Negligence vs. diligence

The last of the imperfections (defilements) of the mind is negligence. The Pali word is pamāda, meaning heedlessness or negligence. It’s opposite is appamāda, meaning heedfulness, diligence, or zeal — the cornerstone of all skillful mental states.

So to counteract negligence, diligence must be applied to all of the previously mentioned defilements of the mind. If we are diligent, we know when the imperfections are present and we can look for ways to work with them so they don’t overwhelm us. If we are negligent, the defilements use our minds as playgrounds. Every time we interrupt or block a defilement, we strengthen our wisdom. Every time we allow a defilement to roam freely in our minds, that defilement is strengthened.

Vigilance is the path to the Deathless,
Negligence the path to death.
The vigilant do not die;
The negligent are as if already dead. (21)

Through effort, vigilance,
Restraint, and self-control,
The wise person can become an island
No flood will overwhelm. (25)

Unwise, foolish people
Give themselves over to negligence.
The wise
Protect vigilance as the greatest treasure. (26)

– Dhammapada verses, translated by Gil Fronsdal

The Buddha praised diligence for its ability to support the essential ingredients of awakening, the five spiritual faculties:

Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is established in one thing, the five faculties are developed, well developed in him. In what one thing? In diligence.
And what, bikkhus, is diligence? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu guards the mind against the taints and against tainted states. While he is guarding the mind thus, the faculty of faith goes to fulfilment by development; the faculty of energy…the faculty of mindfulness…the faculty of concentration…the faculty of wisdom goes to fulfilment by development.
It is in this way, bhikkhus, that when a bhikkhu is established in one thing, the five faculties are developed, well developed in him.

– SN 48.56, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi

So, the mental activity of “guarding the mind” is key to making progress against our own defilements. When we bring this knowledge to mind again and again, we are doing the work of awakening.

The Buddha’s final words in this world were about diligence:
All conditioned things are subject to decay. Strive on with heedfulness.
– from DN 16, translated by John Kelly

Imperfections that defile the mind:
(1) covetousness and unrighteous greed
(2) ill will
(3) anger
(4) revenge
(5) contempt
(6) a domineering attitude
(7) envy
(8) avarice
(9) deceit
(10) fraud
(11) obstinacy
(12) presumption
(13) conceit (māna)
(14) arrogance
(15) vanity
(16) negligence

from MN7, translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
This entry was posted in General, Imperfections. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Negligence vs. diligence

  1. Blessed am I to have read and comprehended these words of Master to the diligent and faithful. I hope to continue in practice this teaching. Thank you.

  2. lynnjkelly says:

    Helly Jenny. I appreciate your comments, but will disagree with one point you make. Pretty sure there’s nowhere in the Pali canon where the Buddha says that the fifth precept is the most important one. Repeatedly he said that killing a Buddha, killing one’s parents, etc. were the most egregious acts.

    Still, your point is well taken.
    Warm wishes,

  3. Hi,
    Thank you for your Dhamma teachings our dear Dhamma Sister. It is a blessing to us all. Sadhu! I wanted to just mention something relevant to negligence and its connection to heedlessness of the mind. Breaking the Fifth Precept causes heedlessness of the mind. The Fifth Precept states no ingestion of intoxicants or substances that cause heedlessness of the mind. They include alcohol, recreational drugs, and in some they could be sugar, tobacco, etc. The Fifth Precept is the worst one to break according to Lord Buddha because the heedlessness of the mind lets Mara* in and therefore one is more likely to succumb to break the other four Precepts. Precept One is no taking of life or being involved in the manufacturing of tools or substances like poison, made specifically for taking life. Precept Two is no taking of that which does not belong to you, which could be objects, ideas, or using usury in business, etc. Precept Three is no sexual misconduct. Precept Four is no lying, derisive speech, idle gossip, or slanderous speech, etc.

    Most people think that Precept One is considered the worst, but it is actually Precept Five.

    *Mara is the temptress or the destroyer who tries to prevent beings from keeping Precepts or advancing spiritually.

    Again, our Dhamma Sister, thank you for giving Dhamma to nourish us and fill us with The Triple Gem🌟💛💙💜💚❤

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