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Do we reduce hindrances gradually ? is it like we have 10000 units of hindrances (of different types) and we lower them each time we are aware of them ?

is it a right way to see how we advance - as how much we lowered our hindrances ?

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The mind when covered with the five hindrances is like clouding a clear bowl of water (still mind) with different contaminants or situations. – Sangarava sutta (SN 46.55) Also try to refer to Nivaranapahna Vagga. (The 5 mental hindrances: their causes and ending – A 1.2).

The five mental hindrances (nivarana) which obstruct concentration, are: (1) sense-desire, (2) ill-will, (3) sloth and torpor, (4) agitation and remorse, (5) skeptical doubt. For details, see The Five Mental Hindrances and their Conquest, by Nyanaponika Thera (BPS Wheel No. 26).

In the Samyutta Nikaya (Sutta 46.4.8), it is stated that when one listens to the Dhamma attentively, the five hindrances (nivarana) do not exist and the seven factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga) are present. Through factors of concentration these five are suppressed (also when wholesome activities are done these five hindrances can be suppressed).

  • One 'pointedness' opposite of sense desires
  • Joy opposite of ill will
  • Discursive (applied) thoughts opposite of sloth & torpor
  • Happiness or comfort (pali term 'sukha') opposite of restless & worry
  • Sustained thought opposite of doubt

A person becomes mindful about:

  • Existence of a hindrance (sense desire, ill will, sloth & torpor, restlessness & worry, or doubt)
  • Non-existence of a hindrance
  • When a non existing hindrance arises
  • When a hindrance that has arisen is removed
  • When the removed hindrance does not arise again

This widespread harmful influence of the five hindrances shows the urgent necessity of breaking down their power by constant effort. One should not believe it sufficient to turn one's attention to the hindrances only at the moment when one sits down for meditation. Such last-minute effort in suppressing the hindrances will rarely be successful unless helped by previous endeavour during one's ordinary life.

One should carefully observe how, and on which occasions, these hindrances usually appear. One should further know the positive forces within one's own mind by which each of these hindrances can best be countered and, finally, conquered; and one should also examine one's life for any opportunity of developing qualities to counter these. In some cases, subjects of meditation have been added which will be helpful in overcoming the respective hindrances.

By the "worldling" (puthujjana) however, only a temporary suspension and partial weakening of the hindrances can be attained. Their final and complete eradication takes place on the stages of sanctity (ariyamagga):

  • Doubt is eliminated on the first stage, the path of stream-entry (sotapatti-magga).
  • Sensual desire, ill will and remorse are eliminated on the third stage, the path of non-returner (anagami-magga)
  • Sloth and torpor and restlessness are eradicated on the path of Arahatship (arahatta-magga).

Hence the reward of the fight against the hindrances is not only the limited one of making possible a shorter or longer spell of meditation, but every step in weakening these hindrances takes us nearer to the stages of sanctity where deliverance from these hindrances is unshakable.

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  • Thanks for the answer - do we have a certain amount of hindrances which we slowly with practice (meditation+daily life) ? – breath Jun 4 '16 at 17:49
  • As long as we can be in 'sati sampajanna' we can keep the hindrances at bay. Alertness and awareness come under the Pali word, sampajañña. Sati means keeping something in mind, like remembering to stay with the breath, remembering the various things that help in the training of the mind. It functions a lot of ways in the practice. – Saptha Visuddhi Jun 4 '16 at 18:15
  • i read mahasi sayadaw said we should have continued awareness non stop to advance - so i always wonder if i did a retreat for 15 days but since than i didnt do anything wasnt mindful nothing for a year - did i lose all i "gained" in the mahsi sayadaw (ven. ajahn tong technique) retreat ? thats why i ask this question - to know if a way of advancing is removing hindernaces - cause if so it means that i did "gain" something in the retreat which lasts even though a year has passed – breath Jun 4 '16 at 21:05
  • Mahsi Sayadaw says that the mind is only temporarily purified from the five mental hindrances at a retreat & when meditating. Then he too refer you to the same source that I mentioned in my post, for details –ie. see The Five Mental Hindrances and their Conquest, by Nyanaponika Thera. Though meditation help the dust (of hinderances) to settle, it gets blown and clouds your sight once you are out of the meditative state. Only once you begin walking the Noble Eightfold Path that you can with time find a permanent solution. – Saptha Visuddhi Jun 5 '16 at 5:50
  • the mind is temporarily purified but a certain amount of hindrances are purified for good right ? they might come back - i purified some greed and than gained it back doing action in daily life that create greed -- and maybe because the retreat purify a big amount of hindrances than maybe i didnt "fill" the amount of hindrences i "lost" during the retreat in the passing year ? – breath Jun 5 '16 at 11:09

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