Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Conquest of the Five Hindrances

The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest: Selected Texts [Anthology] from the Pali Canon and the Commentaries by Nyanaponika Thera (trans.); edited by Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly, 2020

It's great to learn at Sutta Central or ATI.
Unshakable liberation of the mind is the highest goal in the Buddha's Teaching or Dharma.

Here, liberation means: the freeing of the mind from all limitations, fetters, and bonds that tie it to the Cycle of Suffering, to the Wheel of Life and Death, to the Endless Round of Becoming.

It means the cleansing of the mind of all defilements that mar its potential purity, removing all obstacles that bar its progress from the mundane (lokiya) consciousness to supramundane consciousness (lokuttara-citta), that is, to enlightenment/awakening from the illusion.

There are many obstacles that block the spiritual road and impede or derail our progress. But there are FIVE in particular that, under the name of the Five Hindrances (pancha nivarana), are often mentioned in the Buddhist texts:
  1. Sensual craving (kamacchanda)
  2. Ill-will (byapada)
  3. Sloth and torpor (thina-middha)
  4. Restlessness and remorse (uddhacca-kukkucca)
  5. Sceptical doubt (vicikiccha).
Yes, when I release them, meditation just happens.
They are called "hindrances" because they hinder and envelop the mind (heart) in many ways, obstructing its development (bhavana or "meditation").

According to Buddhism, spiritual development is twofold, through tranquillity (samatha-bhavana, "serenity") and through wisdom (vipassana-bhavana, "insight").

Tranquillity is gained by complete mental coherence (collectedness, usually and misleadingly translated as "concentration") of the mind during the meditative absorptions (jhanas).

For achieving these meditative absorptions, the overcoming of the Five Hindrances, at least temporarily, is a preliminary condition.

It is especially in the context of achieving the absorptions that the Buddha often mentions the Five Hindrances in sutras or discourses.

The Factors of Absorption

There are also five opposite mental constituents that are chiefly representative of the first meditative absorption. They are therefore called the "Factors of Absorption" (jhana'anga).

On the one hand, for each of these there is, according to the ancient Buddhist commentarial tradition, one of the Five Hindrances that is specifically harmful for it and excludes its development and refinement to the degree required for mental absorption.

On the other hand, the cultivation of these five factors beyond their average level is an antidote to the hindrances, preparing the road to absorption.

The relationship between these two groups of five is indicated in this anthology, under the heading of the respective hindrance.

Not only the meditative absorptions but also lesser degrees of samadhi (mental concentration) are impeded by the Five Hindrances.

There is something prior to full absorption. It is called "neighborhood" or "access" concentration (upacara-samadhi), being the preliminary stage for fully absorbed concentration (appana) reached in absorption.

Likewise excluded by the presence of the Five Hindrances is something called "momentary concentration" (khanika-samadhi) -- not because it only lasts a moment but because it runs alongside the effort moment by moment -- which has the strength of "neighborhood concentration" and is required for mature insight (vipassana).

But apart from these higher stages of mental development, any earnest attempt at clear thinking and pure living will be negatively affected by the presence of these Five Hindrances. ...

The Five Hindrances
The Buddha teaches Buddhist nuns.
There are five impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that [stultify or] nullify insight. What are the five?
  1. Sensual craving is an impediment and hindrance, an overgrowth of the mind that nullifies insight.
  2. Ill-will...
  3. Sloth and torpor (laziness and sleepiness)…
  4. Restlessness and remorse...
  5. Skeptical doubt [are all] impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that nullify insight.
Without having overcome these five, it is impossible for a meditator whose insight lacks strength and power, to know one's own true good, the good of others, or the good of both [of the entire community or society].

Nor will one be capable of realizing that superhuman state of distinctive achievement, the knowledge and vision (knowing-and-seeing) enabling the attainment of enlightenment/awakening.

But if a meditator has overcome these five impediments and hindrances, these overgrowths of the mind that nullify insight, then it is possible that, with strong insight, one can know one's own true good, the good of others, and the good of both.

And one will be capable of realizing that superhuman state of distinctive achievement, the knowledge and vision enabling the attainment of enlightenment. — AN 5:51 More

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