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Dear Buddhist Community,

Would someone help to explain how eradicating/suppressing the five hindrances and right mindfulness can go together?

According to the Buddha: (http://what-buddha-said.net/drops/II/Feeding_the_Hindrances.htm)

"Just as this body, is sustained by food, is dependent on food, and cannot continue without food, even so, friends, are the five mental hindrances indeed also sustained by a kind of food, they are also dependent on food, and cannot continue without ever renewed feeding!

And what, friends, is feeding for the arising and growth of sense-desire? It is frequent and careless attention to the alluring and attractive features! This food makes sensual lust arise, and feeds also growth of habitual greed…

And what, friends, is feeding for the arising and aggravation of ill-will? It is frequent and careless attention to the displeasing and repulsive features! This food makes aversion arise, and boosts also any habitual irritation…

And what feeds the emergence and deterioration of lethargy-and-laziness? It is frequent and careless attention to drowsiness, and too much eaten dullness! This is feeding makes sloth arise, and feeds also worsening of habitual laziness…

And what feeds the arising and escalation of restlessness-and-regret? It is frequent and careless attention to the excited, agitated, and stressed up mind! This food upsets and stirs the mind, and intensifies also habitual anxiety and worry…

And what feeds the arising, deepening, and expansion of doubt-and-uncertainty? It is frequent and careless attention to doubtful theories and speculative views! This food bewilders the mind, and feeds also the escalation of habitual confusion..."

Notice, the key phrase the Buddha used is: IT IS THE FREQUENCT AND CARELESS ATTENTION to the hindrances listed above. So, are we supposed to be simply ignoring these thoughts of hindrance as they arise?

Or, more generally, would someone explain how hindrances and right mindfulness go together?

I know that it might be a silly question, but this question has bugged me for some time now.

Thank you for your help everyone! Reid

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The Pāḷi phrase for "frequent and careless attention in the Sutta (SN 46.2) is "ayonisomanasikārabahulīkāro".

ayoniso = unwise, manasikāra = attention, bahulīkāro = continuous practice

The role of manasikāra is to direct the mind, just as a rudder steers a boat. Manasikāra can be wholesome or unwholesome.

When manasikāra is steering the mind in a way that is in concordance with the dhamma, this is called "wise attention" (yonisomanasikāra). Wise attention is a proximate cause for non-attachment (alobha), non-aversion (adosa), equanimity (tatramajjhattatā) and understanding (paññā).

When manasikāra is steering the mind in a way that is not in concordance with the dhamma, this is called "unwise attention" (ayonisomanasikāra). Unwise attention is a proximate cause for delusion (moha), restlessness (uddhacca) and doubt (vicikicchā).

Accoding to Iti 1.16:

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "With regard to internal factors, I don't envision any other single factor like wise attention as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the heart's goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from bondage. A monk who attends appropriately abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful.

  • Thanks RobM! Google failed me when I was searching for the source. Great answer! – user698 Oct 9 '15 at 22:18
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I'd be really interested to see the Pali for the refrain you put in bold - specifically what the word "attention" was in the original. That is the turning phrase for that passage, but I don't think it has so much to do with right mindfulness in this context as it does with right concentration.

The hindrances find suppression in samadhi or "concentration". Not to get too technical, but they find full suppression in the first jhana which is a product of deep absorption with a meditative object. According to the sutras, such suppression is dependent upon a number of factors - applied and sustained thought being the most important. It's kind of like canoeing down a river. Applied thought is the paddling. It's the energy needed to enter absorption. Sustained thought is the buoyancy of the boat as rides the current and momentum of the paddling. It's the factor responsible for holding the attention in place. Mindfulness also plays an important part. In regards to the suppression of the hindrances in this analogy, it is like the rudder that keeps the boat on course.

Just as a boatman who isn't mindful of where his bow is pointed, the meditator who isn't mindful of the hindrances as they arise is going to crash into all sorts of things. I don't know if you've ever been boating, but when you get snagged, it's very hard to get out sometimes. It takes profound effort just to get yourself back on course. The same thing goes for meditation. Just crashing into a hindrance can throw you off your meditative object for an entire sit. It's going to take you out of the current and it might even sink your boat. It's far better practice to notice these things as they begin to arise and and use mindfulness to keep you from steering headlong into them.

On a much more mundane level, think of it this way - the more mental energy you give to a hindrance, the less energy you are going to have for the other path factors. It's going to take away your attention whether that's being used for the cultivation of concentration or the establishment of mindfulness. The hindrances have a nasty way of sucking up your mental energy. What's worse, just running into them makes them more powerful. Mindfulness helps you watch where you're going.

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How hindrances and right mindfulness go together?

When hindrances are there, right mindfulness is absent. And when right mindfulness is, hindrances are not there.

Are we supposed to be simply ignoring these thoughts of hindrance as they arise?

Keeping right mindfulness is the answer. It is not just ignoring, (counteract the fermentations āsava, it is a condition for the arising of right view)

How eradicating the five hindrances?

By suppressing (Not giving foods) as shown in the sutta . That is “It is frequent and CAREFULL attention”.

Under the section heedfulness of Dhammapada

Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if dead already.

Clearly understanding this excellence of heedfulness, the wise exult therein and enjoy the resort of the Noble Ones.

The wise ones, ever meditative and steadfastly persevering, alone experience Nibbana, the incomparable freedom from bondage.

The Arahant

"And when, monks, a monk, having seen as they really are the arising and the passing away, the attractiveness and the danger, and the deliverance from the five groups of clinging, is released without clinging, he, monks, is called a monk in whom the cankers are destroyed, who has lived the life to perfection, done what had to be done, put down the burden, gained the highest goal, worn through the fetters of rebirth, and is liberated by perfect insight.

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