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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Oct 5, 2021

This episode focuses on Right Effort, one part of the Noble Eightfold Path. Buddha repeatedly taught the importance of effort, for realizing the rest of the eightfold spiritual path depends on effort. In this context effort means energy directed toward cultivating the mind. The path begins with an impure mind and a wish to change; the liberated mind is the culmination of the path.what comes between is unrelenting effort. Here we focus on the four powers of effort, which teaches us how to make positive change unstoppable. 


Time and again the Buddha has stressed the need for effort, for diligence, exertion, and unflagging perseverance. The reason why effort is so crucial is that each person has to work out his or her own deliverance. The Buddha does what he can by point- ing out the path to liberation; the rest involves putting the path into practice, a task that demands energy. This energy is to be applied to the cultivation of the mind, which forms the focus of the entire path. The starting point is the defiled mind, afflicted and deluded; the goal is the liberated mind, purified and illumi- nated by wisdom. What comes in between is the unremitting effort to transform the defiled mind into the liberated mind.

The work of self-cultivation is not easy — there is no one who can do it for us but ourselves — but it is not impossible.


Buddha himself and his accomplished disciples provide the liv- ing proof that the task is not beyond our reach. They assure us, too, that anyone who follows the path can accomplish the same goal. But what is needed is effort,


4 powers of effort 

  1. Aspiration. Dream. Wish. You have to develop a strong wish to accomplish an important goal or personal change. Visualize yourself having accomplished it. In your imagination, feel how wonderful it is. Imagine what your life is like having attained this goal/change.
  2. Steadfastness. Steadfastly put these planned steps into action. Accomplish your daily goals. Decide what has to be done to accomplish this goal--according to your capacity. Very clearly identify the first step (what you will do tomorrow.) Plan what the steps will be the following day toward realizing your goal. Create a step-by-step plan.
  3. Joy. Your plan to change must be a joyful one. We won’t do what makes us suffer for very long! The path toward change will be challenging, but it cannot be very unpleasant. The Buddhist path should always be a joyful one if we are practicing correctly.
  4. Rest. Rest is a power of effort. Plan to take rest and have a break. Also, when we have an unexpected rest (when we diverge from our plan), don’t feel that you have failed. Steadfastness means we are going in the trajectory of our dreams, not that we are perfect.

Through the steadfast accomplishment of daily actions toward your goal or personal change, confidence will naturally arise. Eventually, you will be familiar with this new way of being. You will have become a new person, with new habits and a new life!


3 Lazinesses (obstacles to effort)

  1. procrastination 
  2. attachment to what is meaningless or non-virtuous 
  3. discouragement 


The eight practices of the Eightfold Path are 

Right View, 

Right Intention, 

Right Speech, 

Right Action, 

Right Livelihood, 

Right Effort, 

Right Mindfulness

Right Concentration. 


Right Effort 

Inactive when one should be active, 

Lazy [though] young and strong, 

Disheartened in one’s resolves,

Such an indolent, lethargic person 

Doesn’t find the path of insight. (280)* 

—Buddha, The Dhammapada


References and Links


Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. (Kindle). Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp. 72 (Link)


Je Tsongkhapa. Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, by Je Tsongkhapa, Volume 2. (Kindle.)Translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Joshua Cutler, Editor-in-Chief, and Guy Newlan, Editor, pp 187-197.