Right Diligence

“Right Diligence does not mean to force ourselves. If we have joy, ease, and interest, our effort will come naturally.”
Thich Nhat Hanh in 
The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

Right Diligence is one aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, which is the way to well-being. Other aspects are Right View, Right Mindfulness, Right Speech, Right Thinking, Right Concentration, Right Action, and Right Livelihood.

Right Diligence can also be translated as Right Effort.  We could probably also translate it as wholesome effort. It is action that makes us more whole and healthy. In his pre-enlightenment days Siddhartha Gautama, the future Buddha practiced severe asceticism. He fasted long and denied the needs of the flesh in order to overcome the bonds of physical existence. He eventually concluded that this was not the best way to achieve liberation from suffering. To deny the physical body and induce pain was no more right effort than to indulge the body excessively in physical pleasure. He came to advocate a middle way—a way of moderation.

When we practice Right Diligence our efforts are persistent, but they put us into a flowing state, rather than a self-defeating condition that feels like going in circles or banging our head against the wall. The consequence of Right Effort should be more joy, more enthusiasm, rather than emotional exhaustion.

To practice Right Diligence/Effort we need Right View. We need to be able to perceive accurately. We may need guidance from one who is more skilled than us. We need to check for feedback from our actions. When we learn to practice our behavior with skill and our efforts are in harmony with the way of things, we find ease and joy that reinforces our diligence.


In applying Right Diligence to meditation, we can start with the basics.

Learn the techniques of meditation from an appropriate teacher or other resource. While meditation is simple to learn, don’t stop learning. Refinement of the skill need never end.

Use correct posture. An upright fairly comfortable posture is best. The posture need not be entirely comfortable, but it should not be painful either.

Practice often enough that your meditation becomes habit. It is usually recommended that you meditate once or twice a day for 5 to 20 minutes until you find your own pattern that works for you.

Use meditation to bring clear awareness, not as an escape from relationships and responsibilities. It should bring you consciousness, but not escape into fantasy, visions or other experiences of delusion.

When your practice of meditation is good, it is just good. You don’t need to be proud of it. Practice to fluff up the ego is not Right Effort.

Be mindful.


Carry your meditation practice into life. As you go about your daily life, practice being aware. Be mindful. Breathe more slowly and deeply than you might ordinarily. Notice your thoughts. Weed out the ones that are not helpful and nurture thoughts that might be more wholesome and useful.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett