The five jhana factors are: 1. Initial application (vitakka) 2. Sustained application (vicara) 3. Joy (píti) 4. Happiness (sukha) 5. One-pointedness (ekaggata)
Initial Application (VITAKKA)
Initial application is defined as the application of the mind to its object (for example breath). Applied thought is described as the first impact of the mind on the object, the gross initial phase of thought. Applied thought can be unwholesome as in thoughts of sensual pleasure, ill will and cruelty, or wholesome as in thoughts of renunciation, benevolence and compassion.
Sustained application (VICARA)
Sustained application seems to represent a more developed phase of the thought process than vitakka. Sustained thought is described as the act of anchoring the mind on the object, the subtle phase of continued mental pressure. For example, initial application is like striking a bell, sustained application like the ringing.
Applied thought brings the mind to the object, sustained thought fixes and anchors it there. Applied thought focuses the mind on the object, sustained thought examines and inspects what is focused on. Applied thought brings a deepening of concentration by again and again leading the mind back to the same object, sustained thought sustains the concentration achieved by keeping the mind anchored on that object.
Joy is defined as the nature of developing interest in the object. Joy or rapture springs up with the abandonment of the five hindrances. Rapture is graded into five categories: minor rapture, momentary rapture, showering rapture, uplifting rapture and pervading rapture.
Happiness is the feeling of being happy, a pleasant feeling and content with the object. Joy and happiness link together in a very close relationship, but though the two are difficult to distinguish, they are not identical.
Happiness is a feeling (vedana); joy is a mental formation (sankhara). Happiness always accompanies joy, so that when joy is present happiness must always be present; but joy does not always accompany happiness, for in the third jhana, as we will see, there is happiness but no joy.
One-pointedness is a universal mental association, the factor by virtue of which the mind is centred upon its object. It brings the mind to a single point, the point occupied by the object. Unlike the previous four jhana factors, one-pointedness is not specifically mentioned in the standard formula for the first jhana.
One-pointedness is used in the text as a synonym for concentration (samadhi) which has the characteristic of non-distraction, the function of eliminating distractions, non-wavering as its manifestation, and happiness as its proximate cause. As a jhana factor one-pointedness is always directed to a wholesome object and wards off unwholesome influences, in particular the hindrance of sensual desire. As the hindrances are absent in jhana one-pointedness acquires special strength, based on the previous sustained effort of concentration. In conclusion, each jhana factor serves as support for the one which succeeds it. Initial application must direct the mind to its object in order for sustained application to anchor it there. Only when the mind is anchored can the interest develop which will culminate in joy. As joy develops it brings happiness to maturity, and this spiritual happiness, by providing an alternative to the fickle pleasures of the senses, aids the growth of one-pointedness.