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. ཡང་དག་པར་སྤོང་བ་བཞི་, Wyl. yang dag par spong ba bzhi) or four genuine abandonments . They are indentifed as:

  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]

Alternate translations

Also known as:

  • Four right efforts (Buswell)
  • Four supreme efforts (Bodhi)
  • 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 Bikkhu Bodhi: 2012, Chapter 7
  2. Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2007, s.v. Four authentic eliminations.
  3. RW icon height 18px.png Four genuine restraints


  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2012), A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha. Pariyatti Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1.
  • Buddhaghosa, Bhadantacariya & Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (trans.) (1999). The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga. Seattle, WA: BPS Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-00-2.
  • Book icoline.svg Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2007), Middle Beyond Extremes: Maitreya's Madhyantavibhaga with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham, Snow Lion Publications 
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