THE FIVE HINDRANCES


PRESENTED BY
the Wanderling

THROUGH THE GRACEFUL SERVICES OF THE DHARMA AND:
AJAHN BRAHMAVAMSO


1

kamacchandra Sense Desire
2 vyapada Ill-will or Aversion
3 thina-middha Sloth and Torpor
4 uddhacca-kukkucca Restlessness and Anxiety
5 vicikiccha Doubt



"The Buddha says that all the hindrances arise through unwise consideration (ayoniso manasikara) and that they can be eliminated by wise consideration (yoniso manasikara). Each hindrance, however, has its own specific antidote. Thus wise consideration of the repulsive feature of things is the antidote to sensual desire; wise consideration of loving-kindness counteracts ill will; wise consideration of the elements of effort, exertion and striving opposes sloth and torpor; wise consideration of tranquillity of mind removes restlessness and worry; and wise consideration of the real qualities of things eliminates doubt." (S.v,105-106).


Although the overcoming or eradication of the Five Hindrances would be of high import in the normal course of almost anyone's life, simply lessening any adverse impact through the understanding of potential consequences would also be of some value. However, for those on a spiritual quest toward Enlightenment, especially those advancing through The Eight Jhana States under Buddhist precepts, unconditional elimination of the Five Hindrances is a must according to the rules and guidlines as they have come down to us through the Sutras and the recorded words of the Buddha.[1]


SENSE DESIRE:


Sense desire refers to that particular type of wanting or craving that seeks happiness through the five sense objects such as sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, in the process enhancing the drive to replace even minor irritating or painful five-sense experiences with pleasant ones. It overrides any aspiration for happiness through mind alone, reinforcing the mind’s desire to encounter and grasp at future moments of enjoyment.

In its extreme form, sensory desire is an obsession to find pleasure in such things as a lustful fulfillment through continuing contact with other physical forms, good food to the point of gluttony, and other extremes, manifested in exaggeration through excess personal hoarding of wealth, power, position, and fame.


"Now, what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sensual desire, or for the growth & increase of sensual desire once it has arisen? There is the theme of unattractiveness. To foster appropriate attention to it: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sensual desire, or for the growth & increase of sensual desire once it has arisen."

Starving the Hinderances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51


When sensory desire is transcended, the mind of the meditator has no interest in the promise of pleasure or even comfort with this body. The body disappears and the five senses all switch off. The mind becomes calm and free to look within. The difference between the five sense activity and its transcendence is like the difference between looking out of a window and looking in a mirror. The mind that is free from five sense activity can truly look within and see its real nature. Only from that can wisdom arise. Also kama-raga, number four of The Ten Fetters of Buddhism. Desire, as Tanha, is considered one of the "Daughters of Mara," one of three tempters sent by Mara, The Personification of Evil, to entice the future Buddha into abandoning his quest for Enlightenemnt. Also considered one of The Three Poisons and The Ten Grave Precepts.

Equally as significant this same hindrance is Number One at the top of the list of the Patimokka, the 227 Rules to be observed by members of the Buddhist Order. Out of the 227 rules it is one of ONLY four, called the Parajikas, that if breached incurs explusion from the order for life. If you think Buddhism takes it lightly take some time to read Parajikas. Buddhism might not be your cup of tea.


ILL WILL:


Ill will refers to the desire to punish, hurt or destroy. It includes sheer hatred of a person or even a situation. It can generate so much energy that it is both seductive and addictive. At the time, it always appears justified for such is its power that it easily corrupts our ability to judge fairly. It also includes ill will towards oneself, otherwise known as guilt, which denies oneself any possibility of happiness. In meditation, ill will can appear as dislike towards the meditation object itself, rejecting it so that one's attention is forced to wander elsewhere.


"And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen ill will, or for the growth & increase of ill will once it has arisen? There is awareness-release. To foster appropriate attention to that: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen ill will, or for the growth & increase of ill will once it has arisen."

Starving the Hindrances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51


Ill will is overcome through what is called Metta in Sanskrit (i.e., loving kindness). If it is ill will towards a person for any reason, Metta allows you to see more good in that person than all that hurts you. It helps you to understand why that person hurt you and encourages you to put aside your own pain to look with compassion on the other. If doing so is a hurdle too difficult to surpass, Metta turned toward one's self can assist in NOT dwelling on ill will toward that person. It will inhibit that person from hurting you further with the memory of any adverse deeds. Similarly, if it is ill will towards oneself, Metta sees more than one's own faults and can understand one's own faults, finds the courage to forgive them, learn from their lesson and let them go. If it is ill will towards the mediation object Metta embraces the meditation object with care and delight. For example, just as a mother has a natural Metta towards her child, so a meditator can look on their breath with the very same quality of caring attention. Then it will be just as unlikely to lose the breath through forgetfulness as it is unlikely for a mother to forget her baby in the shopping mall, --- and it would be just as improbable to drop the breath for some distracting thought as it is for a distracted mother to drop her baby!

When ill will is overcome, it allows lasting relationships with other people, with oneself and, in meditation, a lasting, enjoyable relationship with the meditation object, one that can mature into the full embrace of absorption. Also patigha, number five of the Ten Fetters of Buddhism.


SLOTH AND TORPOR:


Sloth and torpor refers to that heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.


"And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sloth & drowsiness, or for the growth & increase of sloth & drowsiness once it has arisen? There is the potential for effort, the potential for exertion, the potential for striving. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sloth & drowsiness, or for the growth & increase of sloth & drowsiness once it has arisen."

