Path Factors

In Buddhism, bodhipakkhiyā dhammā (Pali; variant spellings include bodhipakkhikā dhammā and bodhapakkhiyā dhammā;[1] Skt.: bodhipaka dharma) are qualities (dhammā) conducive or related to (pakkhiya) awakening (bodhi).

In the Pali commentaries, the term bodhipakkhiyā dhammā is used to refer to seven sets of such qualities regularly mentioned by the Buddha throughout the Pali Canon. Within these seven sets of Enlightenment qualities, there is a total of thirty-seven individual qualities (sattatisa bodhipakkhiyā dhammā).[2]

These seven sets of qualities are recognized by both Theravadan and Mahayanan Buddhists as complementary facets of the Buddhist Path to Enlightenment.

Seven sets of thirty-seven qualities

In the Pali Canon's Bhāvanānuyutta sutta ("Mental Development Discourse,"[3] AN 7.67), the Buddha is recorded as saying:

'Monks, although a monk who does not apply himself to the meditative development of his mind may wish, "Oh, that my mind might be free from the taints by non-clinging!", yet his mind will not be freed. For what reason? "Because he has not developed his mind," one has to say. Not developed it in what? In the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right kinds of striving, the four bases of success, the five spiritual faculties, the five spiritual powers, the seven factors of enlightenment and the Noble Eightfold Path.'[4]

Elsewhere in the Canon,[5] and in numerous places in the āgamas of other early schools,[6] these seven sets of thirty-seven qualities conducive to Enlightenment are enumerated as:

Four establishments of mindfulness

  1. Mindfulness of the body (kāyānupassanā, S. kayānupasthāna)
  2. Mindfulness of feelings (vedanānupassanā, S. vedanānupasthāna)
  3. Mindfulness of mental states (cittānupassanā, S. cittanupasthāna)
  4. Mindfulness of mental qualities (dhammānupassanā, S. dharmanupasthāna)

Four right exertions

  1. Exertion for the preventing of unskillful states to arise
  2. Exertion for the abandoning of the already arisen unskillful states
  3. Exertion for the arising of skillful states
  4. Exertion for the sustaining and increasing of arisen skillful states

Four bases of power

  1. Will (chanda, S. chanda)
  2. Energy (viriya, S. virya)
  3. Consciousness (citta, S. citta)
  4. Examination (vīmaṁsa or vīmaŋsā, S. mimāṃsā)

Five faculties

  1. Conviction[7] (saddhā, S. śraddā)
  2. Energy (viriya, s. virya)
  3. Mindfulness (sati, S. smṛti)
  4. Unification (samādhi, S. samādhi)
  5. Wisdom (panna, S. prajñā)

Five powers

  1. Conviction (saddha, S. śraddā)
  2. Energy (viriya, S. virya)
  3. Mindfulness (sati, S. smṛti)
  4. Unification (samādhi, S. samādhi)
  5. Wisdom (panna, S. prajñā)

Seven factors of Enlightenment

  1. Mindfulness (sati, S. smṛti)
  2. Investigation (dhamma vicaya, S. dharmapravicaya)
  3. Energy (viriya, S. virya)
  4. Joy (pīti, S. prīti)
  5. Tranquillity (passaddhi, S. praśrabdhi)
  6. Unification (samadhi, S. samādhi)
  7. Equanimity (upekkhā, S. upekṣā)

Noble Eightfold Path

  1. Right Understanding(sammā diṭṭhi, S. samyag-dṛṣṭi)
  2. Right Intention (sammā saṅkappa, S. samyak-saṃkalpa)
  3. Right Speech (sammā vācā, S. samyag-vāc)
  4. Right Action (sammā kammanta, S. samyak-karmānta)
  5. Right Livelihood (sammā ājīva, S. samyag-ājīva)
  6. Right Energy (sammā vāyāma, S. samyag-vyāyāma)
  7. Right Mindfulness (sammā sati, S. samyak-smṛti)
  8. Right Unification (sammā samādhi, S. samyak-samādhi)

