Strength of Mind
I believe that to make our life
purposeful and fruitful, there is an essential and vital underlying factor – strength of mind. Without fortitude of mind, concentration, we are destined
not to succeed. A focused and productive life will escape us.
Not surprisingly, the Buddha taught
how to develop a mind of resilience and courage – a mind with the ability for concentration. His four precious
principles are given in the Samyutta Nikaya (Chapter 51), in the Pali
Canon. These are known as the four Iddhipada or paths to power (also
referred to as the four bases of power).
To have strength of mind, then, four
basic mental qualities need to be developed. These four bases of spiritual power are the ability of concentration on:
· Desire – intention, aspiration,
· Persistence – effort, energy
· Intentness – consciousness, thoughts,
· Ingenuity – analysis,
an important factor in freeing us from laziness which creeps in
one of three forms: (1) Keeping ourselves busy in things that are not essential (typical in some ways of the
21st century); (2) losing interest when we don’t see immediate results that we want; that is, trying
something, not having patience, and then leaving it; (3) putting ourselves down in thinking "I can’t do it"
(a lack of self-confidence).
strong desire or intention, if we do not have persistence, we will not succeed. Simply put, it
is not enough to want
to do something – we actually have to do something about it. Needed is
continuous and consistent effort. Otherwise, desire or intention is
impotent. For example, whenever suffering arises, we realize that there is no simple way out. Only through
effort do we overcome suffering. Likewise, we have to work at developing wholesome mental states, and ridding
ourselves of unwholesome mental states.
we exert a lot of effort, we also need intentness – a consciousness of the necessity to keep going. In other words, we need to think about our practice,
keeping it in mind or being conscious of it at all times – for example, being mindful of our feelings and
Ingenuity (or analysis) involves seeing how we may
be falling into bad habits or wrong practice; learning to work with the imperfect mind we have; examining
ourselves; and balancing our mental faculties. Whenever
we gain a degree of success, and become satisfied and happy with it, then we will not advance
This set of four mental qualities is
one of the seven sets of qualities attributed to the
conducive to Enlightenment.
Samyutta Nikaya (in the Viraddha Sutta, SN 51.2), highlights
the utmost significance of these four mental qualities:
"Bhikkhus, those who have neglected
the four bases for spiritual power have neglected the noble path leading to the complete destruction of
suffering. Those who have undertaken the four bases for spiritual power have undertaken the noble path leading
to the destruction of suffering."
And from the Iddhipada-vibhanga Sutta, Thanissaro Bhikkhu translates: "These four
bases of power,
when developed and pursued, are of great fruit and great benefit
[emphasis mine]." A fitting closing to answer the question: What do we need to make our life purposeful and
"Iddhipada-vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of the Bases of Power" (SN 51.20), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro
Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 1 July 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn51/sn51.020.than.html
. Retrieved on 8 September
© 2013 Alexander Michael Peck
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this article, please click on Strength of Mind.
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