Week 31 – Factors of Awakening: Investigation

Continuing with the Seven Factors of Awakening, Joseph moves on to Investigation of Dhammas. Most significantly, Joseph explains the import of Investigation, or discrimination of states, or discerning the Dhamma, as the essential factor of the Seven Factors. It is that which “cuts through ignorance and delusion and liberates the mind.”

In explaining how to cultivate Investigation, Joseph instructs us in:

  • discerning what is skillful and what is not
  • recognizing habit patterns of suffering
  • seeing personality as non-self
  • understanding the nature of thought, and
  • exploring the processes of mind and body.

The wisdom that comes from Investigation then inspires us and leads to the next factor, energy. There is a clear progression in the Factors of Awakening.


1) From Mindfulness (p 234)
"As with all the factors of enlightenment, the instructions in the sutta are to know whether this quality of discernment is present or not and how it can be developed and cultivated."
In your experience, how easy or difficult is it to KNOW when the quality of inquiry is present?  How does it feel?

1A) "The factor of Investigation is an active quality in the mind and it is precisely this factor which awakens us from ignorance."
Does it make sense that this second factor is singled out as the one (the sword) that leads us to awakening?

2)  Joseph quotes Ajahn Chah as saying there are 2 kinds of  suffering - one that leads to more suffering and one that leads to its end.
In your experience, how does investigating a disturbing or difficult thought or emotion bring relief from suffering?
3)  Two personality "templates" were presented:  the 3 types discussed in The Path of Purification (The Visuddhimagga) and the 5 Aggregate types suggested by Bikkhu Bodhi.
Does the strategy of placing yourself (and others) on a personality template seem helpful as a way to de-personalize and dis-identify with habitual patterns?
4)  How is investigation of dhammas different from thinking about, figuring out, or analyzing?  Is there a way to talk about this process that is non-intellectual?


1)  During a sitting period, practice unremitting mindfulness.  At what point does inquiry become activated?  Investigate what the state of inquiry feels like.
2)  Experiment with inquiry thusly:
When engaged in a conversation, check in  with yourself to see what your attitude of mind is.  Is there grasping or aversion?  Is an emotion arising?  What is it?  Is it possible to investigate in this way and still carry on the conversation?  Does paying attention is this way cultivate discernment in your speech?  Does it condition any other skillful actions? 
3)  Examine your motivation in your sitting practice:
If you sit regularly, pick a period to look with "affectionate curiosity" (Ajahn Sumedho) at who is sitting and why.  Do this without "thinking about" or analyzing or judging.  Notice clinging and conceit (or not!).
If you do not sit regularly, look at that (again, with affectionate curiosity).  What motivates you to not sit?
4)  In our discussion on the Factor of Mindfulness, we explored the universal beautiful factors of mind, hiri and ottappa ("moral shame" and "fear of wrongdoing" or "self-respect" and "conscience").  To further explore these factors:
Notice if a sense of unease arises before, during, or after you speak hastily, possibly from a place of reactivity.  Investigate the sense of unease.  What is underneath it?