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Right Effort Revisited

Question:

I am reading your introduction to the Eightfold Path. I’m a little lost with Right Effort (step 6) Do you go more fully into the 4 major actions, in any other podcast that I just haven’t found yet?

Answer:

Not yet, but now is a good time for it!

Right Effort is one step of the Eightfold Path. Way back in April I explained:

Right effort consists of four major actions that a Buddhist should attempt at all times:
1. Make an effort to prevent the creation of unwholesome states.
2. Make an effort to abandon pre-existing unwholesome states.
3. Make an effort to encourage wholesome states.
4. Make an effort to maintain pr-existing wholesome states.

What Buddha actually said was:

(i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

(ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.

(iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

(iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.

(From the Magga-Vibhanga Sutta, which I’ll include in full this weekend in Weekly Buddhism #8)

Right Effort is, in essence, mental energy directed toward something which can be either good or bad. The four steps above explain the most productive way to focus those mental energies. I have seen it explained that the best way to test yourself as to whether or not you have been applying right effort is to simply ask yourself, “Have I really tried today? Have I pushed myself to my limit, or did I take it easy today?”

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