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Title: Vīrya  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Outline of Buddhism, Pāramitā, Index of Buddhism-related articles, Śīla, Prajñā (Buddhism)
Collection: Buddhist Terminology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Translations of
English: diligence,
sustained effort
Pali: viriya
Sanskrit: vīrya
Chinese: 勤(T) / 勤(S),
精進(T) / 精进(S)
Korean: , 정진
(RR: geun, jeongjin)
Sinhala: වීර්ය
Tibetan: བརྩོན་འགྲུས།
(Wylie: brtson 'grus;
THL: tsöndrü
Vietnamese: Tinh Tấn
Glossary of Buddhism
10 pāramīs
6 pāramitās
Colored items are in both lists.

Vīrya (Sanskrit; Pāli: viriya) is a Buddhist term commonly translated as "energy", "diligence", "enthusiasm", or "effort". It can be defined as an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities, and it functions to cause one to accomplish wholesome or virtuous actions.


  • Etymology 1
  • Mental factor 2
  • Pali literature 3
  • Other characterizations 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • Sources 7


Vīrya literally means "state of a strong man"[1] or "manliness."[2] In Vedic literature, the term is often associated with heroism and virility. In Buddhism, the term more generally refers to a practitioner's "energy" or "exertion," and is repeatedly identified as a necessary prerequisite for achieving liberation.

In Buddhist contexts, viriya has been translated as "energy,"[1][3][4][5][6] "persistence,"[6][7] "persevering,"[8] "vigour," "effort," "exertion,"[1] or "diligence."[9][10]

Mental factor

Within the Buddhist Abhidharma teachings, virya is identified as:

In this context, virya is defined as the attitude of gladly engaging in what is wholesome; its function is to cause one to accomplish wholesome actions.[9][10]

The Abhidharma-samuccaya states:

What is virya? It is the mind intent on being ever active, devoted, unshaken, not turning back and being indefatigable. It perfects and realizes what is conducive to the positive.[9]

In the context of the Mahayana Abhidharma, virya is commonly translated as diligence.[9]

Pali literature

In Buddhism's Pali literature, viriya is identified as critical component in each of the following sets of qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhi-pakkhiyā-dhammā):

It is also associated with "Right Effort" (sammā-vāyāma) of the Noble Eightfold Path (Pāli: aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo; Skt.: aṣṭāṅga mārga) and with the "Four Right Exertions" (samma-ppadhāna).

In the Kīṭāgiri Sutta (MN 70), the Buddha instructs his followers:

... For a faithful disciple who is intent on fathoming the Teacher's Dispensation, it is natural that he conduct himself thus: 'Willingly, let only my skin, sinews, and bones remain, and let the flesh and blood dry up on my body, but my energy [Pali: viriya] shall not be relaxed so long as I have not attained what can be attained by manly strength [purisa-tthāmena], manly energy [purisa-viriyena], and manly persistence [purisa-parakkamena]...."[3]

Other characterizations

It stands for strenuous and sustained effort to overcome unskillful ways (akusala dhamma), such as indulging in sensuality, ill will and harmfulness (see, e.g., ahiṃsa and nekkhamma).

Viriya can also be aroused by strong feelings of Saṃvega and the practice of the charnel ground meditations as outlined in the Satipatthana sutta.

It stands for the right endeavour to attain dhyāna.

Vīrya can also signify courage and physical strength and was cultivated by Buddhist guardians including the Shaolin monks. It signifies strength of character and persistent effort for the well-being of others as well as the ability to defend the Triratna from attacks.[11]

In the absence of sustained effort in practicing meditation, craving creeps in and the meditator comes under its influence. Right effort (vīryabala) is thus required to overcome unskillful mental factors and deviation from dhyāna.

See also


  1. ^ a b c See, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), entry for "Viriya," which defines viriya as: "lit. 'state of a strong man,' i. e. vigour, energy, effort, heroic exertion." Retrieved 3 Feb. 2011 from "U.Chicago" at .
  2. ^ See, e.g., which Monier Williams (1899), entry for "Vīyà," defines vīyà in part as: "manliness, valour, strength, power, energy, RV [ Rig Veda ] &c. &c.; heroism, heroic deed, ibid.; manly vigour, virility, semen virile, MBh. [ Mahabharata ]; Kāv.&c; ...." Retrieved 3 Feb. 2011 from "U.Cologne" at .
  3. ^ a b Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi (2001), "Kīṭāgiri Sutta" (MN 70), pp. 583-4.
  4. ^ Ireland (1998)
  5. ^ Walshe (2009)
  6. ^ a b c See, e.g., Bullitt (2005), entry for "viriya," which defines this term as: "Persistence; energy. One of the ten perfections (paramis), the five faculties (bala; see bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma), and the five strengths/dominant factors (indriya; see bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma)." Retrieved 3 Feb. 2011 from "ATI" at .
  7. ^ Thanissaro (2005).
  8. ^ Piyadassi (1999).
  9. ^ a b c d Guenther (1975), Kindle Locations 578-580.
  10. ^ a b Kunsang (2004), p. 25.
  11. ^


  • Bullitt, John T. (2005). A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms. Available from "Access to Insight" (ATI) on-line at .
  • Griffith, Ralph T.H. (1896). Rig Veda. Available from "Wikisource" at .
  • Guenther, Herbert V. & Leslie S. Kawamura (1975), Mind in Buddhist Psychology: A Translation of Ye-shes rgyal-mtshan's "The Necklace of Clear Understanding". Dharma Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  • Ireland, John D. (trans.) (1998). "Meghiya Sutta: Meghiya" (Ud. 4.1). Retrieved 7 Feb. 2011 from "Access to Insight" at .
  • Kunsang, Erik Pema (translator) (2004). Gateway to Knowledge, Vol. 1. North Atlantic Books.
  • Monier-Williams, Monier (1899; rev. 2008). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. A general on-line search engine for this dictionary is available from "U. Cologne" at
  • Ñāamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bhikkhu Bodhi (ed.) (2001). The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.
  • Piyadassi Thera (1999). "Gilana Sutta: Ill (Factors of Enlightenment)" (SN 46.14). Retrieved 7 Feb. 2011 from "Access to Insight" at .
  • Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for this dictionary is available at
  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2005). "Kitagiri Sutta: At Kitagiri" (MN 70). Retrieved 6 Feb. 2011 from "Access to Insight" at .
  • Walshe, Maurice O'Connell (trans.) (2009). "Pade Sutta: In the Foot " (SN 48.54). Retrieved 7 Feb. 2011 from "Access to Insight" at .
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