Five spiritual faculties

From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
(Redirected from Five Faculties)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The five spiritual faculties (Skt. pañcendriya; P. pañca indriyāni; T. dbang po lnga དབང་པོ་ལྔ་; C. wugen) are five faculties that are essential for spiritual progress.

The five faculties are identified as:

Note: this set of five faculties are different from the five sense faculties which bear a similar name.


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 śraddhā (faith) (Skt. śraddhendriyam; Tib. དད་པའི་དབང་པོ་, Wyl. dad pa’i dbang po)
  • The faculty of vīrya (diligence) (Skt. vīryendriyam; Tib. བརྩོན་འགྲུས་ཀྱི་དབང་པོ་, Wyl. brtson ‘grus kyi dbang po)
  • The faculty of smṛti (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 prajñā (wisdom) (Skt. prajñendriyam; Tib. ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱི་དབང་པོ་, Wyl. shes rab kyi dbang po)

In the Garland of Radiant Light, Mipham Rinpoche states:

Once the four bases of miraculous power have made the mind flexible and the fundamental virtues that are factors conducive to liberation have been developed, one gains control [over four things]. Faith leads to control over intention concerning the acceptance and rejection of the four truths, while diligence brings control over application, i.e., putting [this intention] into practice... Mindfulness brings a control that keeps one from forgetting one's focal point, meditative absorption keeps the proliferation of irrelevant thoughts at bay, and knowledge allows for the discernment of phenomena. In this way, the five faculties usher in the qualities of complete purity.[2]

Pali tradition

In the Pali tradition, the five faculties (Pali: pañca indriyāni) are identified as:[3]

  • Faith (P. saddhindriyaṃ) is faith in the Buddha's awakening.[4]
  • Energy (P. viriyindriyaṃ) refers to exertion towards the four right exertions.
  • 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.[5]

In SN 48.51, the Buddha declares that, of these five faculties, wisdom is the "chief" (agga).[6]

The five spiritual faculties are called ‘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

Bhikkhu Bodhi states:

Thus the five faculties exercise control in the respective spheres of resolution (adhimokkha), exertion (paggaha), awareness (upaṭṭhāna), non-distraction (avikkhepa), and discernment (dassana); in doing so they help to overcome their opposites—indecision, laziness, negligence, agitation, and delusion.[7]

Development of the factors

Bhikkhu Bodhi states:

In the development of the faculties, faith and wisdom are to be balanced to avoid the extremes of blind credulity and intellectual cleverness; energy and concentration are to be balanced to avoid restless agitation and sluggish immobility of mind. But strong mindfulness is always necessary, for mindfulness oversees the development of the other faculties and ensures that they are kept in balance.[7]

Relation to the five powers

These five factors are called "five faculties" when used to control their spheres of influence, and are called "five powers" when they become unshakeable by opposing forces. In the Sāketa Sutta, the Buddha uses the metaphor of a river to describe the relationship between the faculties and poweres. "They are like a river that flows around a central island. From one point of view they can be considered different, but from another they are just the same stream."[8]

Alternate translations

  • The five faculties (Dharmachakra)


  1. The Five Spiritual Faculties (Edward Conze)
  2. Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2007, s.v. The Five Faculties.
  3. Bodhi, Manual of Abhidharma
  4. 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."
  5. Bodhi (2000), pp. 1671-73; and, Thanissaro (1997a).
  6. Bodhi (2000), p. 1695.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Five Factors.
  8. SuttaCentral icon square 170px.png Sāketa Sutta, SuttaCentral


External links

This article includes content from Indriya on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo