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The 37 Aids to Awakening - Part 5

The Five Spiritual Abilities - The Five Indriyas

Indriya means ability. The five indriyas are known as the controlling faculties since they empower us to control our mind. Once we develop them well, they give us the powerful feeling of being in charge of our life. They are firmly established at the first level of Awakening. Before that they come and go. When present we no longer feel that our desires are leading us around by the nose. We feel in charge of our life. When they disappear, it is due to our lack of insight into reality at that moment.

The five indriyas are:

1. Confirmed faith or confirmed confidence (saddha)

2. Energy (viriya)

3. Mindfulness (sati)

4. Stillness (samadhi)

5. Wisdom (pañña)

1. Confirmed confidence means faith that doesn't rely on the word of another because we have seen it for ourself. This refers to confirmed confidence that the Buddha was fully awakened and that his teachings lead to the end of suffering. As we do our meditation practice, we start to experience benefits, confirming what the Buddha taught.

Wisdom is direct insight into the teachings. Therefore there is not much difference between confirmed faith and widsom. Inspiration is another translation for faith. Faith leads to feelings of uplift, happiness and joy since we see how to overcome suffering. Faith (saddha) has two aspects: feeling and intellect. The feeling is inspiration/joy and the intellectual aspect is wisdom.

2. Energy - This arises from our confirmed faith. We can use energy to investigate what is arising/not arising in our minds and then to carry out the four efforts. It's important to always be on guard to develop the wholesome qualities and abandon the unwholesome ones, moment by moment.

3. Mindfulness means awareness/alertness and plus remembering instructions on skilfulness given in the past or remembering the current task we have set for ourself. When our mind wanders somewhere else, we remember to bring it back.

When we have joy we are naturally mindful. Joy is a result of our confirmed faith. We can also arouse joy by bringing memories of our generosity to mind.

There are many degrees of mindfulness. The more powerful our stillness, the more powerful is our mindfulness. Mindfulness needs stillness to be deep.

4. Stillness. The more we let go of the five sense world, the deeper our stillness. But we won't be inclined to let go of the sensory world if we haven't yet experienced the benefits or the spiritual life. Some of the benefits are the joy from our confirmed faith and our generosity and the contentment and even bliss that comes from stillness. Stillness needs this balance of gradually letting go of the sensory world and leaning on the beautifully rewarding spiritual qualities.

5. Widsom means knowing arising and passing away i.e. the transitory nature of everything. Nothing persists. Nothing is permanent. Wisdom is seeing the purposelessness of the round of samsara. Wisdom supports the other four spiritual abilities. The Buddha had full insight into human nature and with this wisdom he had compassion. Wisdom and compassion together is what made the Buddha a great person.

Ajahn Brahm gives a Dhamma talk on the Indriyas on track 3 at this link.

The Five Spiritual Powers (Bala)

These are only mentioned in one sutta. It's not clear how they differ from the five spiritual abilities....perhaps they are just stronger/more developed forms of the abilities.

Photo by Grey Man Images

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