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Featured Dharma Talk

Hindered by the Five Hindrances
By Rev. Dhammaruchi

      There are Five Hindrances that hamper us in the development of concentration in the Samatha Meditation method. These five are: sensual desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, worry and restlessness, and doubt.

        Nayanaponika Thera says that a person should examine which of the five hindrances are the strongest in one's personal case. When I first met my master, Bhante Chao Chu, he sized up my primary hindrance problem immediately -- worry and restlessness. His constant comment to me was, "Don't worry;" "don't worry;" "don't worry." It took me a long time to understand that he wasn't just saying words; he was pointing out my root hindrance to me.

        I went on a three-day, self-meditation retreat in Miami, Missouri, last week. I made it an intention to be mindful of the hindrances while meditating -- particularly worry and restlessness.

        What I found interesting was that the hindrances seemed to ebb and flow in and out of one another. At times it became hazy as to which one of the hindrances was present. Anger, which is part of ill-will, seemed to become combined, or intertwined, with sense desire; then the hindrance of sloth and torpor would come to the surface, and I would start to feel like I was going to fall asleep.

        I learned a lot about the workings of my mind during that three day retreat. Going on retreat by yourself can be quite an experience. If you are on a self retreat, you only have yourself to deal with. You don't have other people to interact with and take the edge off. I've heard people say many times: "I wouldn't like to go on a self retreat, because I don't like my own company that much." I found out during my own self retreat that there is a real reason why this statement is a valid one.

        These five hindrances are always there in our daily lives, and we usually are not consciously aware of it. But they are always there just under the surface, and, because we aren't aware of the constant latent presence of these hindrances, they can sometimes get us into trouble.

        Phillip Moffet once said in one of his lectures that working with these hindrances during meditation can be a vehicle to higher consciousness. I agree.

        It's pointed out in the Buddha's teachings that Samatha doesn't rid us of these hindrances, it only suppresses them. The only way to root them out and get rid of them completely is through the practice of Vipassana Meditation.

        These hindrances are part of our human psyche. As long as we have these hindrances, we will create karma. To complete get rid of them is to completely get rid of karma. It can be done!

        This is the promise of Vipassana in the Buddhist Tradition.