David's Book:The Five Hindrances to Meditation

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

David's Book:The Five Hindrances to Meditation

Postby yawares » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:37 pm

Dear Members,

David's Book:The Five Hindrances to Meditation
[By Dr.David N. Snyder]

The Five Hindrances to Meditation and the Nine Jhanas

The Five Hindrances
1. Sense desire
2. Anger
3. Sloth and torpor;
4. Agitation and worry
5. Extreme skepticism

Listed above are the five hindrances to meditation. Each one or a combination of more than one
can prevent a successful practice. If you have too much sense desire you will find your mind
wandering in meditation toward those things which you crave. If you are full of anger, you will
be agitated and it will be very difficult to stay concentrated on your meditation subject. Sloth
and torpor refers to sluggish-ness. You may just be tired and in need of rest. After you are
rested, you can return to your meditation practice. Agitation and worry will keep your mind
occupied away from your subject the same way that anger works in that way. Extreme
skepticism refers to your doubts in the Dhamma or your ability to practice. This is normal for
any meditator, but as you learn more, the doubt will fade and you will proceed with your
practice.

Very few people can eliminate all five hindrances all the time, except for enlightened ones. But
there may be times when your concentration is strong and you can eliminate the five hindrances
for at least a meditation session. When this happens there is the opportunity to enter some
advanced states known as jhana.

Jhanas

In the chapter on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, it was mentioned that there can be some
meditation experiences of great joy and bliss. These are known as the jhanas. The jhanas have
been roughly translated as ―states of absorption‖ or even ―trance.‖ A better translation is that it
is a meditative skill, a mental absorption, of heightened concentration, tranquility, and
awareness. The Christian mystics, like Teresa of Avila, called these altered states of
consciousness religious ecstasies. Every contemplative tradition has some context for these
states. In voodoo religious practices and other traditional shamanistic religions, these states are
highly valued and used regularly in their services.

Even in non-contemplative traditions there may be examples of these trance-like states. For
example, in some Christian churches and other charismatic type belief systems there are people
who get so enraptured in the moment of their prayer. They work themselves into a frenzy of
love and devotion which might include singing, jumping, and dancing. They may be able to pray
and jump for hours, beyond their normal physical ability. This may not be fake. The people
may actually be in a trance-like state. Trance states can be induced through religious and
cultural practices as well as through hallucinogens. They can provide great religious ecstasies,
but do not necessarily mean religious wisdom or awakening.

At high levels of jhana super-normal powers may occur. There are even reports of walking on
water and other super human feats by gurus and monks who had attained high levels of jhana.

―Having been one, you become many; having been many, you become one; you appear and
vanish; you go unhindered through a wall, through a rampart, through a mountain as though
through space; you dive in and out of the earth as though it were water; you walk on water
without sinking as though it were earth; seated cross-legged, you travel in space like a bird;
with your hand you touch and stroke the moon and sun so powerful and mighty; you exercise
mastery with the body as far as the brahma world. Samyutta Nikaya 12.70

―And then the Buddha came to the River Ganges. And some people were looking for a boat, and
some were looking for a raft, and some were binding together a raft of reeds to get to the other
side. But the Buddha, as swiftly as a strong man might stretch out his flexed arm or flex it again,
vanished from this side of the Ganges and reappeared with his Order of monks on the other
shore. Digha Nikaya 16.1.33

When you see the above quotes, repeated several times in the Buddhist scriptures, you realize
that the feats and claims attributed to Jesus of Nazareth are no different (or better) than what the
Arahants (enlightened ones) of Buddhism can do. You can interpret some of it as exaggerated
claims to increase the stature of the leaders of a religion, or you can see it as genuinely possible,
through the powers of ―mind over matter.

Mind over matter amazing feats are examples of jhana. An example is a petite mother who is
suddenly able to lift a very heavy refrigerator off her child when it accidentally falls on the
child. The amount of concentration and love for her child places her into a higher plane of being,
to a state of jhana.