Starving the Hindrances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51


Sloth and torpor is overcome by rousing energy. Energy is always available but few know how to turn on the switch. A young child has a natural interest, and consequent energy, because its world is so new. Thus, if one can learn to look at one's life, or one's meditation, with a 'beginner's mind' one can see ever new angles and fresh possibilities which keep one distant from sloth and torpor, alive and energetic. Similarly, one can develop delight in whatever one is doing by training one's perception to see the beautiful in the ordinary, thereby generating the interest which avoids the half-death that is sloth and torpor.


RESTLESSNESS AND ANXIETY:


Restlessness refers to a mind which is like a monkey, always swinging on to the next branch, never able to stay long with anything. It is caused by the fault-finding state of mind which cannot be satisfied with things as they are, and so has to move on to the promise of something better, forever just beyond.


"And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen restlessness & anxiety, or for the growth & increase of restlessness & anxiety once it has arisen? There is the stilling of awareness. To foster appropriate attention to that: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen restlessness & anxiety, or for the growth & increase of restlessness & anxiety once it has arisen."

Starving the Hindrances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51


Restlessness is overcome by developing contentment, which is the opposite of fault-finding. One learns the simple joy of being satisfied with little, rather than always wanting more. One is grateful for this moment, rather than picking out its deficiencies. For instance, in meditation restlessness is often the impatience to move quickly on to the next stage. The fastest progress, though, is achieved by those who are content with the stage they are on now. It is the deepening of that contentment that ripens into the next stage. So be careful of 'wanting to get on with it' and instead learn how to rest in appreciative contentment. That way, the 'doing' disappears and the meditation blossoms. Number nine of the Ten Fetters of Buddhism.


DOUBT:


Doubt refers to the disturbing inner questions at a time when one should be silently moving deeper. Doubt can question one's own ability "Can I do This?", or question the method "Is this the right way?", or even question the meaning "What is this?". It should be remembered that such questions are obstacles to meditation because they are asked at the wrong time and thus become an intrusion, obscuring one's clarity.


"And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen uncertainty, or for the growth & increase of uncertainty once it has arisen? There are mental qualities that are skillful & unskillful, blameworthy & blameless, gross & refined, siding with darkness & with light. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen uncertainty, or for the growth & increase of uncertainty once it has arisen."

Starving the Hindrances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51


To deal with doubt a skilful meditator pursues a silent gathering of evidence, reviewing it only at the end to uncover its meaning. It is helpful to talk to someone who has great confidence in the Buddha and his teachings. Doubt can only be truly overcome, however, by our own practice of the Buddha’s teaching and by discovering the truth for ourselves. The Buddha said many times, “Come and see for yourself.” Similarly,

The end of doubt, in meditation, is described by a mind which has full trust in the silence, and so doesn't interfere with any inner speech. Like having a good chauffeur, one sits silently on the journey out of trust in the driver. Number two of the Ten Fetters of Buddhism.


There are many different presentations on the internet regarding The Five Hindrances, some good, some not so good. Mine above is a modification of one the best, edited and reformated for our purposes here. However, the best most comprehensive one is not truly a website at all, but a chapter titled "Working With The Five Hindrances" in two books by Matthew Flickstein of which portions are accessible through Google Books. To access the chapters please click:

THE MEDITATORS ATLAS


SWALLOWING THE RIVER GANGES


SEE ALSO:

OVERCOMING THE FIVE


STARVING THE HINDRANCES: SN 46.51 Ahara Sutta

IN THE WAY OF ENLIGHTENMENT: THE TEN FETTERS OF BUDDHISM



Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.


(PLEASE CLICK)


AWAKENED TEACHERS FORUM


ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL




GASSHO
(PLEASE CLICK)



CLICK
HERE FOR
ENLIGHTENMENT

ON THE RAZOR'S
EDGE



E-MAIL
THE WANDERLING

(please click)



Ajahn Brahmavamso















To reach a successful final cumulation in following the Buddhist path toward Enlightenment it requires the unconditional elimination of the Five Hindrances --- that is, according to the rules and guidlines as they have come down to us through the Sutras and the recorded words of the Buddha. True or false?

Dhammapada Verses 273, 274, 275 and 276 states:


"Of all Ways, the Noble Eightfold Path is the best.
This is the only way, there is none other for the purity of insight"

Abridged


Verse 274: This is the only Path, and there is none other for the purity of vision. Follow this Path; it will bewilder Mara.(see)


And this, the following from the Satipatthana Sutta:


Thus Have I Heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Kuru country at a town of the Kurus named Kamma-sadhamma. There he addressed the bhikkhus thus: "Bhikkhus." - "Venerable sir," they replied. The Blessed One said thus:

"Bhikkhus, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for the attainment of the true way, for the realisation of nibbana - namely the four foundations of mindfulness.

"What are these four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.


Number four of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness above so cited, "Contemplation of Mind-Objects," are described thus as being The Five Hindrances in the same Sutta:


"And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu abide contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects? Here a bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the five hindrances. And how does a bhikkhu abide contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the five hindrances? Here, there being sensual desire in him, a bhikkhu understands: ‘There is sensual desire in me’; or there being no sensual desire in him, he understands: ‘There is no sensual desire in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of unarisen sensual desire, and how there comes to be the abandonment of unarisen sensual desire; and how there comes to be the abandonment of arisen sensual desire, and how there comes to be the future non-arising of abandoned sensual desire.’

"There being ill will in him…There being sloth and torpor in him…There being restlessness and remorse in him…There being doubt in him, a bhikkhu understands: ‘There is doubt in me’; or there being no doubt in him, he understands: ‘There is no doubt in me’; and he understands how there comes to be the arising of unarisen doubt, and how there comes to be the abandoning of arisen doubt, and how there comes to be the future non-arising of abandoned doubt."


SATIPATTHANA VIPASSANA MEDITATION