Posted in buddhism

The Five Hindrances

This is a list of five things we talk about that tend to get in the way of our well-being. These are the things that often make it more difficult to be mindful and aware in our lives.

 

Attachment; craving and chasing after pleasure all the time.

Aversion; resistance to pain, hatred and resentment about our experience

Restlessness; anxiety, the inability to settle down

Sloth; laziness, procrastination

Doubt; believing we can’t handle any of this

 

 These are the things that get in our way the most. I think restlessness and attachment are the ones I experience the most. These things are part of normal experience and everyone has to deal with all five. I think it helps to remind ourselves that these things are normal, that we aren’t dealing with them because we’re broken. It’s because we’re human. To be human is to struggle with these things. It’s not your fault and you’re not less than anyone else because you struggle with these things. I hope we can stop saying to ourselves, “I’m restless because I’m an anxious person” and instead say to ourselves, “I have an experience of restlessness because I’m a human being”

And none of this is unnatural. Of course we want to avoid pain. We have survived by avoiding pain. We have survived based on wondering what we can handle. It’s all simply part of life. But the question is can we relate to these hindrances in a better way?

I’m not going to suggest that we can come to a point where we’ll stub our toe and just calmly say, “Pain is entering my body” but I am suggesting that we can notice when these hindrances are arising and try to engage with them and overcome them when they get in our way. Recognizing them is the first step.

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Posted in zen

Zen And The Hindrances

Zen is said to be a method for overcoming the five hindrances: Sensation desire, hatred, sloth, anxiety, and doubt. These are described as the mental factors that hinder our progress, not only in the spiritual path but in daily life as well.

Sensation desire refers to the type of wanting that tries to get our desires fulfilled through the five senses. Hatred refers to all kinds of feeling related to rejection and hostility. Sloth refers to heaviness of body and mind that can tend to drag us down into laziness. Anxiety refers to restlessness in the body and mind that can cause us to be distracted and unable to focus. Doubt refers to a lack of conviction or trust in the path and our ability to pursue it.

When we practice, we are cultivating five positive qualities that can counteract the five hindrances. These are: Directed Thought, Evaluation, Rapture, Pleasure, and Oneness of Preoccupation.

Directed Thought is used to counteract Sloth. Evaluation is used to counteract Doubt. Rapture is used to counteract Hatred, Pleasure is used to counteract Anxiety, Oneness is used to counteract Sensation desire.

This is the essence of the Zen method. Through the insight granted from meditation, the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion are overcome and the reality of the all-embracing Empty Mind Ground is realized and planted in the mind of the practitioner. This is how we unleash our Buddha nature. All of the different skilful means, such as hua tou and kung an practice, have the goal of realizing emptiness and perceiving the Empty Mind Ground. This is what the Buddha meant when he talked about Enlightenment. It is awakening to our true nature. To perceive the Empty Mind Ground is to become one with it intuitively.

Although Zen was a concept so foreign to the first students of Bodhidharma in China, the influence did go both ways.

Zen was heavily influenced by Taoist schools of thought that were common in China at the time. The line from the Diamond Sutra that is said to have caused the Enlightenment of the sixth Patriarch Huineng, “Let your mind function freely without abiding anywhere or in anything.” sounds very similar to the Taoist notion of “flowing like a river.”

It’s also a big similarity that Zen and Taoism both suggest to use that the truth remains ‘outside the scriptures’. Not something we can get from others, but something we have to perceive ourselves. It’s for this reason that studying with a teacher who actually knows you is thought of as a more successful path than studying sutras. Sutras can only take you so far. But then, your teacher can only take you so far too, ultimately the message is that we must walk the path ourselves.

It could be this Taoist influence that separates Zen from other branches of Buddhism, making it unique. It has been argued by some Zen teachers that Zen represents a combination between the original Vipassana meditation as taught by the Buddha and Taoism. I think that is a pretty accurate description.

Our methods include several forms of meditation, some study of words of the ancient masters, and interacting with a teacher.