Once faith in the Path is established, “heroic effort,” the second of the Five Spiritual Faculties, is an indispensible ingredient in our quest for freedom and happiness.
On the night of the Buddha’s awakening, he vowed: “I shall not give up my efforts until I have attained liberation by perseverance, energy and endeavor.” He was singly focused on liberation, with the wherewithal to apply wholehearted energy.
In modern times, increased demands for time and attention from varied corners of our lives leave dispersed and depleted the energy needed for what is most important. Pressure to respond to external stimuli, technological and otherwise, leaves little energy to establish priorities and work toward attaining our most important internal goals and even less energy for furthering communal goals of justice and equity. Many students and colleagues report burnout and consequent inability to establish appropriate boundaries and wise plans for use of energy. Despite knowing the uncertainty of life and the preciousness of the present opportunity for practice, we find ourselves drained from lesser habitual activities, unable to find the time or energy for our most important endeavor—freedom.
Exerting courageous effort is not striving and pushing with ambition and tension to make something happen. It is relaxed, confident diligence in consistently cultivating the qualities of heart that set us free. Energy applied in this way may test our limits, but is not dispersed or depleted. It grows. Although this may appear to be a paradox, the results of courageous effort will happily surprise you.