Some of the more exaggerated claims in the above quote may not be that far off. For example,
―multiplying‖ your body one-hundred fold or one-thousand fold may have a scientific
possibility. An example is a soccer (or football) game such as the World Cup. The game is
televised around the world. People are watching in almost every country. The ―images‖ appear
directly on live TV to people everywhere in their living rooms on the television sets. This is
nothing more than transmitting electrical signals from the cameras on the field to a satellite in
space and then the signals go to countries around the globe. We know that we are not that
different than a pile of energy and signals. A person who is attuned to every fiber of their body
may be able to ―send‖ their electrical signals in the same way a camera does this and has the
―images appear in billions of television sets around the world.

Scientists have also been working with very small particles and are at the point of demonstrating
that small particles (which are also forms of energy), may be able to pass through a solid surface,
such as a wall. (New Scientist magazine, 2006) This confirms that highly developed people
(such as those with jhana attainments), may actually be able to pass through walls and walk on
water.

The Buddha did not allow his monks and nuns to display their super-human powers, even if they
existed. The Buddha knew that it is virtually impossible to display these powers without the
inflation and propagation of the ego. But the jhanas do provide important stepping stones toward
enlightenment and also encourage us on the path. The Buddha encouraged the practice of jhana,
but not the display of the super-human powers.

Two of the foremost followers of the Buddha, Mahamoggallana (one of the two foremost of the
monks) and Uppalavanna (one of the two foremost of the nuns), both were well known for their
jhana abilities, in discussing the jhanas and ease at entering the jhanas. Uppalavanna is said to
have used a candle flame for concentration to enter the jhanas and from that stepping stone went
directly from the jhanas to her full enlightenment (Psalms of the Early Buddhists 11, Pali Text
Society translation).

It is at advanced jhana levels, that one may be able to see one‘s past lives and even of others. It
is appropriately not talked about much, since these levels are difficult to achieve and when you
do, who will believe you? The jhana levels and powers are not to be used for entertainment
purposes, for showing off, or for profit, such as at a psychic store-front. Since such usage would
entail attachment to sense desires and other unwholesome desires, the abilities would not work in
a profitable-money-making endeavor anyway.

During the time of the Buddha, even he and his followers were careful about discussing their
abilities:
Mahamoggallana, one of the Buddha‘s foremost disciples was smiling as he came down Vulture
Peak and when asked by another monk, why he was smiling, the monk responds,
―Here, friend, as I was coming down from Mount Vulture Peak, I saw a skeleton moving through
the air. Vultures, crows, and hawks, following it in hot pursuit, were pecking at it between the
ribs, stabbing it, and tearing it apart, while it uttered cries of pain. It occurred to me: It is
wonderful, indeed! It is amazing, indeed! That there could be such a being, that there could be
such a spirit, that there could be such a form of individual existence!

Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: Bhikkhus there are disciples who dwell
having become vision, having become knowledge, in that a disciple can know, see, and witness
such a sight. In the past, bhikkhus, I too saw that being, but I did not speak about it. For if I had
spoken about it, others would not have believed me, and if they had not believed me that would
have led to their harm and suffering for a long time [by not following the Path].
That being, bhikkhus, used to be a cattle butcher in this same Rajagaha. Having been tormented
in hell for many years, for many hundreds of years, for many thousands of years, for many
hundreds of thousands of years as a result of that kamma, as a residual result of that same
kamma he is experiencing such a form of individual existence.
Samyutta Nikaya 19.1

The Buddha hesitatingly explains how these visions can be seen, knowing that others would not
be so ready to believe him. This discourse also shows that the Buddha and other advanced
disciples could see the kamma ripening in others, as this butcher is tormented for the killings he
did.

------to be continued------
yawares :anjali:
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Re: David's Book:The Five Hindrances to Meditation

Postby yawares » Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:27 pm

Dear David,

If it's ok with you, I'll post David's Book @ Triplegem too. I'm a new member there now( about 1000 members).

yawares
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Re: David's Book:The Five Hindrances to Meditation

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Oct 04, 2012 6:03 pm

Hi yawares,

Yes, that is fine.
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