The Four Qualities for Accomplishment: Iddhipada

The Four Qualities for Accomplishment: Make a cup of coffee


When you want to make a nice cup of white coffee, you may need four key ingredients; coffee, hot water, milk and sugar (preferably brown sugar). Stir the mixtures well before you take a small sip. Then enjoy it !

According to one of the Buddha’s teachings, whatever we would like to accomplish in life; work, education, relationship, travel or Enlightenment, we need to have the right ingredients; will power, effort, focus and self-examination.



1. Will Power: the Main Ingredient

Will power may be called a strong desire to achieve our goals.

If we want to be successful in our work, we must have a very strong ‘passion’ for the job.  

Towards graduation, students must maintain their ambition to study hard.

To have ‘roses on the bed’ relationship (not the other way around), partners must make a solid-mountain resolution to take all challenges in life together.

To attain Enlightenment and to be free from unsatisfactoriness in life, people must keep their interest in the Dhamma practise.

There are two important factors to generate will power; the external and internal factors.


The external factor is ‘good friend’. In Buddhist teachings, a good friend is a priority. The Buddha asked other monks to consider him as a good friend. A good friend doesn’t mean the one who loves to flatter or speak nicely to us all the time.  But he or she can be very direct to us whenever we start to lose the path towards inner peace.

Good friends will remind us when we forget to meditate each day. Good friends will discourage us when we are tempted by the Monster-Discount- Summer Sale in David Jones.

Good friends will discourage us from having another drink when we start to sing some strange songs and can’t walk on the straight line.

A good friend can be an inspiring example of a peaceful lifestyle. Buddhist teachings consider ‘association with the wise’ as one of the highest blessings in life.

Homo Sapiens species is at the top of the animal kingdom, we have survived climate change and many disastrous world phenomena due to our will power to adapt and to evolve. We love to communicate among the same species; we love to exchange ideas and tips in every minute detail of living; from making stone tools, casting bronze axes, hunting mammoths, cooking Chinese food, to digital face book.

In general, parents are good friends. Your ‘bossy’ husband can be a good friend. Your ‘nagging’ wife is also a good friend.  Your annoying roadside authorities can be good friends who discourage you when you park your car in the wrong spot (and they are so happy to fine you.)

Even the doctrine of heaven and hell can be used to encourage people to do good and stop people doing bad. The right application of reward & punishment can inspire some people to have will power. Some young gentlemen may like to work much harder if there are some nice girls working around them. Some boys may like to study much harder because parents promise them the latest apple smart phone. Some actresses try to perform their best and expect an Oscar.




The internal factor is our own joy and happiness. Joy and happiness are the key elements for self-inspiration.

Joy comes from the feeling of success. For example, we are overweight and would like to be healthy, and we have been dreaming of evening jogging for many years. Suddenly, only god knows how or why, on one auspicious morning we went jogging. We feel joy and happy even though it is only the first day of exercise and we are still overweight.

The day-one joy and happy feelings will inspire the day two jogging, and happiness of the day two exercise will encourage day three and so on.  

In the March 2015 weekend meditation retreats, there were about 24 new people. Many of them might feel it quite difficult to master their mind. Some might be able to quiet their minds and feel peaceful.

In both cases, the tiny glimpse of inner peace arising from meditation will be self-inspiration for their future meditation practise. The Buddha said ‘the taste of inner peace excels all other tastes in this world’.  The single experience of inner happiness from one meditation will give one of the strongest positive impressions to the human mind. Because it is really nice. And this is the internal way to create ‘will power’.


2. Effort: Make the right use of our energy

Effort is to put our plan into action. Buddhism is based on energetic actions; action to correct our mistakes, action to prevent wrong deeds, action to better our conduct and action to maintain good practise.

Effort synchronizes will power. If our interest in practising meditation is not serious, our effort to practise mindful meditation will be less. Oppositely, if the resolution is so high, effort will be like a power house. People are lazy or feel reluctant to practise meditation, not because they don’t want to try, but they are not interested enough to do it.

