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vīrya (P. viriya; T. brtson 'grus བརྩོན་འགྲུས།; C. jingjin; J. shōjin; K. chŏngjin 精進) is translated as "spiritual diligence," "enthusiasm", "effort", "energy", etc. It can be defined as an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities, and it functions to cause one to accomplish wholesome or virtuous actions.

Vīrya is identified in the following contexts:

It is also associated with the path factor "right effort" in the Noble Eightfold Path.

Mental factor

Within the Abhidharma teachings, virya is identified as:

Pali tradition

A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma states:

Energy (viriya): Viriya is the state or action of one who is vigorous. Its characteristic is supporting, exertion, and marshalling. Its function is to support its associated states. Its manifestation is non-collapse. Its proximate cause is a sense of urgency (saṃvega) or a ground for arousing energy, that is, anything that stirs one to vigorous action. Just as new timbers added to an old house prevent it from collapsing, or just as a strong reinforcement enables the king’s army to defeat the enemy, so energy upholds and supports all the associated states and does not allow them to recede.[1]

The Visuddhimagga (XIV, 137) gives the following definition:

Energy (viriya) is the state of one who, is vigorous (vira). Its characteristic is marshalling (driving). Its finction is to consolidate conascent states (the accompanying citta and cetasikas). It is manifested as non-collapse. Because of the words "Bestirred, he strives wisely" (Gradual Saying II. I l5), its proximate cause is a sense of urgency; or its proximate cause is grounds for the initiation of energy. When rightly initiated, it should be regarded as the root of all attainments.[2]

Sanskrit tradition

The Khenjuk states:

Diligence is the attitude of gladly engaging in what is virtuous. It makes one fully accomplish what is virtuous.[3]

The Abhidharma-samuccaya states:

What is virya? It is the mind intent on being ever active, devoted, unshaken, not turning back and being indefatigable. It perfects and realizes what is conducive to the positive.[4]

The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening states:

What is diligence? It is an attitude which moves in such a way that it is always active, devoted, not shaken or thrown off, not easily turned back, and not defeated. It’s said that when this factor of diligence or energy is there, it brings to realization everything that is in accord with what is spiritually positive.
We should say “spiritual diligence” here because we might think, “Well, some great criminals have lots of diligence; they are devoted and active in not turning away from their activities, even though they might be regarded by others (or sometimes even themselves) as unwholesome.” In this context, however, one understands that diligence is being continually focused on what is positive, what is wholesome. Vasubandhu reminds us that diligence is an antidote against spiritual laziness, and it’s the presence of that energy that moves us toward what is spiritually positive.
Let us think a bit about this. If the presence of this factor called “spiritual diligence” is defined as focused or helping spiritually positive factors, then we have a very precise key to thinking about our own level of “energy,” which here means the flow of our intentions, our desires to engage in different activities. It is said that the presence of spiritually positive energy helps us with our true energy, our authentic spiritual core. This kind of energy is said to correspond to our basic nature or actual state; it is not the energy of addiction or aggression. When we’ve learned to cultivate positive factors, at some point we will discover that we have more energy. It’s like a snowball effect. The more we learn to cultivate what is positive, the more energy we have.
The opposite is also true, which is to say, having unstable or shaky energy is often a sign that we have not cultivated and brought forth in our life spiritually positive factors.
This is a very important term, and if we think, “How is it possible that all those bodhisattvas, all those teachers seem to be so energetic? I don’t have that energy,” we have a key to how and why they might have access to such energy. Perhaps they are cultivating positive wholesome actions. Perhaps they are cultivating nonattachment, nonaggression, and nondelusion. It’s as if to say the cultivation of not being attached, aggressive, or deluded, just that, helps with our energy.[5]

Virya paramita

The paramita of virya (viriya) is identified as:

See: vīrya-pāramitā


In the Kīṭāgiri Sutta (MN 70), the Buddha states:

For a faithful disciple who is practicing to fathom the Teacher’s instructions, this is in line with the teaching: ‘Gladly, let only skin, sinews, and bones remain! Let the flesh and blood waste away in my body! I will not relax my energy until I have achieved what is possible by manly strength, energy, and vigor.’[6]


In Buddhism, virya generally refers to a practitioner's "energy" or "exertion," and is repeatedly identified as a necessary prerequisite for achieving liberation.

In Vedic literature, the term is often associated with heroism and virility. In this context, the term has been translated as "vigour", "heroic exertion"[7] or "valour."[8]

Alternate translations

  • diligence (Erik Pema Kunzang, Guenther)
  • energy (Bhikkhu Bodhi,[1] John Ireland,[9] Walshe[10], Bullitt)
  • effort (Rangjung Yeshe Wiki)
  • persistence (Thanissaro Bhikkhu,[11], Bullitt)
  • persevering (Piyadassi)[12]
  • spiritual diligence (Steven Goodman)
  • "vigour," "effort," "exertion" (Rhys Davids[7])
  • zeal (Rangjung Yeshe Wiki)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Energy (viriya).
  2. Gorkom (2010), Cetisakas: adhimokkha and viriya
  3. Mipham Rinpoche 2004, s.v. Formations.
  4. Yeshe Gyeltsen 1975, s.v. Dilegence [brtson-'dru].
  5. Goodman 2020, s.v. Vīrya.
  6. SuttaCentral icon square 170px.png At Kīṭāgiri, SuttaCentral
  7. 7.0 7.1 See, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), entry for "Viriya," which defines viriya as: "lit. 'state of a strong man,' i. e. vigour, energy, effort, heroic exertion." Retrieved 3 Feb. 2011 from "U.Chicago" at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.3:1:1885.pali .
  8. See, e.g., which Monier Williams (1899), entry for "Vīyà," defines vīyà in part as: "manliness, valour, strength, power, energy, RV [ Rig Veda ] &c. &c.; heroism, heroic deed, ibid.; manly vigour, virility, semen virile, MBh. [ Mahabharata ]; Kāv.&c; ...." Retrieved 3 Feb. 2011 from "U.Cologne" at http://www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de/cgi-bin/monier/serveimg.pl?file=/scans/MWScan/MWScanjpg/mw1006-virabhaTa.jpg .
  9. Ireland (1998)
  10. Walshe (2009)
  11. Thanissaro (2005).
  12. Piyadassi (1999).


External links

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