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I see a lot of texts hailing this quality, but I have not seen any practical advice on how to actually cultivate the quality.

In a similar vein, how do you banish laziness?

For example, I have plenty of downtime, which is basically me being lazy and wasting time. I'd like to be productive the majority of my time, but I don't know how.

Thank you

  • I struggled for a very long time with sloth and torpor and just could not find a way to increase my persistence. However, I kept up my meditation practice and study (despite the intense sloth I experienced very often). Something shifted in the mind along the way and sloth reduced (and persistence increased). It's hard to explain these shifts but I feel like they must be happening to everyone who just keeps at it. My suggestion is to try out different methods for reducing sloth but most importantly just keep doing it (practice + study) and something will shift along the way... – Parag Mar 8 '16 at 16:50
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You phrased that as a personal/practical question, but here's a theoretical or terminological answer.

"Persistence" is listed as one of the Five Strengths but also one the Seven Factors of Enlightenment.

In the latter article, in the table named "Balancing enlightenment factors & hindrances", it's grouped with other factors ...

  • Joy or rapture (pīti)
  • Investigation (dhamma vicaya)
  • Energy (viriya)

... as a counter-balance to ...

  • to be used when experiencing sloth & torpor (thīna-middha) to regain mindfulness.

There are texts which describe "sloth-torpor" -- it is is one of the Five hindrances (Wikipedia), or for example The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest lists some dozens of ways to overcome it.

It's also counted among the ten or six "perfections" ('pāramitā' or 'pāramī') so people will mention it if they talk about the several/various perfections.

It's also associated with 'Right Effort' (so it may be understood in context of the Noble Eightfold Path).

  • Thank you, I was looking for something along the lines of the sutta you linked. Do you have any other similar ones? – Anton A. Zabirko Mar 2 '16 at 0:20
  • If you search Access to Insight for 'torpor' it returns nearly 100 results (and 'sloth' returns nearly 150). If there's a particular sutta you find interesting you might look for it on dharmafarer.org -- though it might not have as many of the suttas translated, those which it has have extensive commentary and cross-references for other suttas ... – ChrisW Mar 2 '16 at 9:41
  • ... for example here is its 'Pacalā Sutta' (AN 7.58). – ChrisW Mar 2 '16 at 9:43
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How is the faculty of persistence developed?

Persistence is cultivated by

  • guarding and abandoning
  • developing and maintaining

One way to guard and abandon unwholesomeness while developing and maintaining wholesomeness you have to note what has arisen within you.

  • Aversion / unpleasant feeling - something is not agreeable
  • Craving / pleasant feeling - something is agreeable
  • Ignorance / neutral feeling - you are neutral to the experience yet not in touch with the the true nature of the experience

By maintaining total equanimity with the knowledge of arising and passing then you abandon and develop. Though this analysis what is abandoned is the roots or defilements and what is developed is the 7 Enlightenment Factors leading to Disillusionment and Revulsion (Nibbida).

For more detailed and comprehensive explanation see: Wings to Awakening - The Four Right Exertions by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Also see: Right Effort - samma vayamo


how do you banish laziness?

Laziness or lethargy is abandoned through development of the sense of urgency. Contemplation of death is one of the main meditation tools for this. Live each breath as it is your last trying (see: (Aṭṭhaka) Maraṇa,sati Sutta 1) to establish mindfulness or conduct your activities without procrastination. This should be done at least twice a day when the day breaks and day ends contemplating that mishap may end your life and time will run out on what needs to be done. Also see: Maraṇa Sati Kathā and How to do “contemplation of death” meditation? and is it dangerous?

“But how, bhikshu, do you cultivate the mindfulness of death?”

“Here, bhante, I do it thus:

'Indeed, should I live just the time it takes to breathe in and then out, to breathe out and then in, I would wisely attend to the Blessed One’s teaching, much indeed would be done by me!'

Thus, bhante, I cultivate the mindfulness of death.”

Source: (Aṭṭhaka) Maraṇa,sati Sutta 1 and also similar passage is in: (Chakka) Maraṇa,sati Sutta 1

Sloth and Torpor can also contribute to laziness as this makes you drowsy and sleepy. This can be a big hindrance especially during meditation. One way to abandon it is similar to the method outlined above. Especially see the section on Insight towards the end of Pacala Sutta

“Nothing is worth clinging to”

When this was said, the venerable Mahā Moggallāna said this to the Blessed One: “In what way, bhante, in brief, is a monk freed through the destruction of craving, that is, one who has reached total perfection, the total security from bondage, the total holy life, the total consummation, the highest amongst gods and humans?”

“Here, Moggallāna, the monk has learned that nothing is worth clinging to. And, Moggallāna, a monk has learned that nothing is worth clinging to, thus: he directly knows all things [he directly knows the nature of the all]. Having directly known the nature of all things, he fully understands all things.

Having fully understood all things, he knows whatever feelings there are, whether pleasant, painful or neither painful nor pleasant.

As regards to those feelings,

he dwells contemplating impermanence in them;

he dwells contemplating dispassion [fading away of lust] in them;

he dwells contemplating ending (of suffering) in them;

he dwells contemplating letting go (of defilements).

When he dwells contemplating impermanence in them, contemplating dispassion in them, contemplating ending in them, contemplating letting go, he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, he is not agitated; being not agitated, he himself surely attains nirvana.

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I think that to strengthen your persistence and banish laziness, so to speak, one should concentrate on strengthening the bond that you have with yourself.

Mindfulness alone can have a great impact on the way you see yourself internally and can increase your need or desire to satisfy yourself.

Though, overall I think persistence is something you gain over time, by being conscious of negativity and a lack of motivation, and knowing how to react to such emotions.

I have had a look around and everywhere I look seems to relay the same message:

Lack of persistence is often present due to the absence of faith (or self belief)

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