To be mindful in all activities during the weekend meditation retreat is not an easy job. Some people quit before the retreat ends. Most people diligently keep on trying to follow the time table; waking up early in the morning, sitting meditation for an hour, walking meditation in the bush etc. It is possible only because of their strong will power. People who practise meditation or exercise regularly without being told by someone else, are the ones who already have had the benefits.

The relaxed feeling arising from calmness of mind helps to refresh and reenergize our minds, and the very same nice feeling motivates us to keep on practising meditation.

In Vipassana meditation, effort is the action of constantly observing the true nature of body, feelings, memory, thoughts and

consciousness. When the mind realizes the true nature of Impermanent, Unstable and Not-self, the mind will release attachment. Once letting go of clinging happens, the mind will experience peaceful liberation.

Such extraordinary nice feeling of freedom from suffering will be self-inspiration, and will generate great effort.

The clearer we know what we want in life, the more focus we have towards our goal. And we will put all of our physical and mental energy towards that direction. We will not waste time in life doing some other useless things.

In meditative lifestyle, we diligently produce ‘mindfulness ‘in all activities.  So the next quality of ‘staying focused’ will come much easier when the first two qualities are well developed. People who practise meditation regularly will have more advantage in controlling their mind and focusing their mind on their work.


3. Stay Focus

The benefit of training the mind in meditation is to tame the mind. The untamed mind is useless. The well tamed mind is like a well- trained horse which can be used in many ways.

There are three levels of concentration of the mind The deeper the concentration, the mind will have more ability to stay focused. The benefit of concentration is the calm, relaxed and refreshed mind.

Such clear, active and a stable mind will enable us to have more tolerance to withstand any difficulties in life both physically and emotionally.

In Vipassana meditation, people must learn how to use their concentration of the mind to support ‘observing & realizing’ practise. We will be able to ‘see’ the way things are more clearly, and the result is effective letting go of attachment.

People may have to study the seven suitable factors of Enlightenment, the five hindrances and the six temperaments so they can easily work on concentration meditation.


4. Self examination

After we select what we want to achieve in life, we need to know how to make it happen, how to solve problems when things go wrong, how to improve, how to maintain etc. All this administration and management can be called 'awareness', a kind of quality control.

Like walking across a busy Sydney road in rush hour, we are ambitious to cross the road, we put all of our effort to cross the road, and we focus our mind on walking across the road. But we are not aware of incoming car! Bang !

Awareness lets us know what is happening around us at the same time of focusing and working on our project. Awareness also enables us to know whether we are doing alright or not.  Like the car's temperature indicator lets us know the condition of the engine, awareness lets us know whether qualities of mind; will power, effort and concentration of mind are working properly or not.

How can we know that things are going into the right direction? Like making a cup of coffee, we know whether the coffee is right or not only when we sip it.  We may need to add more milk or sugar later.

When we practice meditation, and we don't feel relaxed yet, we may need to adjust and readjust these three qualities until they are in balance.


Firstly, if the will power is too strong and out of balance, our desire to get calmness of the mind is too much, until we start to feel frustrated during meditation. We may have to reduce that strong desire and expectation. One technique we can apply to solve this problem is to think that the practice of meditation is like to playing a game of basketball with nice friends.

When we play sport with friends, we will not expect to win all the time. We play just to have fun with friends. We should think of meditation practice like playing a basketball game with our own mind, not expectation to win all the time, and the meditation is just for fun. Don't meditate like playing basketball in NBL! It is a killing field in the basketball court, so stressful!

Oppositely, if the will power is too low, we may make excuses all the time to practice meditation. In this case, we may have to connect ourselves to an inspiring friend who loves to reassure us of the benefit of mindfulness, so we can re-motivate ourselves.


