Dear Members,David's Book: The Seven Enlightenment Factors
[By Dr. David N. Snyder]The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment are mental factors of your mind which you may notice
arising in your meditation sessions or in your life meditation sessions. Notice how an
enlightenment factor arises and how it disappears. When you notice an enlightenment factor
present, like anything else keep a balanced mind, do not push it away or cling to it. This
balanced mind is equanimity, another enlightenment factor.
This chapter will attempt to guide you through a step-by-step procedure to Awakening. Each
individual experiences the Dhamma in different ways and may have different experiences, so
presented here is just one example of what a step-by-step guide might look like. The actual steps
you take and especially the order may be slightly different, but the basic ideas and training levels
are based on the Buddha‘s words. References to stages of Realization, jhanic levels, and
hindrances eliminated are from the exact teachings of the Buddha.
At each level of the four stages of enlightenment, there is no turning back. Enlightenment is
guaranteed in a certain amount of time or less. One does not return downward once even the
first stage is reached. ―So too, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is developing and cultivating the Noble
Eightfold Path . . . it is impossible that he will give up the training and return to the lower life.
For what reason? Because for a long time his mind has slanted, sloped, and inclined towards
seclusion. Thus, it is impossible that he will return to the lower life.‖ Samyutta Nikaya 45.160
This step-by-step guide is based on the exact and general teachings of the Buddha and emotional
intelligence skills, and from some of my own observations and experiences. It is not meant to be
a hard-fast, written in stone declaration, just a general guideline. As of the writing of this book, I
know of no other Dhamma book that has made this attempt to put in writing a general guideline
such as this one to assist practitioners on the Path.The Step-by-Step Guide to Awakening
Presented below are potential steps that could be taken along the Path that could lead to full
enlightenment. A person proceeds from one step to the next one only after the current step is
completed in full.
In one of the Buddha‘s discourses there is a list of 37 steps to enlightenment and they are listed
as: the four foundations of mindfulness, the four supreme efforts, the four means to
accomplishment, the five faculties, the five strengths, the eightfold middle path, and the seven
factors of enlightenment. The step-by-step guide presented here includes these steps and other
insights of the Buddha mentioned in other discourses which are also important requisites to
enlightenment. Also included in this list are some ―emotional intelligence‖ traits which
correspond to the appropriate hindrances to enlightenment which are being eradicated. This list
is written in more modern language with specific practice information, such as how much time
should be spent on meditation and when each jhana level should be realized.
As you practice meditation on the Dhamma Path, you work to ―avoid all evil, cultivate the good,
and purify your mind.‖ Progress should not be the focus of your Path. But we also need to
know how we are doing and where we are faltering. This is why it is good to check your
progress with a competent Dhamma teacher or through this guide printed here, but do not make
it a focus or an opportunity to express your ego, such as informing everyone of the exact ―step‖
you are on and how ―close‖ you might be to full enlightenment. As you will see from this guide,
people will know how advanced you are by how you are able to deal with everyday problems
and issues and not by any certification from a teacher or course. There is no set minimum or
maximum time period for each step unless it is listed and it can vary from one week to many
years (or even many lifetimes) per step, depending on the person and their determination and
1. Economic house in order. The first step is to have your ―economic house‖ in order. This
means that you have no serious economic problems, you have a Right Livelihood, or if you are a
student under the care of a parent, you are doing well in your studies and perform any required
chores of the household. This is important because if we are struggling to put food on the table
we will not be able to focus on spiritual issues. The Buddha understood the importance of
economic conditions and outlined a budget for lay people (see chapter 3) and found that
immorality is largely caused by poor economic conditions.
This should not be construed to mean that the poor are not able to access the stages of
enlightenment. If a person is poor, but otherwise is not too focused on budget problems, the
practice can still be worked on and progress can be made. At the same time, a rich person must
not be too focused on the accumulation of further wealth, as this too will distract the person
from the spiritual goals.
2. Read several Dhamma books. Never underestimate the power of reading and knowledge.
The ultimate enlightenment experiences may be through an experiential event, but we must first
start with some faith or confidence in the teachings. This is achieved through much reading.
You also read and investigate other religions and philosophies if you have not done so already,
before you embarked on this path.
3. Start a regular meditation practice. Try to meditate at least one hour per week at the start. If
you can do more, great, but if you find it difficult for time constraints or frustration, then
meditate just one hour per week. At first you can simply meditate with a Dhamma group, which
typically meets one day per week. If you meditate at home, try to do at least one hour per week
or alternatively at least ten minutes per day. Even ten minutes per day is better than no time at
all for meditation.
4. You begin to see the value and logic of the moral issues of the five precepts and the Eightfold
Middle Path and the Ten Perfections and attempt to practice the virtues therein.
5. Continue meditating at home, with a group, and reading Dhamma books for another long
period of time. The time may vary person-to-person, but this step can range from three months
to over 20 years. You develop a wholesome desire to learn more about the Dhamma and wish to
attain higher spiritual states.
6. Participate in Dhamma discussion groups at Dhamma centers. Now you tend to associate
more with people who are also practicing the Dhamma. You lose interest in other discussions
that are not related to Buddha-Dhamma. You still participate in all kinds of conversations with
people in all subjects, as you are still a part of the conventional world, but your preferred interest
is more towards Dhamma.
7. Your practice has now increased from one hour per week to about four hours per week, or at
least 30 minutes per day. You regularly meditate with a group and also attend other groups on
different occasions. You meditate using the contemplation of the breath and now you also move
to other subjects of the sensations, the mind, and the Dhamma.
8. At this point your confidence in the teachings has gone from a faith or confidence in the
teachings to an informed knowledge from intellectual analysis and understanding. You
understand the teachings in a way that makes sense from the point of analysis, common sense,
9. Your new knowledge has increased your interest even further. You attend at least one 7 day
or 10 day retreat. On the retreat you meditate up to 12 hours per day with periods of sitting
meditation, walking meditation, and personal interviews with a teacher. (If you can not
attend a retreat due to financial or time constraints, you can do a self-guided retreat at your home
for a 7 to 10 day period.)
10. You return from retreat and continue your practice with at least four hours of meditation per
week. You have your first insight on the Path. This is the understanding that kamma is
something very real and can be experienced. You understand, not only intellectually, but also
from your experiences the workings of kamma. You see how things have happened to you in the
past as a result of your deeds.
----------------to be continued------------