Vīrya (Sanskrit; Pāli: viriya; Tibetan Wylie: brtson 'grus) 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.
Vīrya literally means "state of a strong man" or "manliness." 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," "persistence," "persevering," "vigour," "effort," "exertion," or "diligence."
Within the Buddhist Abhidharma teachings, virya is identified as:
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]...."
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).
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.
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.
^ abcSee, 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 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/glossary.html#viriya .