faculties are ‘controlling' faculties because they control or master their opposites:

  1. Faith (saddha) - controls doubt
  2. Energy/Effort/Persistence (viriya) – controls laziness
  3. Mindfulness (sati); - controls heedlessness
  4. Concentration (samādhi) - controls distraction
  5. Wisdom/Discernment (pañña, prajña) – controls ignorance

Alternate translations

  • The five faculties (Dharmachakra)


  1. The Five Spiritual Faculties (Edward Conze)
  2. Bodhi, Manual of Abhidharma
  3. Alternatively, SN 48.8 and AN V.15 identify "faith" as referring to the four-fold faith of the stream-enterer which Conze (1993), n. 28, and Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), p. 297, n. 9, identify as faith in the Triple Gem and "perfect morality."
  4. Bodhi (2000), pp. 1671-73; and, Thanissaro (1997a).
  5. Bodhi (2000), p. 1695.
  6. Bodhi (2000), pp. 1688-89.
  7. Bodhi (2000), p. 1511.


External links

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