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The five hindrances or obstacles of common buddhism are:

  1. worry/restlessness/regret /distraction
  2. hate (ill-will)
  3. sensual desire
  4. skeptical doubt (ignorance?)
  5. lazy/lethargy

Ignorance is not listed. Do all 5 together imply ignorance?

It says:

These are the five obstacles and hindrances, corruptions of the heart that weaken wisdom.

Another theory might be that ignorance (confusion) is the same as doubt. If one doesn’t know any better, the opportunity to gain access to concentration (right meditation) are more slim. If one misunderstands that is also ignorance. If one is skeptical that might be ignorance. Perhaps the five hindrances are primarily a technical manual, a means to access concentration or develop tranquility/equanimity/energy (seven factors); in which case ignorance has an indirect role.
Why (How) is or isn’t ignorance one of the five hindrances?

2 Answers 2

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Ignorance is not listed as one of the five hindrances.

There is a relationship between ignorance and the five hindrances. The five hindrances are the nutriment of ignorance, or in other words, ignorance is fueled by the five hindrances.

“I say, bhikkhus, that ignorance has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for ignorance? It should be said: the five hindrances. The five hindrances, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the five hindrances? It should be said: the three kinds of misconduct. The three kinds of misconduct, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the three kinds of misconduct? .....
AN 10.61

Ignorance is one of the seven underlying tendencies.

“Mendicants, there are these seven underlying tendencies. What seven? The underlying tendencies of sensual desire, repulsion, views, doubt, conceit, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. These are the seven underlying tendencies.”
AN 7.11

Ignorance is also one of the ten fetters:

“Mendicants, there are ten fetters. What ten? The five lower fetters and the five higher fetters. What are the five lower fetters? Identity view, doubt, misapprehension of precepts and observances, sensual desire, and ill will. These are the five lower fetters.

What are the five higher fetters? Desire for rebirth in the realm of luminous form, desire for rebirth in the formless realm, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. These are the five higher fetters. These are the ten fetters.”
AN 10.13

Ignorance is also an effluent or mental influx (asava):

As “mental influxes,” the oldest list is probably the set of 3 influxes—of sense-desire (kāmāsava), of existence (bhavāsava), and of ignorance (avijjâsava) ...
Piya Tan's commentary on AN 9.36

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The five hindrances are the food/nutriment of ignorance (AN 10.61). What this means is as long as the five hindrances remain, ignorance will remain.

However, the complete ending of the five hindrances does not mean ignorance completely ends.

When the overt obstruction of the five hindrances ends, there will be access concentration. When there is access concentration, insight/wisdom will begin to generate and ignorance will commensurately begin to reduce.

When all subtle remnants of the five hindrances are dissolved in meditation, jhana (attainment concentration) will manifest. The super clarity & super sensitivity of the 4th jhana is particularly necessary for full enlightenment; for the full destruction & uprooting of the underlying tendency (AN 7.11) of ignorance.

Therefore, ignorance is not one of the five hindrances because ignorance is something very deep and continues to exist despite often not overtly functioning when the five hindrances have been allayed. There is a relatively very long period between the allaying of the five hindrances and the destruction/uprooting of ignorance.

For example, when a stream-enterer completes the 16 stages of Anapanasati, there are no hindrances obstructing these 16 stages. Then when a non-returner completes the four jhana, there no hindrances obstructing these four jhanas. In takes a relatively long period of time to complete the 16 stages of Anapanasati and then advance to complete the four jhanas. But ignorance has not yet been fully ended. Varying degrees of ignorance still remain for the stream-enterer, once-returner & non-returner until the reaching of Arahantship (full enlightenment).

To end, while doubt is the closest literal hindrance to ignorance, doubt is a fetter (AN 10.13) removed by the stream-enterer; where as ignorance is the last fetter (AN 10.13) to be removed by the Arahant.

Be warned, there are manic-overestimating jhana-underestimating posters on the internet who falsely believe, as soon as the five hindrances are not present, this is jhana. This is not true. The suttas say only non-returners & arahants have completed jhana (AN 3.86) yet obviously a stream-enterer & once-returner have developed so much wisdom (e.g. SN 13.1 & SN 12.28), which can only occur when there is the allaying of the five hindrances. To reiterate, there is a relatively long time between the allaying of the five hindrances & the manifestation of real jhana.

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Quote is from Page 214

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  • 1
    Wow. Thanks for the knowledgeable write up
    – blue_ego
    May 25 at 23:15
  • I sometimes have a state of mind where when I see the sense the outer world there is some kind of detachment. It's like the mind wants to remain aloof from the world. However, I have no idea how this state arises. The state can be best described as mindfulness immersed in the body. It feels like precursor to something huge maybe jhana. I am trying rigorously to create that detached mind state at will. But, damn it's hard right now. Hard as in taking days for the state to randomly manifest.
    – Ukh
    May 26 at 9:04

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