— 1. Maintaining the Five Controlling Faculties in Equilibrium

6 May 2539

1. Maintaining the Five Controlling Faculties in Equilibrium

The Five Controlling Faculties (indriya) are important Dhamma constituents in the practice. They are: faith (saddhā), effort (viriya), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samādhi), and wisdom (paññā).

a. Faith and Wisdom. Faith is belief. Our heart is oriented to the object of belief, easily influenced. This is a quality that builds up energy. People who have faith have confidence, and confidence brings strength. If we do not have faith, we will not have the strength to come to the temple. When we have faith and the stronger our faith is, the more strength we will have. Even if the temple is far away, 100 miles or 500 miles away, when we have faith, we will go. Faith brings energy. But if we lose faith, we will not go even if the temple is very close. When faith is lost, energy is nowhere to be found. Faith brings strength and is an essential quality.

The Buddha warns, however, that faith needs support, and this support comes from wisdom. One who has wisdom examines the cause and effect, correctness, appropriateness, whether the matter is true or false, right or wrong. If faith stands alone by itself, it is prone to deception and errors in judgment, easily influenced by emotion. Without wisdom we may believe whatever people tell us, no matter whether what they say is right or wrong. Faith may give us the strength to do anything, even something evil. This we can see from some religions that stress only faith. With the mighty strength that comes with faith, people can even kill fellow beings of different religions or engage in religious wars. With faith being so powerful, we are reminded to keep it under the control of wisdom to be in proper balance.

On the other hand, in the case of wisdom without faith, we want to know everything but nothing earnestly in particular. We may have a scattered superficial knowledge. We know this, we know that, but we do not know anything in depth to get access to truth or to be of real use. This is not good either. When we combine wisdom and faith, we are on the right path. Faith leads us directly to our object of belief and sustains it. Energy is then generated and our goal becomes clear. Wisdom and faith support each other. When we have faith in one matter, our faculty of wisdom will investigate it meticulously. For instance, when we have faith in one particular Dhamma doctrine, we use wisdom to study it sincerely. Faith supports wisdom by guiding it in a steady direction and sustaining it with perseverance. These two partners then work together toward the goal. Once the goal is reached—the truth is known—wisdom prevails. Faith does not need to support wisdom any more. But during our practice, we still need faith. It would be wrong to say that we do not need it when we have not reached our goal.

We can see that faith plays the following roles:

  1. to point out directions to the faculty of wisdom
  2. to anchor this wisdom to the object
  3. to provide (the search for) wisdom with strength

The faculty of wisdom plays the discriminating role of thoroughly investigating what faith brings to it, shedding light on the matters until they become clear.

There are, nevertheless, cases where faith lacks wisdom or blocks wisdom, such as faith without inquiry. In some religions, you can only have faith, you cannot ask questions; it is wrong to ask. The Buddha does not want something like that. He says that such faith obstructs wisdom; it is blind faith. Blind faith is an obstacle to the development of wisdom and can even cause conflicts. Hence, faith has the duty to support wisdom. It helps to bring about wisdom. When wisdom is fully developed, faith’s job is finished. One uses wisdom to penetrate into the truth of the matter, sees and knows it by oneself with clarity. One does not have to depend on faith anymore.

b. Effort and Samādhi. Effort is diligence. Samādhi is the state of mind that is solid and tranquil. These two support each other to maintain balance.

Viriya (effort) comes from vīra which means “bravery.” This faculty has the tendency to go forward as in bravery, to conquer and challenge whatever opposes it. It is like wanting to win in all the battles, having the determination to succeed. This characteristic of effort—being to go forward continuously—can lead us to anxiety or lack in stability and we can miss our goal. The Buddha, therefore, recommends samādhi to support effort. Samādhi brings calmness and stability. In this way, there is balance between this pair.

On the other hand, samādhi without effort slows things down, makes people sit back and relax to enjoy the pleasure. The result may be that they fall into laziness. The Buddha warns that too deep a samādhi can cause harm in that it may bring sloth. As such, it needs effort to drive it. With the presence of effort, sloth has no chance to surface; there will be progress. But if there is only effort and no samādhi, the movement will be fidgety with anxiety and impatience. With effort pushing forward and samādhi giving effort a steady hand, these two partners can move together reassuringly.

From the above, we can see that these two teams are mutually supportive:

1. Faith and Wisdom have to join hands together to stay in balance.

2. Effort and Samādhi have to be teamed together to support each other to be in equilibrium.

And all this goes on under the watchful eye of mindfulness which will give out signals when our practice is not in balance. It makes us aware that this one is loose, we have to tighten it; that one is in excess, cut it down.

Mindfulness comes as the third point and stands by itself. However, it is active in all cases. In our daily life, this rule also applies. When our Five Controlling Faculties are working in equilibrium, our practice of Dhamma and our work will advance surely and smoothly to success.

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