Monday, March 7, 2011

Overcoming hindrances in 5 easy steps

The "Five Hindrances" are mental states that hinder progress in meditation.  They are:

  1. Sensual desire.
  2. Ill-will.
  3. Sloth and torpor.
  4. Restlessness and worry.
  5. Doubt.

That's not to say that these are "good" or "bad" states of mind, just that when you're trying to meditate, these things sort of get in your way.  So a skillful meditator learns to overcome them.

It turns out that the 5 steps to overcoming hindrances during meditation are hidden in plain sight right in the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha's lecture on what we know as Mindfulness practice, one of the most important and most read of all discourses by the Buddha.  The 5 steps are:

- Know when the hindrance is present.
- Understand the conditions that cause the hindrance to arise.
- Know when the hindrance is not present.
- Understand the conditions that cause the hindrance to be abandoned.
- (Therefore,) Understand the conditions that cause the hindrance to not arise in the future.

Simple and beautiful.

Thanks to Shaila Catherine for pointing this out in Google this evening.  I'm often impressed at how amazing she is as a teacher.

Someday, I want to read the Satipatthana Sutta in its original Pali.  I don’t think there is any substitute to reading an important text in its original language.  As a wise man once said, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”


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  2. Ven. Analayo's discourse on Satipatthana is one of the most important contribution to the understanding of the practice in recent years.

    Please read the review section. Highly recommended.

  3. I just read an interesting explanation of the pre-history of the original Pali text in "First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening." I found it interesting that the oral tradition on which these tests was based actually took place in a different language.

  4. Doubt seems like primary hindrance because without it the other hindrances have no room to grow.

    When you are lost in doubt, try this exercise. You'll be surprised: