Helpful similes for the hindrances

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Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby phil » Tue Dec 01, 2009 2:12 am

Hi all

I came across the simile of lust as debt in one of my notebooks, and found it interesting to reflect on:


"There is a man who has incurred a debt but has become ruined. Now, if his creditors, when telling him to pay back the debt, speak roughly to him or harass and beat him, he is unable to retaliate but has to bear it all. It is his debt that causes this forbearance.

In the same way, if a man is filled with sensual desire for a certain person, he will, full of craving for that object of his desire, be attached to it. Even if spoken to roughly by that person, or harassed or beaten, he will bear it all. It is his sensual desire that causes this forbearance. In that way, sensual desire is like being in debt."

The above is from the commentary to DN 2, which contains the following passage to lay out some similes for freedom from the hindrances:

"Just as when a man taking a loan, engages in a trade, and his trade succeeds, he now not only disposes of his old debt but he has also, beyond that, a surplus for maintaining a wife. And at that he rejoices, is glad at heart...

Just as when a man is sick and in pain, suffering from a grave disease, his food does not agree with him, and he has no strength left in his body. But some time later he recovers from that sickness; he can again digest his food, and he regains his strength. And at that he rejoices, is glad at heart...

Just as when a man has been thrown into prison, but some time later he is released from prison; he is safe and without fears, and he did not suffer any loss of property. And at that he rejoices, is glad at heart...

Just as when a man is a slave, not independent, but dependent on others, unable to go where he likes, but some time later he is set free from slavery, is now independent, no longer dependent on others, a freeman who can go where he wants. And at that he rejoices, is glad at heart...

Just as when a man, rich and prosperous, travels through a wilderness where there is no food and much danger, but some time later he has crossed the desert, and gradually reaches safely the vicinity of a village, a place of safety, free from danger. And at that he rejoices, is glad at heart.:

Similarly, so long as these five hindrances are not abandoned in him, a monk considers himself as indebted, as ailing, as imprisoned, as enslaved, as traveling in a wilderness." (end qutoe)

To summarize, the simles are lust as debt, ill will as a disease, sloth and torpor as a prison, restlessness and remorse as slavery, doubt as journey through a dangerous desert without a map.

There are also the similes related to the clarity of water, but maybe we could discuss the above first.

(I'm putting it here rather than in Classical Theravada because I think we're not supposed to discuss in light of our experience in C.T, right? But I think it might be interesting to share experience with dealing with these hindrances )

Metta,

Phil
I hope that every time I post it will be accompanied by a wish for the wellbeing of everyone in this sangha and all beings.
(so I don't have to write "metta" every time!)


Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby phil » Tue Dec 01, 2009 2:17 am

phil wrote::


"There is a man who has incurred a debt but has become ruined. Now, if his creditors, when telling him to pay back the debt, speak roughly to him or harass and beat him, he is unable to retaliate but has to bear it all. It is his debt that causes this forbearance.

In the same way, if a man is filled with sensual desire for a certain person, he will, full of craving for that object of his desire, be attached to it. Even if spoken to roughly by that person, or harassed or beaten, he will bear it all. It is his sensual desire that causes this forbearance. In that way, sensual desire is like being in debt."


This is interesting. I was thinking about it a bit differently. When there is the consumption of visible objects, for example, and pleasure derived from it, a kind of debt is set up. Next time I will be obliged by conditions to look at that object again, and suck pleasure (thereby accumulating suffering in the long run) again. It reminds me of the stories of drug dealers who give out free samples to get their future customers hooked. Mara is not a drug dealer, and he's not responsible for the dispensation of tasty objects that we devour, but it feels like we are in debt in a similar way to school kids who get their first tastes of crack for free...we are in debt to visible objects that we consume and crave through mindlessly, something like that...

Metta,

Phil
I hope that every time I post it will be accompanied by a wish for the wellbeing of everyone in this sangha and all beings.
(so I don't have to write "metta" every time!)


Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:53 am

Hi Phil, Nice topic...

