Author Topic: Similes for the 5 Hindrances from the Buddha  (Read 4635 times)

Offline Optimus Prime

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Similes for the 5 Hindrances from the Buddha
« on: November 30, 2009, 03:14:33 am »
There are many things that can obstruct progress in your meditation but the Buddha said that in particular, these 5 things are the main things to watch out for.  You can break them up into:
-  The 3 poisons           plus
-  Restlessness/worry    and
-  Doubt
To enter the Jhanas/Dhyanas, you first have to at least temporarily quieten and abandon all 5 of these hindrances.  So they can be used as a checklist during your meditation and if you notice them, then you can apply strategies and tools to overcome them.
The Buddha's simile on the 5 Hindrances adapted from the Samyutta Nikaya 46:55:
1.  Desire for sense pleasures - This is like a bowl of water with all these beautiful dyes in it - it's looks great with all these beautiful colours but you can't see through it.
2.  Ill-will/anger/hatred - What would this sort of water look like?  It's like boiling water where the water is really hot, angry and bubbling violently with steam coming out of it.
3.  Drowsiness/Lethargy - This is like a bowl of stagnant, stale water.  Though the water is still, there's all this algae, moss and slime growing over the top of it - there's no life-giving properties to the water.
4.  Restlessness and worry - This is like water whipped up by the wind so that there's lots of ripples and waves crashing to and fro on it - it can't be still.  Because it's not still, you can't see through it.
5.  Doubt - This is like murky water - like a cloudy suspension that has been placed in a dark place - you can't see through it here either.
Whereas a mind which has abandoned and overcome the 5 hindrances is like clear, still, pure water placed in a bright place where you can see right through to the bottom.

Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Similes for the 5 Hindrances from the Buddha
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2009, 08:05:05 am »
I know his guidance for overcoming the 5 hindrances are numerous, but could you cite a few here?

Offline Optimus Prime

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Re: Similes for the 5 Hindrances from the Buddha
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2009, 06:32:33 am »
So when we're allowing our minds to settle down into calm, we can see if we can notice whether our minds ever drift into any of these 5 hindrances:

1.  Craving for sense gratification, i.e., craving to enjoy ourselves through our 5 senses
This can often take the form of thinking about a hot babe or guy - how hot they look, how sexy they move, how gorgeous they smell when you're around them, the softness of their skin, the sexy sound of their voice, how they taste.  If you're caught up into these sort of thoughts, it's difficult for the mind to calm down, as you're too busy enjoying their beautiful face or body in your mind.  So these beautiful forms entice the mind and the mind gets absorbed into these fantasies.  Fun while they last, but whilst you're enjoying this, the mind is not clear.

One way of overcoming this is to reflect on the nature of sense cravings.  When you don't have them, you yearn for them.  After you've had your enjoyment, you think "that was good" but soon after, you hunger for them again.  So they have a certain unsatisfactoriness about them that doesn't really permanently satisfy us.

Another example would be if your mind drifts off into that great song you heard (or that annoying song that you can't get out of your head).  With music that you like, it evokes the emotions and after the first time you hear it, you want to hear it again and again.  But imagine listening to the same song over and over again for a whole day - you're going to get sick of it.

Same with if your mind goes off into cravings for food.  Imagine a moist chocolate mud cake.  When you take your first bite into it, you feel like "Wow, this is like... heaven!"  But after you've had a few bites, the taste gets blander - the flavour is not as nice because we've gotten used to it.  If we were to try to eat several servings, we'd be saying "No! No more!  I'm starting to feel sick!"

So we realize that cravings through our gratification through senses (in these latter 2 cases cravings for taste and beautiful sound) - the pleasures that we can get through indulging in sensual pleasures - the intensity of this pleasure and enjoyment changes with time.  It gets blander the longer the experience goes on for and can even make you dislike it at the end.

So does this mean that we shouldn't be enjoying the finer things in life like good food?  Of course not!  But we realize that our senses can only gratify us "just that much".

2.  Ill will - If your mind drifts off into anger or hatred about someone who's maybe unfairly accused you of something or about how you were wronged, this anger clouds the mind so that it's not clear.

A lot of people find that they can't have metta for the person that they are hating, but one way of overcoming this is to have metta for the feeling of ill-will itself.

