Joseph Goldstein explores how to skillfully use energy, which is the Buddha’s third factor of awakening and a fundamental force on the spiritual path.
Strength and Courage
Joseph introduces the Buddha’s third factor of awakening, viriya, or energy. It’s critical to examine how energy is used, because if not applied skillfully it can cause great trouble. Joseph breaks down the many ways viriya is translated in English – energy, effort, strength, courage, and more – and how each translation gives nuance to this factor of awakening.
“Energy is needed to bring any endeavor that we undertake to fulfillment, to completion, but how we understand what this energy is and how we apply it takes a great deal of care. Because how we apply it, and how we understand energy, can determine whether it is the source of joyful interest, which is the next factor of awakening, or the source of great discouragement and frustration.” – Joseph Goldstein
Energy and Effort (23:45)
What is effort? When is it too much, and when is it not enough? Joseph examines the relationship between viriya as courageous effort and viriya as energy. He talks about finding balance, and how effort creates energy when done in the right spirit.
“We have to pay attention to how we’re applying this quality of ‘viriya’ in the moment. If we’re too tight, we need to relax, we need to soften, we need to open up. It’s also possible to be too loose, where we’re not arousing enough effort, we’re not arousing this quality, and then we’re just sitting back in the name of relaxation, and the mind is wandering off and not paying attention at all. That’s when we need to tighten the strings a little bit.” – Joseph Goldstein
Explore energy and effort with Jack Kornfield on Heart Wisdom Ep. 62
Spiritual Urgency (40:30)
What causes this factor of awakening to arise? Joseph talks about how the quality of spiritual urgency calls forth viriya. He explores the reflections that help produce spiritual urgency, including reflecting on the preciousness of birth and the truth of death.
“Every happiness is available to us if we understand the causes for happiness. We’re in this amazing situation of being in a place where we can both understand it and actually put it into practice. This is a tremendous good fortune. Reflecting on this arouses this sense of ‘viriya,’ of spiritual urgency.” – Joseph Goldstein