Introduction Unshakable deliverance of the mind is the highest goal in the Buddha's doctri

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Introduction ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Unshakable deliverance of the mind is the highest goal in the Buddha's doctrine. Here, deliverance means: the freeing of the mind from all limitations, fetters, and bonds that tie it to the Wheel of Suffering, to the Circle of Rebirth. It means: the cleansing of the mind of all defilements that mar its purity; the removing of all obstacles that bar its progress from the mundane (lokiya) to the supramundane consciousness (lokuttara-citta), that is, to Arahatship. Many are the obstacles which block the road to spiritual progress, but there are five in particular which, under the name of hindrances (nivarana), are often mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures: 1. Sensual desire (kamacchanda), 2. Ill-will (byapada), 3. Sloth and torpor (thina-middha), 4. Restlessness and remorse (uddhacca-kukkucca), 5. Sceptical doubt (vicikiccha). They are called "hindrances" because they hinder and envelop the mind in many ways, obstructing its development (bhavana). According to the Buddhist teachings, spiritual development is twofold: through tranquillity (samatha-bhavana) and through insight (vipassana-bhavana). Tranquillity is gained by complete concentration of the mind during the meditative absorptions (jhana). For achieving these absorptions, the overcoming of the five hindrances, at least temporarily, is a preliminary condition. It is especially in the context of achieving the absorptions that the Buddha often mentions the five hindrances in his discourses. There are five mental constituents which are chiefly representative of the first meditative absorption, and are therefore called the factors of absorption (jhananga). For each of these there is, according to Buddhist commentarial tradition, one of the five hindrances that is specifically harmful for it and excludes its higher development and refinement to the degree required for jhana; and on the other hand, the cultivation of these five factors beyond their average level will be an antidote against the hindrances, preparing the road to jhana. The relationship between these two groups of five is indicated in this anthology, under the heading of the respective hindrance. Not only the meditative absorptions but also lesser degrees of mental concentration are impeded by these five hindrances. So is the "neighbourhood" (or "access") concentration (upacarasamadhi), being the preliminary stage for the fully absorbed concentration (appana) reached in jhana. Likewise excluded by the presence of the hindrances is the momentary concentration (khanikasamadhi) which has the strength of neighbourhood concentration and is required for mature insight (vipassana). But apart from these higher stages of mental development, any earnest attempt at clear thinking and pure living will be seriously affected by the presence of these five hindrances. 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 who earnestly aspires to the unshakable deliverance of the mind should, therefore, select a definite "working-ground" of a direct and practical import: a kammatthana [1] in its widest sense, on which the structure of his entire life should be based. Holding fast to that "working-ground," never losing sight of it for long, even this alone will be a considerable and encouraging progress in the control and development of the mind, because in that way the directive and purposive energies of mind will be strengthened considerably. One who has chosen the conquest of the five hindrances for a "working-ground" should examine which of the five are strongest in one's personal case. Then one should carefully observe how, and on which occasions, they 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 these qualities which, in the following pages, have been indicated under the headings of the spiritual faculties (indriya), the factors of absorption (jhananga), and the factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga). In some cases, subjects of meditation have been added which will be helpful in overcoming the respective hindrances. By the "worldling" (puthujjana),[2] 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. Though most of the following texts, translated from the Discourses of the Buddha and the commentaries, are addressed to monks, they are likewise valid for those living the worldly life. As the Old Masters say: "The monk (bhikkhu) is mentioned here as an example of those dedicated to the practice of the Teaching. Whosoever undertakes that practice is here included in the term 'monk.' " Notes ~~~~~ [1] I.e., subject of meditation: literally "working-ground." [2] A "worldling," or puthujjana, who may be a monk or layman, is one who has not yet attained to the first stage of sanctity, the Path of Stream-entry (sotapatti-magga).


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