Hindrances To Awakening – Two Suttas

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Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x])  Inline links will open a new window.

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering, and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  [1]  Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the singular path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [2,3]  Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta  |  Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

The Buddha taught that in order to develop Jhana – a well-concentrated mind – that can then support the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate and develop the Eightfold Path as the framework for Dhamma practice, mindfulness of five specific hindrances is imperative in order to recognize and on them. [4]  Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas

Another word for hindrances is obstacles. These five hindrances are self-imposed obstacles commonly employed in a subtle and often unnoticed (strategically ignored) internal strategy to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Rather than avoid responsibility for these hindrances through modern pop-psychology influenced modern Buddhist practices that over-analyze these hindrances to the point of distraction, the Buddha taught the why and how of applying the Dhamma in specific ways. In this way, the Buddha taught an effective Dhamma that avoids “embracing” these hindrances that only encourages continued I-making. [5]  Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views

The Avaran Sutta is a simple and direct teaching on what these Five Hindrances are. The Nibbana Sutta is a bit more elaborate and teaches the proper application of Right Mindfulness to recognize and abandon these hindrances. Nibbana (Sanskrit Nirvana) means “extinguished.” The entire Buddha’s Dhamma is developed to recognize and abandon “the fires of passion” that arise by ignorance of Four Noble Truths and continued conceit. [6]  Fire Discourse

My comments below are in italics.

 

Hindrances To Awakening – Two Suttas

Avarana Sutta – Anguttara Nikaya 5.51

Nibbana Sutta. Anguttara Nikaya 9.64

 

Avarana Sutta – Hindrances

On one occasion the Buddha was near Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove at Anathapindika’s monastery. He addressed those gathered to hear the Dhamma.:

“Friends, there are five hindrances that overwhelm mindfulness and weaken wise discernment:

  1. Sensual desire is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.
  2. Ill will is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.
  3. Laziness and drowsiness is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.
  4. Restlessness and anxiety id a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.
  5. Uncertainty is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.

“These are the Five Hindrances.

Notice that each of these hindrances arise from fabricated views of “self” in relation to an impermanent environment that produces ongoing distraction, disappointment, confusion, and deluded thinking. Uncertainty is an aspect of impedance that due to self-referential fabricated views often results in distraction and upset. [7,8]  Fabrications  |  Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

“I will provide a simile: Suppose a swift mountain river flowing unimpeded carrying everything with it. A person builds many side-channels so that the current in the middle would be dispersed and dissipated. The slowed river could carry along everything or go far.

The Buddha taught that the Noble Eightfold Path develops Right View as a guiding “middle way” avoiding the continual self-reference produced from extreme and speculative views. In this simile, the unskillful (wrong) effort spent in creating “side-channels” – alternative fake dharmas and unskillful beliefs used to support continued ignorance – results in a dharma practice that is incapable of developing understanding of Four Noble Truths and can only furthering dissertation and continued ignorance.  [3]

“In the same way when a person clings to these hindrances, they are weak and ineffective (in developing the Eightfold Path). It is impossible for these people to understand what is for their benefit or for the benefit of others. It is impossible for these people to develop awakening and a truly noble distinction in knowledge and vision.

It is impossible to develop the Buddha’s Dhamma when distorted by these five hindrances by fake or misleading “dharmas.”  [9]  Teaching An Authentic Dhamma

“Now suppose a swift mountain river flowing unimpeded carrying everything with it. A person comes along and closes all side-channels.  (By developing the Eightfold Path) The middle of the river would be unimpeded and would not be dispersed and dissipated. The swift river would carry along everything and go far.

“In the same way when the wise Dhamma practitioner abandons these five hindrances. It becomes possible for them to develop strong discernment and are effective in their development of my Dhamma. The wise Dhamma practitioner understands what is for their benefit or for the benefit of others. They understand how to develop awakening and a truly noble distinction in knowledge and vision.

Integrating the Eightfold Path provides the framework, guidance, and ongoing motivation to continue swiftly to the goal of awakening – Nibbana.

End Of The Avarana Sutta

 

Nirvana Sutta – Hindrances

On one occasion the Buddha was near Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove at Anathapindika’s monastery. He addressed those gathered to hear the Dhamma.

“Friends, be mindful of these five hindrances: (to fully developing the Eightfold Path)

  1. Sensual desire is a hindrance.
  2. Ill will is a hindrance.
  3. Laziness and drowsiness is a hindrance. (Lack of enthusiasm due to indifference)
  4. Restlessness and anxiety id a hindrance. (Worry)
  5. Uncertainty is a hindrance. (uncertainty is the immediate experience of impermanence)

“These are the Five Hindrances.

“In order to abandon these five hindrances, the wise Dhamma practitioner should develop the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness, the Four Frames Of Reference: [10]  Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness

  1. The wise Dhamma practitioner remains focused on the arising and passing away of the body in and of itself, ardent, alert, and mindful while putting aside greed and distress in reference to worldly events.
  2. The wise Dhamma practitioner remains focused on the arising and passing away of feelings in and of themselves, ardent, alert, and mindful while putting aside greed and distress in reference to worldly events.
  3. The wise Dhamma practitioner remains focused on the arising and passing away of thoughts in and of themselves, ardent, alert, and mindful while putting aside greed and distress in reference to worldly events.
  4. The wise Dhamma practitioner remains focused on the arising and passing away of the present quality of mind in and of itself, ardent, alert, and mindful while putting aside greed and distress in reference to worldly events.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner should develop these Four Foundations Of Mindfulness. these Four Frames Of reference,  in order to abandon these Five Hindrances.

End Of Nibbana Sutta

 

  1. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas
  5. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
  6. Fire Discourse
  7. Fabrications
  8. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  9. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma
  10. Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness

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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

 

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