Here's a collection of similes from Wings to Awakening:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... assage-131
The one's mentioned by Phil are in various places, including MN39:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Another set of similes I have found helpful are in SN46.55
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
[Lust] "Imagine, Brahman, a bowl of water mixed with lac, turmeric, dark green or crimson dye. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...
[Aversion]"Imagine a bowl of water, heated on a fire, boiling up and bubbling over. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...
[Sloth and topor]"Imagine a bowl of water covered over with slimy moss and water-plants. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...
[Restlessness] "Imagine a bowl of water ruffled by the wind, so that the water trembled, eddied and rippled. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...
[Doubt] "Imagine a bowl of water, agitated, stirred up muddied, put in a dark place. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was. In the same way, Brahman, when a man dwells with his heart possessed and overwhelmed by doubt-and-wavering...

I've sometimes found myself sitting on a retreat and realising how true some of those are...

Hmm, I see in the above you did mention these but suggested discussing the others first. I guess I like these ones better at the moment because they are about how it feels to have those hindrances (which is easy to observe...), whereas the ones you mentioned first are for what it feels like to abandon them (which is more difficult...).

Metta
Mike
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Re: Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:12 am

I always like this one that Mike just posted. I've used it a few times for talks in meditation classes or short retreats.

It is also helpful to keep in mind that one of the common Pali / Sanskrit words which gets translated into "craving" or "sensual desire", etc. in English, "raga", is usually derived from the same word for "dye".* Thus, the first analogy in the above sutta is even better in the original.

* The Chinese also often translated this as 染 "dye" either alone, or with another in standard binome style, which as 污染 is "pollute", etc.
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Re: Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby phil » Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:24 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Hmm, I see in the above you did mention these but suggested discussing the others first. I guess I like these ones better at the moment because they are about how it feels to have those hindrances (which is easy to observe...), whereas the ones you mentioned first are for what it feels like to abandon them (which is more difficult...).

Metta
Mike


Hi Mike.

Sure, let's discuss these as well. I see your point. I tend to think about the "lust as debt" simile in terms of still having the debt (of course) rather than the abandonment, but you're right that the text phrases it in terms of abandonment.


Metta,

Phil

p.s a question. Am I right in thinking that in the texts the hindrances are usually or always taught as hindrances to jhanas? For those of us who don't seek jhanas, are they somehow less relevant because of that?
I hope that every time I post it will be accompanied by a wish for the wellbeing of everyone in this sangha and all beings.
(so I don't have to write "metta" every time!)


Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:39 am

Hi Phil,
phil wrote: p.s a question. Am I right in thinking that in the texts the hindrances are usually or always taught as hindrances to jhanas? For those of us who don't seek jhanas, are they somehow less relevant because of that?

They are also taught as hindrances to any kind of meditation. I think the point with jhana is that eliminating the hindrances is a key step. If you're trying to become totally focussed on your object you need to deal with the hindrances. If you're doing more of a "dry insight" sort of thing then the hindrances can be one of the objects to be aware of when they pop up. In that sense they are part of the fourth Satipatthana (though some can be classified under the third as well - the is some redundancy in the Satipatthana Sutta...).

And you can, of course, also use them to classify problems in "everyday life".

Metta
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Re: Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby phil » Tue Dec 01, 2009 12:36 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Phil, Nice topic...

Here's a collection of similes from Wings to Awakening:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... assage-131
The one's mentioned by Phil are in various places, including MN39:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Another set of similes I have found helpful are in SN46.55
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
[Lust] "Imagine, Brahman, a bowl of water mixed with lac, turmeric, dark green or crimson dye. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...
[Aversion]"Imagine a bowl of water, heated on a fire, boiling up and bubbling over. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...
[Sloth and topor]"Imagine a bowl of water covered over with slimy moss and water-plants. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...
[Restlessness] "Imagine a bowl of water ruffled by the wind, so that the water trembled, eddied and rippled. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...
[Doubt] "Imagine a bowl of water, agitated, stirred up muddied, put in a dark place. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was. In the same way, Brahman, when a man dwells with his heart possessed and overwhelmed by doubt-and-wavering...

I've sometimes found myself sitting on a retreat and realising how true some of those are...