Secondly, effort, must be in balance with calmness of the mind. If we try too hard or too much, we may become restless. The hyperactive mind already has too much energy, it will never feel calm.

When we are too excited with a new house, we may not be able to sleep well.  We would like to change wall colors, we would like to relocate furniture, we would like to have a new garden etc. Without an initial calmness of mind to start meditation, we will become restless about the result. We want to feel relaxed, ASAP! So we keep on changing the meditation technique every ten minutes!

Be more patient. Good things always take time to bear fruition. A very nice French coffee takes time to be made. An instant coffee is easy and quick, but which coffee do you prefer? After we have carefully and mindfully chosen any technique, stay on that meditation until the result happens.  Then we can decide whether we should change the technique or not.

Now, if effort is too low, we may feel very lazy or always fall to sleep in meditation. Then, get out of your soft comfortable meditation cushion!  Never ever meditate on your super soft luxurious bed. Try these: open windows get more light and fresh air, wash your face or take a shower, stretch your body, take a few minutes to practice deep breathing exercises like Tai Chi or Yoga or do walking meditation. If these methods don't work, then set your alarm clock and go to bed, have a nice rest.  That is the best the Buddha can advise. 


Thirdly, the concentration of the mind must be balanced with wisdom. As previously discussed, it is not easy to stay focused, but the benefit of concentration of the mind is calm and beautiful happy feeling. Some people may attach to this happy feeling, and stay on that calm meditation for a long time. To be free from the cycle of unhappiness in life, the calmness or relaxation is only a bus stop. It gives us a temporary break away from our hectic lifestyle. The journey to Enlightenment doesn't stop there. People must learn how to use calmness of mind as a spring board to proceed into Vipassana meditation where people will learn how to use the benefit of calm and happy mind to practice 'observing & seeing' the truth of body and mind and find release from all attachment.

On the other hand, people who don't have enough concentration of the mind, can't stay focused on meditation, may feel difficulty establishing observing practice in Vipassana meditation. The distracted mind has no clarity of what it is doing.  The disturbed mind is neither stable nor active to do a good job.  So learn to apply different additional meditation techniques to approach different hindrances.

For example, if the mind is distracted by anger, we may consider the disadvantage of holding anger and the benefit of forgiveness. Then we may practice Metta Bhavana, the loving-kindness meditation which involves the visualization of smiling faces of people who love and care about us. The Metta meditation can introduce a small amount of love and happiness. These two beautiful feelings are powerful enough, in the initial stage, to restrain anger in the mind temporarily, and leave the mind in peace for a short time, like a small dam retaining a huge water way. Later on we must learn how to remove the cause of anger totally by the practice of wisdom.

Awareness comes from the good practice of mindfulness. The regular practice of mindfulness will expand our perimeter of awareness to cover all other areas in life.


Now, we have all the four important ingredients of successfulness, but we need a cup and a good stir. There is no other meditation technique which can be more powerful than the breathing technique.

As we are breathing mindfully, we are able to build up will power. Have you heard the old saying 'take a deep breath before you make a difficult decision.' Actually, it is a natural mechanism that we always take a deep breath when we steady ourselves to do some 'mission impossible' like meditation.

The deep and refined breath can give us some comfort and ensure ourselves of whatever we would like to start; jumping over a fence, swimming in a shark-infested beach, bidding on eBay, or singing the song 'SOS ' to your upset girlfriend.

The refined breath helps us to maintain our energy to pursue our project and meditation. Each refined breath is so efficient that it gives us maximum level of Oxygen supply but less metabolism.

The concentration of mind arising from mindful breathing will last much longer. If practiced regularly and skillfully, the breathing technique will give us ability to stay focused every time we breathe, in any conditions, in any place.

The breathing technique can be used as an excellent biofeedback. We don't need to use any other objects to practice mindfulness. As we are still alive, every time we breathe, we are able to produce the strength of mindfulness. And this constant production of mindfulness will be used to monitor the balance of will power, effort and concentration of the mind.