The Seven Awakening Factors, mindfulness, energy, investigation, calm, joy, concentration and equanimity have been called “the 7 treasures of the Tatagatha” (the Buddha: “the Master of  Suchness.”) These factors are growing in each practitioner, and the complete development of these factors would be awakening. For every practitioner, these factors are already within to some amount: they just need continual development.

Mindfulness includes wise attention and awareness of each moment. Wise attention (yoniso manasikara (you-need-so mah-nah-see-kah-rah) is attention not affected by greed, hatred or ignorance, or a hindrance. Wise attention is the “how” we are paying attention to whatever presents itself in the mind. 

For example, when I first began practicing vedenanupassa (mindfulness of feeling tone) as taught by SN Goenka, the technique is a body scan. The object of attention would be sensations of the body and feeling tone of the sensations. I noticed that when there were blank areas in the body,  I would want to move the attention quickly through those areas. I would prefer to move quickly to those areas where there were sensations. This would be an example of unwise attention, attention affected by ill will  (not wanting to attend to the blank area) and desire (wanting to attend to an area with sensation.) 

With the attitudes of gentleness, receptivity and non striving with our mindfulness practice, the mind will become more sensitive to emerging phenomena. Thus the investigative factor arises quite naturally. 

The Pali words for investigation are dhamma vicaya,  or discernment of the dhammas. Our Deeper Dive in the Dharma Class on Wednesdays has been studying the Satipatthana Sutta, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. We are now in the 4th Foundation, Mindfulness of Dhamma (mental processes.) These dhammas include the hindrances, the aggregates, the senses, the awakening factors and the Four Noble Truths.

So discernment is:  “Is the object of attention wholesome or unwholesome?” In other words “is the object healthy or  unhealthy?” Or “skillful or unskillful?”  So investigation is a factor that discerns whether what is arising in consciousness supports awakening or supports suffering. This is the “what” the mind is attending to. The awakening factors are wholesome mental phenomena. 

The hindrances of desire, ill will, restlessness and worry, sloth and torpor, and doubt are consistently suffering, unwholesome mental phenomena. When a hindrance is operating, the mind is in delusion (lack of mindfulness.) Delusion is the primary unwholesome mental phenomena. We can wake up from delusion and see that the hindrance is there and investigate the hindrance. What is the thinking associated with the hindrance like? Are there emotions? What is the presentation of the hindrance in the body? With the aggregates, form (sense contact including thoughts,) feeling and perception, fabrication and consciousness, the mind may be in suffering or not in suffering. This is why we also note the five aggregates “subject to clinging.” Without mindfulness, there will be clinging (attachment) to the aggregate. Clinging is the sense of self identifying with the aggregate. Clinging is unwholesome mental phenomena. When we come back to mindfulness, we can bring attention and awareness to how the mind relates to the aggregate. We may be able to see how the mind has a tendency to build, reinforce and corroborate a sense of self around the aggregate (samsara.) 

Another word for investigation would be discernment. So inis investigation is a factor that discerns whether what is arising in consciousness supports awakening or supports suffering. Most consistently the arising perpetuation of of a hindrance is suffering, delusion (lack of awareness.) When we regain mindfulness, we develop in wisdom by discerning the hindrance is there and looking closely at what the hindrance is like. What is the thinking like? What emotions are there?  How is the hindrance expressed in the body? So investigation entails exploring what is there with any mental phenomena, including emotions, thinking and pain. 

So the discernment is the question is the object of attention wholesome or unwholesome, healthy or  unhealthy, skillful or unskillful?

Gil Fronsdal states a way to discern these differences in in the “ouch” or the “aw.” As the mind gets quieter and stabler, what arises naturally is that it is easier to see what is happening the mind.  In the “how” and “what” we are attending to, we can feel the distinction between hating, tightening around pain or opening and loving kindness around pain. This comes out of  the immediacy of direct experience. What is this like for me now? And we become more adept to the discernment of unpleasant phenomena:” I am not going to pick that up”



Analayo, Bhikku. Satipatthana: A Direct Path to Realization. Windhorse. Cambridge 2003. 

Carlson. P. “Understanding the Investigation Awakening Factor,” Orlando Insight Meditation Group. June 18, 2020. 

Fronsdal, G. “Investigation Factor of Awakening.” Audio Dharma. January 29, 2019. 

Goldstein, J. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakeing. Sounds True. Boulder, CO. 2016

Goldstein, J. “Satipatthana Sutta – part 28 – Factors Of Awakening: Investigation, ” Satipatthana Sutta Series  Dharma Seed. April 2004.