I The Sutta Being endowed with noble mindfulness and clear comprehension, and endowed with
I The Sutta
Being endowed with noble mindfulness and clear comprehension, and
endowed with noble contentedness, the monk resorts to a lonely place:
to a forest, the foot of a tree, a mountain, a cleft, a rock cave, a
cemetery, a jungle, an open space, a heap of straw. After the meal,
having returned from the alms-round, he sits down, crosslegged,
keeping his body erect and his mindfulness alert. Having given up
covetousness (= sensual desire) with regard to the world, he dwells
with a heart free of covetousness, he cleanses his mind from
covetousness. Having given up the blemish of ill-will, he dwells
without ill-will; friendly and compassionate towards all living
beings, he cleanses his mind from the blemish of ill-will. Having
given up sloth and torpor, he dwells free from sloth and torpor, in
the perception of light; mindful and clearly comprehending, he
cleanses his mind from sloth and torpor. Having given up restlessness
and remorse, he dwells without restlessness; his mind being calmed
within, he cleanses it from restlessness and remorse. Having given up
sceptical doubt, he dwells as one who has passed beyond doubt; being
free from uncertainty about salutary things, he cleanses his mind from
Just as when a man taking a loan, engages in a trade, and his
trade succeeds, he now not only disposes of his old debt but he has
also, beyond that, a surplus for maintaining a wife. And at that he
rejoices, is glad at heart....
Just as when a man is sick and in pain, suffering from a grave
disease, his food does not agree with him, and he has no strength left
in his body. But some time later he recovers from that sickness; he
can again digest his food, and he regains his strength. And at that he
rejoices, is glad at heart....
Just as when a man has been thrown into prison, but some time
later he is released from prison; he is safe and without fears, and he
did not suffer any loss of property. And at that he rejoices, is glad
Just as when a man is a slave, not independent, but dependent on
others, unable to go where he likes, but some time later he is set
free from slavery, is now independent, no longer dependent on others,
a freeman who can go where he wants. And at that he rejoices, is glad
Just as when a man, rich and prosperous, travels through a
wilderness where there is no food and much danger, but some time later
he has crossed the desert, and gradually reaches safely the vicinity
of a village, a place of safety, free from danger. And at that he
rejoices, is glad at heart.:
Similarly, so long as these five hindrances are not abandoned in
him, a monk considers himself as indebted, as ailing, as imprisoned,
as enslaved, as travelling in a wilderness.
But when these five hindrances are abandoned, he considers himself
as free from debt, rid of illness, emancipated from the prison's
bondage, as a free man, and as one arrived at a place of safety.
And when he sees himself free of these five hindrances, joy
arises; in him who is joyful, rapture arises; in him whose mind is
enraptured, the body is stilled; the body being stilled, he feels
happiness; and a happy mind finds concentration.
Then detached from sensual desires, detached from unwholesome
states, he enters into and dwells in the first absorption which is
accompanied by applied thought and reflection, born of detachment, and
filled with joy and rapture. He enters into and dwells in the second
... third ... fourth absorption.
II The Commentary
A. The Similes for the Hindrances
The text of the discourse says: "Similarly, so long as these five
hindrances are not abandoned in him, a monk considers himself as
indebted, as ailing, as imprisoned, as enslaved, as travelling in a
Hereby the Blessed One shows the unabandoned hindrance of sensual
desire as similar to being in debt; and the other hindrances as
similar to being ill, and so on. These similes should be understood as
1. Sensual Desire
There is a man who has incurred a debt but has become ruined. Now,
if his creditors, when telling him to pay back the debt, speak roughly
to him or harass and beat him, he is unable to retaliate but has to
bear it all. It is his debt that causes this forbearance.
In the same way, if a man is filled with sensual desire for a
certain person, he will, full of craving for that object of his
desire, be attached to it. Even if spoken to roughly by that person,
or harassed or beaten, he will bear it all. It is his sensual desire
that causes this forbearance. In that way, sensual desire is like
being in debt.
If a man suffers from a bilious disease, and receives even honey
and sugar, he will not enjoy its flavour, owing to his bile sickness;
he will just vomit it, complaining, "It is bitter, bitter!"
In the same way, if one of angry temperament is admonished even
slightly by his teacher or preceptor who wishes his best, he does not
accept their advice. Saying "You harass me too much!" he will leave
the Order, or go away and roam about. Just as the bilious person does
not enjoy the flavour of honey and sugar, so one who has the disease
of anger will not enjoy the taste of the Buddha's Dispensation
consisting in the happiness of the meditative absorptions, etc. In
that way, ill-will resembles illness.
3. Sloth and Torpor
A person has been kept in jail during a festival day, and so could
see neither the beginning nor the middle nor the end of the
festivities. If he is released on the following day, and hears people
saying: "Oh, how delightful was yesterday's festival! Oh, those dances
and songs!" he will not give any reply. And why not? Because he did
not enjoy the festival himself.
Similarly, even if a very eloquent sermon on the Dhamma is going
on, a monk overcome by sloth and torpor will not know the beginning,
middle or end. If after the sermon, he hears it praised: "How pleasant
was it to listen to the Dhamma! How interesting was the topic and how
good the similes!" he will not be able to say a word. And why not?
Because, owing to his sloth and torpor, he did not enjoy the sermon.
In that way, sloth and torpor are comparable to imprisonment.
4. Restlessness and Remorse
A slave who wants to enjoy himself at a festival is told by his
master: "Go quickly to such and such a place! There is urgent work to
do. If you don't go, I shall have your hands and feet cut off, or your
ears and nose!" Hearing that, the slave will quickly go as ordered,
and will not be able to enjoy any part of the festival. This is
because of his dependence on others.