Forty-three qualities

In the Pali Canon's Nettipakaraṇa (Netti 112) forty-three qualities connected with awakening (tecattālīsa bodhipakkhiyā dhammā) are mentioned which, according to the commentaries, include the aforementioned thirty-seven plus the following 6 contemplations (also found in the suttas, e.g. Saṅgīti Sutta D iii 251)

  1. impermanence (aniccasaññā)
  2. suffering (dukkhasaññā)
  3. non-self (anattasaññā)

In the Pali literature

The technical term, bodhipakkhiyā dhammā, explicitly referring to the seven sets of qualities identified above, is first encountered in the Pali commentaries;[2] nonetheless, the seven sets of bodhipakkhiya dhammas are themselves first collated, enumerated and referenced in the Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka.[8]

Sutta Pitaka

In the Digha Nikāya's famed Maha-parinibbana Sutta (DN 16), which recounts the Buddha's last days, in the Buddha's last address to his assembly of followers he states:

"Now, O bhikkhus, I say to you that these teachings of which I have direct knowledge and which I have made known to you — these you should thoroughly learn, cultivate, develop, and frequently practice, that the life of purity may be established and may long endure, for the welfare and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, well being, and happiness of gods and men.
"And what, bhikkhus, are these teachings? They are the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four constituents of psychic power, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the Noble Eightfold Path. These, bhikkhus, are the teachings of which I have direct knowledge, which I have made known to you, and which you should thoroughly learn, cultivate, develop, and frequently practice...."[9]

In the Majjhima Nikāya's "Greater Discourse to Sakuludāyin" (MN 77),[10] when asked why his disciples venerated him, the Buddha identified five qualities he possessed: highest virtues (adhisīle ... paramena sīlakkhandha); highest knowledge and vision (abhikkante ñāṇadassane); highest wisdom (adhipaññāya ... paramena paññākkhandha); his explanation of the Four Noble Truths (ariyasaccāni); and, his identification of numerous ways to develop wholesome states. The Buddha's elaboration of the last item included the seven sets of thirty-seven bodhipakkhiya dhammas which are enumerated individually in this discourse.[11]

In the Samyutta Nikāya, the fifth division's first seven chapters are each devoted to one of the bodhipakkhiya dhammas. While there is a great deal of repetition among these chapters' discourses, these seven chapters include almost 900 discourses.[12]

In the Aṅguttara Nikāya's "Upajjhāyasuttaṃ" (AN 5.6.6), the Buddha recommends five things for a monk to overcome spiritual hindrances: control mental faculties; eat the right amount of food; maintain wakefulness; be aware of merit; and, develop the bodhipakkhiya dhammas throughout the day.[13]

In the Khuddaka Nikāya, the bodhipakkhiya dhammas are mentioned at Iti. 82,[14] Th. 900,[15] and Nett. 31, 112, 197, 237, 240 and 261.[16]

Abhidhamma Pitaka

The bodhipakkhiyā dhammā are mentioned in several passages of the Abhidhamma, such as at Vbh. sections 571 and 584 .[17]


In the Visuddhimagga, Buddhaghosa enumerates the seven sets of bodhipakkhiya dhammas along with a relevant Suttapiṭaka discourse (Vism. XXII.33), describes each set (Vism. XXII.34-38), and describes their existence in the consciousness of an arahant (Vism. XXII.39-40). In addition, Buddhaghosa factors the 37 qualities in a manner so as to describe fourteen non-redundant qualities (Vism. XXII.40-43); thus, for instance, while nine qualities (zeal, consciousness, joy, tranquility, equanimity, intention, speech, action, livelihood) are mentioned only once in the full list of 37 qualities, the other five qualities are mentioned multiple times. Table 1 below identifies the five qualities spanning multiple bodhipakkhiya-dhamma sets.[18]

Establishments of Mindfulness
Bases of
Seven Factors of Awakening

Faith saddhā saddhā
Energy 4
viriya viriya viriya viriya sammā
Mindfulness 4
sati sati sati sammā
Concentration samādhi samādhi samādhi sammā
Wisdom vīmaṁsa paññā paññā dhammā
Table 1: Five qualities mentioned 28 times across seven sets of qualities conducive to Enlightenment (based on Vism. XXII.41-43).

In terms of other Pali commentaries, the bodhipakkhiyā dhammā are also mentioned in Dhammapada-Aṭṭhakathā (DhA i.230), Suttanipāta-Aṭṭhakathā (SnA 164), and Jātaka-Aṭṭhakathā (J i.275, iii.290, and v.483).[19]

See also


  1. For the various Pali spellings, see Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 491, under the entries for "bodha" and "bodhi." In this article, the variants are listed from most frequently used to least, deduced from Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25) and other sources.
  2. 1 2 Regarding the use of the compound Pali term bodhipakkhiyā dhammā in the canonical discourses, based on a search of the Sinhala SLTP tipitaka using the La Trobe University search engine at, the term bodhipakkhiyā dhammā (and its variant spellings and declensions) was found in following nine discourses in the Sutta Pitaka:
    1. DN 27 (Aggañña Sutta)
    2. SN 48.51 (Sālā Sutta)
    3. SN 48.55 (Sāra Sutta)
    4. SN 48.67 (Rukkha Sutta)
    5. AN 5.56 (Upajjhāya Sutta)
    6. AN 6.17 (Kusala Sutta or Soppa Sutta)
    7. AN 9.1 (Sambodhipakkhiya Sutta)
    8. Iti. 82 (Devasadda Sutta)
    9. Iti. 97 (Kalyāṇasīla Sutta)
    The Dīgha Nikāya (DN 27) and Itivuttaka (Iti., 82, 97) discourses each refer to "seven" (satta) factors of enlightenment. In his translation of DN 27, Walshe (1995, pp. 415 para. 30, 605 n. 854) interprets the "seven" to refer to the seven enlightenment factors (satta bojjha) described in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (DN 22). Conversely, in their translations of the Itivuttaka discourses, Ireland (1997) and Thanissaro (2001) interpret the "seven" as referring to the "seven groups of" or "seven [sets of]" factors of enlightenment, respectively. None of these three discourses themselves explicitly identifies which seven factors or sets of factors are being referenced. Moreover, the Anguttara Nikaya (AN 5.56, 6.17, 9.1) discourses neither numerically quantify nor elaborate upon the terms bodhipakkhiyāna dhammāna, bodhapakkhiyāna dhammāna or sambodhipakkhiyānaṃ ... dhammānaṃ (respectively). Uniquely, in the three discourses from the Samyutta Nikaya (48.51, 48.55, 48.57), all three explicitly associate the term bodhipakkhiyā dhammā (and variant spellings) solely with the five faculties (indriya) of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom (Bodhi, 2000, p. 1695). Perhaps summing up the vagueness and apparent inconsistencies in these identified discourses and their translations, in an end note to the Sālā Sutta (SN 48.51) Bodhi (2000, p. 1937 n. 235) comments: "In the commentaries bodhipakkhiyā dhammā is the umbrella term for the seven sets of training factors repeatedly taught by the Buddha, but in the suttas the expression has a more flexible, less technical meaning." Bodhi then refers to Gethin (1992), pp. 289-98, for further discussion.
  3. The Pali word translated here as "development" is bhāvanā. Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), p. 305 n. 20 note: "The term 'bhāvanā' (lit.:making become), usually translated as 'meditation,' is not restricted to methodical exercises in mental concentration but comprises the entire field of mental training." For elaboration on this point, compare the Wikipedia articles Buddhist meditation (regarding "mediation" and "mental concentration") and Threefold training (regarding "mental training").
  4. Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), pp. 192-3. Regarding the ordering of the seven sets, Bodhi (2000), pp. 1486-87, notes:
    "The presentation of the seven sets in a graded sequence might convey the impression that they constitute seven successive stages of practice. This, however, would be a misinterpretation. Close consideration of the series would show that the seven sets are ranked in a numerically ascending order, from four to eight, which means that their arrangement is purely pedagogic and implies nothing about a later set being more advanced than the earlier sets.... By presenting the course of practice from different angles, in different keys, and with different degrees of detail, the texts are able to finely modulate the practice of the path to suit the diverse needs of the people to be trained...."