The other way of overcoming this is just recognizing that anger just feels bad - so why are you doing this to yourself?  You're getting yourself all worked up, your heart-rate is increasing, you're body is tensing up, you're adrenalin is pumping, you're in a foul mood - you might even get a heart attack (if your heart is bad) so why are you harming yourself?

So you learn how to let go of it and be kind to your own body.

3.  Drowsiness/lethargy - if we're getting sleepy or drowsy in meditation, one problem could be that we're sleep deprived - in which case, we should get some good rest and once the body is re-energized, the mind is brighter and meditation should be easier.

Be careful of stuffy rooms as well - as these can make you drowsy.  Clear, open spaces with plenty of fresh air helps the body be more energized.

Mentally rousing the feeling of energy as well helps.  As does meditating with a light on or with your eyes open.  Developing the perception of light was also one of the Buddha's recommendations.

Getting up to do some exercise helps too as it gets the blood circulating.  Another alternative is to do walking meditation or bowing instead of sitting if you're getting too drowsy.

One other way to approach drowsiness/lethargy is, instead of using willpower to stay away, you can just actually use mindfulness to feel the feeling of drowsiness - how does it feel around the eyes, around the forehead, around the chest and the rest of the body.

Sometimes, if you persist with your meditation object, the drowsiness will lift by itself as the mind gets more energized.

4.  Restlessness and worry - this is when the mind goes off into worry about what's going to happen about this and that in the future and regretting what you've done in the past, "Oh, I should've done this", "Oh I should've done that".  This agitates the mind too.

So here, we can set things straight and do the best we can to fix up any problems and take care of any business before we meditate - otherwise, these concerns and any unfinished business can keep popping up into the mind.

For this, you can also learn how to temporarily let go of all those problems.

5.  Doubt means doubt about the Buddha and his teachings, doubt about the method or doubt in yourself that you have the necessary skills to progress in the meditation or enter Jhana. 

To overcome this hindrance, the method is that of inquiry, i.e., study and investigate the teachings, ask lots of questions.  Then you practice and try the teachings out and once you've developed a bit of skill and a bit of accomplishment, you'll know for yourself whether it works or not and the doubts will naturally vanish.

For all of these hindrances, you can also use shamatha to aid in overcoming them if ever your mind drifts off into any of these 5 hindrances, you can focus it back on your meditation object (i.e., the breath or a mantra etc...).  Sometimes, you've got to use a combination of strategies, but in general, you need to maintain a bit of wisdom to know when the mind is getting calmer and when it is not and apply the appropriate strategy to bring the mind back into balance and stillness.

Offline humanitas

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Re: Similes for the 5 Hindrances from the Buddha
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2009, 01:45:37 pm »
Thank you for this!  This is wonderful food for thought ( ;D am I indulging a sense there?).
This post was made with 100% recycled karma

Offline Optimus Prime

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Re: Similes for the 5 Hindrances from the Buddha
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2009, 03:13:36 am »
The principle behind calming down the sense consciousnesses and their cravings is this:

As Ajahn Brahm notes, "It's the nature of the brain to notice things that change" - they grab our attention more easily.  Conversely, he also notes that "Things that stay constant, we don't usually notice."

For example, the sound of the air conditioning or the sound of the hum of the computer - after a while, we don't notice it.

When sitting in meditation:
-  Our body doesn't move - so our sensations of physical feelings stay constant - after a while our sense of touch switches off.  
-  We close our eyes and at first we see darkness but because this darkness stays constant, our sense of sight slowly switches off.  
-  We're not tasting anything, so the taste consciousness switches off.
-  Sitting quietly, there is no sound, so our sense of hearing switches off.  
-  As for smells, we're not smelling anything, so our sense of smell switches off.  
-  Sitting in meditation, we're stilling our thoughts - so even the 6th sense consciousness of the thinking mind calms down.

After the 6 senses switch off, all that's left is the breath (if we're using the breath as our mediation object).  That's why it's used in meditation because it becomes more and more refine and smooth such that you don't know the beginning, middle or end of the breath - so that becomes pretty constant too.

After all that is switched off, then all there is, is the mind.

So what we're doing is preventing our energy from being dissipated outwards into the senses.  It's sort of like a dam with leaks in it - we plugging up those leaks and allow the energy of the mind to build up naturally.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2009, 03:27:09 am by Optimus Prime »


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