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The five hindrances in brief

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 7 Aug 2023, 15:17


'The obstructions to samhadi (meditative absorption) are usually presented in a five-fold stack called the 'five hindrances'. 

These are: Sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and worry, and doubt. 

They are called the hindrances because they block the path to liberation. They cloud the mind, preventing it being calm and developing insight. 

The first two hindrances, sensual desire and ill-will, are the strongest of the set, and are the most formidable barriers to meditative growth, representing respectively, the unwholesome roots of greed and aversion. The other three hindrances, less toxic but still obstructive, are offshoots of delusion.

Sensual desire is interpreted in two ways. Sometimes in the narrow sense as lust for the five strands of sense pleasure: agreeable sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches; and sometimes a broader interpretation is given, by which the term becomes inclusive of craving in all its modes, whether for sense pleasures, wealth, power, position, fame, or anything else it can settle upon. 

The second hindrance ill will, is a synonym for aversion. It comprises hatred, anger, resentment, repulsion of every shade, whether directed towards other people, towards oneself, towards objects, or towards situations.

The third hindrance, dullness and drowsiness, is a compound of two factors linked together by their common feature of mental unwieldiness. One is dullness, manifest as mental inertia; the other is drowsiness, seen as mental sinking, heaviness of mind, or excessive inclination to sleep. 

At the opposite extreme is the fourth hindrance, restlessness and worry. This also is a compound with its two members linked by their common feature of disquietude. Restlessness is agitation or excitement, which drives the mind from thought to thought with speed and frenzy; worry is remorse over past mistakes and anxiety about their possible undesired consequences.

The fifth hindrance, doubt, signifies a chronic indecisiveness and lack of resolution. This is not the probing of critical intelligence (i.e. critical thinking), which is an attitude that was encouraged by the Buddha, but a persistent inability to commit oneself to the course of spiritual training due to lingering doubts concerning the Buddha, his doctrine, and his path. '

From: 'The Noble Eightfold Path, the way to the end of suffering.' by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Available at: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html

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