Similarly it is with a monk not well versed in the Vinaya (the
Disciplinary Code), who has gone to the forest for the sake of
solitude. If in any matter, down to the question of permissible meat
(Sub-Cy: e.g. pork) he gets the idea that it was not permissible
(taking it for bear's flesh), he has to interrupt his solitude and, to
purify his conduct, has to go to one skilled in the Vinaya. Thus he
will not be able to enjoy the happiness of solitude because of his
being overcome by restlessness and remorse. In that way, restlessness
and remorse are like slavery.
5. Sceptical Doubt
A man travelling through a desert, aware that travellers may be
plundered or killed by robbers, will, at the mere sound of a twig or a
bird, become anxious and fearful, thinking: "The robbers have come!"
He will go a few steps, and then out of fear, he will stop, and
continue in such a manner all the way; or he may even turn back.
Stopping more frequently than walking, only with toil and difficulty
will he reach a place of safety, or he may not even reach it.
It is similar with one in whom doubt has arisen in regard to one
of the eight objects of doubt.[*] Doubting whether the Master is an
Enlightened One or not, he cannot accept it in confidence, as a matter
of trust. Unable to do so, he does not attain to the paths and fruits
of sanctity. Thus, as the traveller in the desert is uncertain whether
robbers are there or not, he produces in his mind, again and again, a
state of wavering and vacillation, a lack of decision, a state of
anxiety; and thus he creates in himself an obstacle for reaching the
safe ground of sanctity (ariya-bhumi). In that way, sceptical doubt is
like travelling in a desert.
* [ They are, according to the Vibhanga: doubt in regard to
the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, the (threefold)
training, the past, the future, both past and future, and
the conditionality of phenomena dependently arisen.]
B. The Abandonment of the Hindrances
The text of the Discourse says: "But when these five hindrances
are abandoned, the monk considers himself as free from debt, rid of
illness, emancipated from the prison's bondage, as a free man, and as
one arrived at a place of safety."
1. The Abandonment of Sensual Desire
A man, having taken a loan, uses it for his business and comes to
prosperity. He thinks: "This debt is a cause of vexation." He returns
the loan together with the interest, and has the promissory note torn
up. After that he neither sends a messenger nor a letter to his
creditors; and even if he meets them it depends on his wish whether he
will get up from his seat to greet them, or not. And why? He is no
longer in debt to them or dependent of them.
Similarly a monk thinks: "Sensual desire is a cause of
obstruction." He then cultivates the six things leading to its
abandonment (see p.9), and removes the hindrance of sensual desire.
Just as one who has freed himself of debt no longer feels fear or
anxiety when meeting his former creditors, so one who has given up
sensual desire is no longer attached and bound to the object of his
desire; even if he sees divine forms, passions will not assail him.
Therefore the Blessed One compared the abandonment of sensual
desire to freedom from debt.
2. The Abandonment of Ill-Will
Just as a person suffering from a bilious disease, having been
cured by taking medicine, will regain his taste for honey and sugar,
similarly a monk, thinking, "This ill-will causes much harm," develops
the six things leading to its abandonment and removes the hindrance of
ill-will. Just as the cured patient partaking of honey and sugar
appreciates the taste, so also this monk receives with reverence the
rules of training, and observes them with appreciation (of their
value). Therefore the Blessed One compared the abandonment of ill-will
to the recovery of health.
3. The Abandonment of Sloth and Torpor
There is a person that once had been in jail on a festival day.
But when freed and celebrating the festival on a later occasion, he
will think: "Formerly, through the fault of my heedlessness, I was in
prison on that day and could not enjoy this festival. Now I shall be
heedful." And he remains heedful of his conduct so that nothing
detrimental finds entry into his mind. Having enjoyed the festival, he
exclaims: "Oh, what a beautiful festival it was!"
Similarly a monk, perceiving that sloth and torpor do great harm,
develops the six things opposed to them, and so removes the hindrance
of sloth and torpor. Just as the man freed from prison enjoys the
whole length of the festival, even for seven days, so this monk who
has given up sloth and torpor is capable of enjoying the beginning,
the middle and the consummation of the Festival of the Dhamma
(dhamma-nakkhatta), and finally attains to Arahatship together with
the fourfold discriminating knowledge (patisambhida)
Therefore the Blessed One spoke of the abandonment of sloth and
torpor as being comparable to release from imprisonment.
4. The Abandonment of Restlessness and Remorse
There is a slave who, with the help of a friend, pays money to his
master, becomes a free man, and is henceforth able to do what he
likes. Similarly a monk, perceiving the great obstruction caused by
restlessness and remorse, cultivates the six things opposed to them,
and thus gives up restlessness and remorse. And having given them up,
he is like a truly free man, able to do as he wishes. Just as no one
can forcibly stop a free man from doing what he likes, so can
restlessness and remorse no longer stop that monk from walking the
happy path of renunciation (sukhanekkhamma-patipada).
Therefore the Blessed One declared the abandonment of restlessness
and remorse as being similar to winning freedom from slavery.
5. The Abandonment of Sceptical Doubt
There is a strong man who, with his luggage in hand and well
armed, travels through a wilderness in company. If robbers see him
even from afar, they will take flight. Crossing safely the wilderness
and reaching a place of safety, he will rejoice in his safe arrival.
Similarly a monk, seeing that sceptical doubt is a cause of great
harm, cultivates the six things that are its antidote, and gives up
doubt. Just as that strong man, armed and in company, taking as little
account of the robbers as of the grass on the ground, will safely come
out of the wilderness to a safe place; similarly a monk, having
crossed the wilderness of evil conduct, will finally reach the state
of highest security, the deathless realm of Nibbana. Therefore the
Blessed One compared the abandonment of sceptical doubt to reaching a
place of safety.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank