The Five Spiritual Faculties and Five Powers
Central to Buddhist praxis is the development of the Five Spiritual Faculties (Indriya) which correspond to the cultivation of the Five Powers or Strengths (Bala). It is when these faculties become “unshakable” by their counterbalancing opposites that they become spiritual powers. These include saddha, viriya, sati, samadhi and panna. Buddha declared that, of these five faculties, wisdom (panna) is the “chief” (agga). Buddha taught that one should balance or “tune” these spiritual faculties as one would a musical instrument. These faculties should be developed in counterbalancing dyads (i.e. faith and wisdom balance each other, as do energy and concentration) – however, strong mindfulness is needed in all instances. This is because mindfulness protects the mind from lapsing into agitation through faith, energy and understanding (which favor agitation), and from lapsing into idleness through concentration (which favors idleness). In more detail, these five spiritual faculties include:
1. Faith/Conviction/Belief (saddha) – controls doubt. This is faith in Buddha’s awakening.
2. Energy/Effort/Vigor/Persistence (viriya) – controls laziness. This refers to exertion towards the Four Right Efforts (restraint of the senses; abandonment of defilements; cultivation of Enlightenment Factors; preservation of concentration, for instance, using charnel-ground contemplations).
3. Mindfulness/Awareness/Memory (sati); – controls heedlessness. This refers to focusing on the four satipatthana (mindfulness of the body; mindfulness of feelings or sensations; establishment of mindfulness of the mind or consciousness; mindfulness of mental objects or qualities).
4. Concentration/Focus (samadhi) – controls distraction. This refers to achieving the first four jhanas (pleasure/delightful sensations, joy, contentment, peacefulness/stillness).
5. Wisdom/Insight/Understanding/Discernment/Comprehension (panna/prajna) – controls ignorance. This is right discerning of the Four Noble Truths.