The 5 hinderances to our spiritual progress.
Buddhism is a way of life and that extend to its spiritual practice. The spiritual results of practice are achievable in this very life and we do not need to wait for death to verify them. And yah, our spiritual practices is not meant for us to see Buddha and drink tea with him. In fact, if we desire to see Buddha then we are treading the wrong path.
The Buddha was preaching to Kevatta (lay follower) and thus He used similes which is relatable to a layman when he elaborate on the 5 spiritual hindrances. As we can witness here, Kevatta is like many religious people. We are awed by the mysterious and the supernatural. This long sutta witness the compassion and patience of Buddha because He had explained this topic well and in detail too.
How should we value mysticism? This was explained when Buddha taught that the real miracle is in the transformation of ones mind and character.
What is the value of mystical practices in Buddhism? Buddha had categorically list down the various mystical arts and declared them as unworthy for a true practitioner.
Then in a change of direction, Buddha began to teach how we can achieve supernatural powess. It may sound contradictory but it isn’t so. In the beginning of the sutta, Buddha taught that it is far better to convert people by helping them see the wisdom in Buddhism (Dharma). Then He made it a point to critique Buddhist monks and nuns who “earn a living” by practicing mysticism. This cement the fact that, Buddha emphasize Dharma practice and propagation of wisdom over mysticism. (Mysticism as elaborated in the previous posts)
Buddhism is not against supernatural feats and miracles. Buddha and His disciples had relied on such feats to help others when it is beneficial to do so. It is important to note that Buddhist spirituality or supernatural powess is rooted in the removal of these 5 hinderances. It is pure and wholesome. Let’s examine what are the 5 hinderances and it will become apparent why Buddhist spirituality is positive and wholesome energy.
|Spiritual Hinderances||Householder’s Simile|
|1||covetousness||Freedom from covetousness is likened to the happy and settled mind arising from freedom from debt with surplus to keep the household is good order. Where one is contented and happy with life?|
|2||ill will and anger||Freedom from ill will and anger is likened to recovery from a great sickness. The happiness of being at ease with our body and living in good health. When we are free from ill will and anger, we live in ease. This is because our life become bearable when we do not have aversions.|
|3||sloth & drowsiness||Freedom from sloth and drowsiness in practice is likened to freedom from prison. Imagine being trapped in prison with nothing except the 4 walls. Sloth and drowsiness in practice is like that. It’s like our mind being “locked” into a limbo state. We want to avoid that.|
|4||restlessness and anxiety||Freedom from restlessness and anxiety is likened to slavery. If we have no control over our wandering thoughts and they drive us into various mental chores and activities, then our mind is like a slave. It is quite helpless and unable to do what it wants (In this case, see the Truth and be enlightened) It is important to note that freedom from (3) does not mean we get entangled in (4)|
|5||uncertainty (lacking faith and determination)||Freedom from uncertainty is liken to the happiness of emerging unharmed while travelling through a desolated road with valuables. The valuables refer to our practices. We can be chanting mantra or meditating. If we are uncertain of our practices, then it is likened to being robbed and harmed on our spiritual path. For example, when we practice breathing meditation. At some point, our breathe becomes so fine that it is hardly discernable. Some meditator become alarmed by it and may suddenly fear death. Thus abandoning their practice. |
In another example, those who chant the name of Amitabha or do Pureland practices, may encounter heresy that says such practice is only meant for the dying and by practicing them, one hasten death. If one is uncertain of one’s practice, then one would be robbed of a precious Dharma.
Emerging unharmed means the Dharma becomes integrated with one’s life and one no longer has any uncertainty about the practice. In that manner, one’s dharma path is no longer like the desolated road full of traps and danger.
“Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, this noble restraint over the sense faculties, this noble “In the same way, when these five hindrances are not abandoned in himself, the monk regards it as a debt, a sickness, a prison, slavery, a road through desolate country. But when these five hindrances are abandoned in himself, he regards it as unindebtedness, good health, release from prison, freedom, a place of security. Seeing that they have been abandoned within him, he becomes glad. Glad, he becomes enraptured. Enraptured, his body grows tranquil. His body tranquil, he is sensitive to pleasure. Feeling pleasure, his mind becomes concentrated.
Okay, it is important that we practice Dharma without “wanting” supernatural powers. That kind of wanting is “covetousness” The above is a very wonderful road map for practitioners. It is good to constantly reflect and check ourselves to make sure we did not wander off in the wrong directions during our practice. If we practice correctly and well, many things in our life will sort themselves out favorably for us to gain enlightenment,
May all be well and happy.