The 7 Factors on Enlightenment

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The Seven Factors of Enligtenment

by Paul Garrigan

The topic at one glance

  • The reason we fall into addiction is our mind has been tricking us.

  • Just knowing our mind has been tricking us is not enough to stop our mind from tricking us – we have to see the trick.

  • We can develop the 7 Factors of Enligtement through meditation practice, and these allow us to see how we have been tricked by our mind.


Seeing that Frees Us from Addiction

I used to wonder if my brain was deliberately working against me. How else could I explain the regular transitions from sincere determination to quit alcohol one minute to deciding to go on another bender the next? I now understand it was not that my brain was defective or trying to harm me, it had just fallen victim to a trick.

My brain had been tricked in much the same way as a naïve investor might get caught out by a sophisticated pyramid scheme. The saddest thing in this situation is that by the time investors become suspicious, they are usually too heavily invested to pay heed to these suspicions – it’s the same with addiction.

Knowing your brain has been the victim of trick may be helpful, but it is usually only when we understand the trick that we can fully escape and avoid falling into the same trap again in the future. The goal of mindfulness/insight practice is to give us the ability to see how we have been tricked.

The Seven Factors of Enlightenment

If you wish to protect your brain from harmful delusions, you will need to gain insight into how you are being tricked. This type of understanding is far more likely to arise in a state of mental clarity, focus, and non-reactivity (i.e. we need to put aside our tendency to habitually react prior to investigation).

The easiest way to promote the growth of insight is to meditate regularly. This needs to be done in a certain way if we hope to achieve the best results. The ‘7 factors of enlightenment’ are attitudes and mental states that together will greatly increase the likelihood of insight during meditation and include:


  • Mindfulness means remebering to recognize what your brain is doing at any given moment (e.g. fantasizing, getting angry, or listening).

  • Concentration requires keeping your attention on the object of the meditation (e.g. the sensation of the breath). Concentration is like a lamp, the stronger it is, the more of the mind we can see.

  • Curiosity means investigating what is arising in our mind with close attention and interest.

  • Tranquility arises as we calm down mental activity through concentration and equanimity.

  • Energy gives us the ability to make progress towards insight (it can be increased through other factors such as curiosity and joy).

  • Joy arises in meditation as we relax the body and let go. Focusing on this joy can move us into an even deeper state of stillness.

  • Equanimity is a non-reactive mind state that allows us to more clearly see what our mind is doing so we can develop insight.


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