Four right exertions

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The Four Right Exertions (Pali: sammappadhāna; Skt.: samyak-pradhāna or samyakprahāṇa) are one of the seven sets of the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment.

The presentation of these exertions varies slightly between the Pali and Sanskrit traditions.

Pali tradition

In the Pali tradition, the four right efforts (sammappadhāna) are identified as:[1]

(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.

According to the Pali Abhidharma literature, the four right exertions are identical with right effort (sammā-vāyāma) of the Noble Eightfold Path.[1]

Sanskrit tradition

In the Sanskrit tradition, the four right efforts are commonly known as the four genuine restraints (Skt. catvāri samyakprahāṇāni; Tib. yang dag par spong ba bzhi ཡང་དག་པར་སྤོང་བ་བཞི་) or four genuine abandonments. They are:

  1. to avoid generating any negative states that have not arisen (Tib. མི་དགེ་བ་མ་སྐྱེས་པ་མི་བསྐྱེད་པ་, Wyl. mi dge ba ma skyes pa mi bskyed pa)
  2. to abandon negative states that have arisen (Tib. མི་དགེ་བ་སྐྱེས་པ་སྤོངས་བ་, Wyl. mi dge ba skyes pa spongs ba)
  3. to generate virtuous states that have not arisen (Tib. དགེ་བ་མ་སྐྱེས་པ་བསྐྱེད་པ་, Wyl. dge ba ma skyes pa bskyed pa)
  4. not to allow any virtuous states that have arisen to deteriorate and to develop them further (Tib. དགེ་བ་སྐྱེས་པ་སྤེལ་བ་, Wyl. dge ba skyes pa spel ba)

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.[2]

The Sutra of the Ten Bhumis says:

"To avoid generating unvirtuous dharmas that have not arisen, one develops the intention, one applies effort, one is diligent, and one takes hold of the mind and settles it correctly. It is the same in order to abandon unvirtuous dharmas that have arisen, and in order to generate virtuous dharmas that have not arisen. In order to maintain whatever virtuous dharmas have arisen without allowing them to deteriorate, to expand them, to develop them further and to bring them to completion, one develops the intention, applies effort and so on."[3]

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.[4]

Alternate translations

Also known as:

  • Four right efforts (Buswell)
  • 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


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Chapter 7.
  2. Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2007, s.v. Four authentic eliminations.
  3. RW icon height 18px.png Four genuine restraints
  4. Mipham Rinpoche 2002, s.v. Chapter 18, paragraphs 71-75.