Four right exertions

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The four right exertions (S. samyak-pradhāna; P. sammappadhāna; T. yang dag par spong ba; C. zhengqin) are one of the seven sets of the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment.

One Teacher, Many Traditions states:

Having meditated on the four establishments of mindfulness, especially mindfulness of phenomena, we aspire to develop positive qualities and remove afflictions. The four supreme strivings (sammappadhāna) enable us to do this. We arouse aspiration and apply effort to:
(1) prevent nonvirtues—afflictions and destructive actions—from arising, for example by restraining our senses,
(2) abandon nonvirtues already generated by applying their antidotes,
(3) generate new virtues, for example by cultivating the four establishments of mindfulness and the seven awakening factors,
(4) enhance virtues that have been generated, especially by sustaining favorable meditation objects to attain full samādhi.
In addition to counteracting laxity (laya) and excitement (auddhatya)—two faults impeding serenity (samatha)—the four supreme strivings balance and enhance serenity and insight (vipassana). If one or the other is too strong, we strive to strengthen the other.[1]

Traditional presentations

Pali tradition

A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma states There are four supreme efforts (sammappadhāna):[2]

(1) the effort to discard evil states that have arisen,
(2) the effort to prevent the arising of unarisen evil states,
(3) the effort to develop unarisen wholesome states,
(4) the effort to augment arisen wholesome states.

And also:

Here one mental factor, energy, performs four separate functions. This fourfold effort is identical with right effort, the sixth factor of the Noble Eightfold Path.[2]

Sanskrit tradition

In the Sanskrit tradition, the four right efforts are also known as the "four supreme abandonings" (S. catvāri samyak-prahāṇa; T. yang dag par spong ba bzhi ཡང་དག་པར་སྤོང་བ་བཞི་).[3][4]

The Garland of Radiant Light states:

By training in the four applications of mindfulness...the conflicting factors that are eliminated and the remedies that effect this elimination will be perfectly understood in every way. Once this occurs, four types of diligence will arise that are directed towards the elimination of conflicting factors:
(1) striving to eliminate non-virtuous factors that have already occurred,
(2) striving to prevent non-virtuous factors that have not yet occurred from arising,
(3) striving to produce virtuous factors that have not yet occurred, and
(4) striving to prevent virtuous factors that have already occurred from deteriorating.[5]

The Khenjuk states:

The four right endeavors are:
i) not to give rise to unvirtuous qualities that have not arisen,
ii) to abandon those that have arisen,
iii) to give rise to the virtuous qualities that have not arisen, and
iv) not to degenerate those that have arisen.
These four take as their focus the production of the remedies, which are the virtuous qualities, and the nonproduction of the opposites, which are the nonvirtues.
Their identity is diligence and their helpers are as mentioned above.
How are they to be cultivated? By means of diligence, after forming the intention and so forth, they are increased further and further.
The result is that their opposites are abandoned and the remedies are increased.[6]

The Sutra of the Ten Bhumis states:

Because he does not give rise to bad, nonvirtuous qualities that have not been created, he gives rise to faith, exerts effort, generates diligence, controls his mind, and focuses it correctly.
Because he eliminates the bad and nonvirtuous qualities that he has previously created, he gives rise to faith, exerts effort, generates diligence, controls his mind, and focuses it correctly.
Because he creates virtuous qualities that he has not previously created, he gives rise to faith, exerts effort, generates diligence, controls his mind, and focuses it correctly.
Because the virtuous qualities he has created remain, and because they do not deteriorate but increase, develop even further, are meditated on, and are brought to perfection, he gives rise to faith, exerts effort, generates diligence, controls his mind, and focuses it correctly.[7]

Alternate translations

Also known as:

  • Four right efforts (Princeton Dictionary)
  • Four sublime strivings (One Teacher, Many Traditions)
  • Four supreme efforts (Bodhi)
  • Four great endeavors (Bodhi, The Noble Eightfold Path)
  • Four authentic eliminations (Dharmachakra, Middle Beyond Extremes)
  • Four types of diligence (Dharmachakra)
  • Four correct endeavors (Kunsang, Gateway to Knowledge)
  • Four genuine restraints (Rigpa wiki)
  • Four Great Efforts
  • Four Right Exertions
  • Four Proper Exertions
  • Four Right Endeavors
  • Four Right Strivings

Notes

  1. Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2014, s.v. Chapter 6.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Chapter 7.
  3. Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2014, s.v. fn 11.
  4. One Teacher, Many Traditions states: "Through a conflation of terminology, in Sanskrit texts these came to be called samyak prahāna, “supreme abandonings.”"
  5. Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2007, s.v. Four authentic eliminations.
  6. Mipham Rinpoche 2002, s.v. Chapter 18, paragraphs 71-75.
  7. 84000.png The Ten Bhumis, 1.311-1.314, Peter Roberts

Sources