  5. For instance, these thirty-seven qualities are enumerated in SN 43.12 "The Unconditioned" (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1374-78), where each quality is deemed "the path leading to the unconditioned" (asaṅkhatagāmī maggo), which is in turn defined as the destruction of lust, hatred and delusion (rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo).
  6. Sarvāstivāda Buddhist scholasticism, Part 2, Volume 11, by Charles Willemen, Bart Dessein, Collett Cox Brill Academic Publishers: 1997. ISBN 90-04-10231-0 pg 11
  8. For a survey of references to these qualities, see, for instance, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921–25), p. 491, entries on "bodha," available at (retrieved 2015-10-12), and on "bodhi," available at (retrieved 2015-11-12). Bodhi (2000), pp. 1485–86, notes:
    "In the Buddhist exegetical tradition, beginning very soon after the age of the canon, these seven sets are known as the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment (sattatiṃsa bodhipakkhiyā dhammā). Although this term is not used in the Nikāyas themselves as a collective appellation for the seven sets, the sets themselves frequently appear in the Nikāyas as a compendium of the practice leading to enlightenment."
  9. Vajra & Story (1998).
  10. Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi (2001), "The Greater Discourse to Sakuludāyin" (Mahāsakuludāyi Sutta, MN 77), pp. 629-647, 1284 n. 762; Upalavanna (n.d.-a); and, SLTP, n.d.-b
  11. In MN 77, in addition to the seven sets of 37 qualities conducive to Enlightenment, the Buddha further identified his teaching of various meditative accomplishments (such as the jhanas) and his achieving higher knowledge (such as recollecting past lives) as contributing to his disciples' veneration. Note that the phrase, "ways to develop wholesome states," is not actually in the original Pali sutta itself but is a square-bracketed sectional title inserted by Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi (2001) to demarcate the fifth quality set that the Buddha self identifies as the basis for his disciples' veneration.
  12. Bodhi (2000), chs. 45-51, pp. 1523-1749. The number of discourses identified here is based on Bodhi (2000) which includes 894 separate discourses but the actual number of discourses varies depending on which edition of the Samyutta Nikaya one is referencing.
  13. Upalavanna (n.d.-b), AN 5.6.6.
  14. Thanissaro (2001), Iti. 82 is at available at (retrieved 2007-05-22).
  15. SLTP (n.d.-c), stanza 900 in Pali: "Tassa dhamma ime honti kusalā bodhipakkhikā, Anāsavo ca so hoti iti vuttaṃ mahesinā." This is part of the stanzas ascribed to Anuruddha. Norman (1997), p. 90, translates the Pali as: "His characteristics are good, conducive to enlightenment, and he is without āsavas [mental intoxicants]; so it is said by the great seer."
  16. Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), op. cit.
  17. SLTP (n.d.-a), §§ 571, 584 (PTS pages 244, 249). Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 491, entry for "bodhi," states that the bodhipakkhiyā dhammā are "mentioned at many other passages of the Abhidhamma."
  18. Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999), pp. 702-705. Note that, whereas the Visuddhimagga orders the five redundant qualities listed in the table in order of ascending frequency among the seven sets (that is, from faith which appears twice among the seven sets to energy which appears nine times), the table below orders them in a manner consistent with the Five Faculties and Five Powers (from faith to understanding) to facilitate reader comprehension as there is potentially a developmental facet to this classical ordering.
  19. Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), op. cit.


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