The Five Strengths

Ginny led our reflections this past Sunday morning, focusing particularly on The Five Strengths outlined by the Buddha, which can support us in our practice.  Of particular interest are the ways in which these Strengths support healing, cultivating joy and connection.

Probably thinking of the monkey mind, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said, “In the garden of gentle sanity, may you be bombarded by the coconuts of wakefulness.”  Other insights from Trungpa and Pema Chodron were used to support the presentation. 

Here are Ginny’s notes:

Last week in my morning reading/practice I read the chapter on Strengths in Pema Chodron’s book The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times and thought – ah ha!  It was like getting struck by a coconut… practice!, by working with these inherent capacities joy is accessible regardless of our relative experience. I had this flash of how my own experience of joy was connected to my ability to stay present with what was right in front of me – without attachment. And beyond that, my capacity to be present in this way allowed me to bring lightness and spaciousness to my practice. I saw this in stark relief to my “striving” for perfection, approval and an experience of goodness that was outside of me. 

The Five Strengths – (Five Faculties – that when cultivated and practiced become strengths)

  1. faith or conviction or belief (saddha, Shraddha)
    1. strong determination
  2. energy or persistence or perseverance (virya)
    1. familiarization
  3. mindfulness or memory (sati)
    1. Seed of goodness 
  4. stillness of the mind (Samadhi)
    1. reproach (story of the Geshe Ben – and the grain)
  5. wisdom or understanding or comprehension (pañña).
    1. aspiration

The story that captured my attention initially was one that Pema shared to describe the 4th strength as defined in her tradition – Reproach. 

Here is a talk that Ginny played by Gil Fronsdal, entitled Being the ant or the elephant – cultivating the 5 spiritual strengths

Poem for closing sit


What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move 

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.