Right Effort (samyak pradhana) is also referred to as Right Diligence by some. Focusing on where we spend our energy and with how much effort we exert ourselves, Right Effort is the practice of utilizing our energy mindfully.
There are four practices of Right Effort, and these practices are known as the Fourfold Right Diligence. Before discussing these practices, we must understand the principle of our “store consciousness.” Our store consciousness holds all of our emotional seeds, from serenity to anger, love to hate, and joy to sorrow. Some seeds are wholesome and some are unwholesome. Wholesome seeds are seeds that come from a loving, compassionate heart, and encourage ourselves and others to find liberation. Unwholesome seeds are the opposite, leading to the suffering of us and those around us.
The first of the Fourfold Right Diligence practices is preventing unwholesome seeds from arising. This is done through the practice of Right Mindfulness. As we go about our day, we do not engage in activities or thoughts that will water our unwholesome seeds. With Right Mindfulness, we see what these activities and thoughts are, and we us our energy to steer clear of them.
The second practice is recognizing where unwholesome seeds have already risen, and working to return them back to our store consciousness. Being mindful of where these seeds have arisen, we acknowledge them and let them fall back down. As is discussed in Right Mindfulness, we use our mindfulness to recognize, accept, and let go of unwholesome seeds without pushing them away. For those in Twelve-Step programs, this may be similar to your Tenth Step Inventory.
The third of the Fourfold Right Diligence practices is to water the wholesome seeds in our store consciousness. This can be done through anything that is encouraging toward liberation. Meditation, mindfulness, helping others, eating healthy, and smiling are all actions that work with this practice. Our wholesome seeds are always with us; we must put the effort forth to bring them out.
The fourth and final practice is nourishing our wholesome seeds, encouraging them to stay in our mind consciousness and to grow ever stronger. This practice is recognizing our wholesome seeds that have risen using Right Mindfulness, and encouraging them to continue growing. For example, if you feel present and joyous after meditating, you should continue to meditate, s you can be confident it will help those seeds grow even stronger.
Right Effort is not just using our energy wisely,it is also using our energy to its fullest potential. When we practice these four principles or any other practice, we must use our full effort. Inversely, we must no think we are practicing Right Diligence fully if we are just putting a lot of effort forth; we must look at where the effort is being directed.
Finally, to practice Right Diligence, joy and ease must be present. Practice should not be forced, and really shouldn’t be strenuous. Our practice should be comfortable and pleasant. If there seems to be a lot of resistance, much of our effort is wasted. the energy is wasted twofold. First, we waste energy creating the resistance within, then we waste even more overcoming the resistance. Practicing Right Effort, we don’t resist, and allow our energy to be spent more wisely.