Hmm, I see in the above you did mention these but suggested discussing the others first. I guess I like these ones better at the moment because they are about how it feels to have those hindrances (which is easy to observe...), whereas the ones you mentioned first are for what it feels like to abandon them (which is more difficult...).

Metta
Mike


Hi again Mike

I guess it's a case of whatever works, works. Whatever motivates us to stop feeding the hindrances, that's all that matters.

I was thinking about the debtor simile has more of a narrative in it, so for a person like myself who is operating on a very conventional/conceptual level and has not had much insight in meditation, there is more to relate to in a kind of morality tale than there is in descriptions based on meditative experience.

So for example these days I'm feeling tempted to get involved in a certain extra-marital relationship. I can understand that the state of mind associated with this is cloudy, obstructed, like water stained by dyes. (Thanks to the other Dhamma friend -forget your user name, sorry - for the note about the etymological connection between raga and dye) But this doesn't provide as strong a motivation for dropping the harmful mind state as reflecting on the debt that will be assumed if I don't.

Whatever works, works, right? The Buddha offers so much help to different people with different needs and who are dealing with defilements of differing power...

Metta,

Phil

p.s thanks also Mike for your helpful answer to my question on whether hindrances only refer to jhanas or not...
I hope that every time I post it will be accompanied by a wish for the wellbeing of everyone in this sangha and all beings.
(so I don't have to write "metta" every time!)


Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:24 pm

Hi phil,

You make some great points about different uses of the similes.
phil wrote: I was thinking about the debtor simile has more of a narrative in it, so for a person like myself who is operating on a very conventional/conceptual level and has not had much insight in meditation,...

I didn't really mean that I had great insight into the hindrances from a meditative point of view, just that I have had times when I've felt, for example, restless, and the simile of the waves on the water surface has seemed particularly apt.

On a more general note, I get more and more out of various similes as I make (a little more) progress. Some seem so clear...

By the way, this talk:
The Five Hindrances
Saturday, 1 November 2008 5:00 p.m.
Senior Bodhinyana Ajahn Dhiravamso talks about the five hindrances.
http://www.bswa.org/audio/podcast/DhammaTalks.rss.php

discusses hindrances in everyday life, as well as meditation.

Mike
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Re: Helpful similes for the hindrances

Postby phil » Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:16 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi phil,

You make some great points about different uses of the similes.
phil wrote: I was thinking about the debtor simile has more of a narrative in it, so for a person like myself who is operating on a very conventional/conceptual level and has not had much insight in meditation,...

I didn't really mean that I had great insight into the hindrances from a meditative point of view, just that I have had times when I've felt, for example, restless, and the simile of the waves on the water surface has seemed particularly apt.


I was thinking more about why I respond more to the other similes. I guess there is more of an implied route of behaviour to counter the hindrances. Even if I can relate to the image of the dyed, cloudy water, what is the implied message about overcoming that hindrance? We can't leap ahead and get the clear water just by thinking about not having lust, but I can get inspired not to add to my debt (lust), not to submit myself to a burning disease (hate) not to slip deeper down into a prison, to rise out of it (sloth and torpor), not to let myself be enslaved by the restless and remorseful mind, to insist on the freedom from restlessness and remorse implied by returning to the meditation object, and to go out and acquire the understanding of the teachings that will provide a map through that desert. (doubt.) I'm very much a behaviour oriented person (see my signature) so I guess that's why I respond to those. Again, we all respond in different ways to different teachings! It's cool! Next time I meditate I'll reflect on the water-related similes and see what it leads to.. :smile:

By the way, this talk:
The Five Hindrances
Saturday, 1 November 2008 5:00 p.m.
Senior Bodhinyana Ajahn Dhiravamso talks about the five hindrances.
http://www.bswa.org/audio/podcast/DhammaTalks.rss.php

discusses hindrances in everyday life, as well as meditation.


Thanks, I'll download it tout de suite.

Metta,

Phil
I hope that every time I post it will be accompanied by a wish for the wellbeing of everyone in this sangha and all beings.
(so I don't have to write "metta" every time!)


Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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