This talk summarizes the interactions of the unwholesome cetasikas, the categories whose function manifests as confusion and distress (dukkha). The five hindrances were described in terms of the cetasikas involved, including the “ethically malleable” conditioners mentioned in earlier talks. These descriptions were followed by discussion among those attending regarding how to recognize the dysfunctional manifestations of the unwholesome cetasikas while meditating or during daily life routines.
During this dialogue, Peter first described the classical way of understanding the hindrance of aversion and ill-will. He then provided a review of current neurobiological understanding of how various brain structures process incoming stimuli to assess for either threat or reward. During this phase, he explained the close association between the avoidance of unpleasant feeling and the onset of addictive behaviors. This was linked to the emphasis placed on serenity in the various 12-step organizations, particularly the 11th step regarding daily meditation and prayer. This was followed by a clarifying dialogue among the sangha members about this process. Next week’s talk will explore more directly how we can notice the arising of aversion , the nature of arisen aversion, how to dissolve aversion and how to avoid the future arising of aversion.
During this talk, Peter explained how these seven factors, led by mindfulness, function. Initially, in their undeveloped, weakest form, they apply a counter to the action of the five hindrances. As the hindrances are set aside and the function of the mind becomes clarified, coherent and energized, the seven factors are matured in their function: “During the first stages of practice, they function to ward of the demons; as that is accomplished, they function to feed the angels!” The angels are mental clarity, compassion, generosity, kindness, etc.
During this talk on the second night of the 2014 one week retreat, Peter talked of the contemporary views on karma, relating this to the characteristics of the five hindrances. Ways to use the skills developed during the retreat to set the hindrances aside were described, setting the stage for the cultivation of concentration and tranquility, which would then be applied to the practice of vipassana.
Pursuing the development of a more integrated personality prior to spiritual transcendence, Peter described sentient beings as “energy transformation” beings, emphasizing that the five hindrances (sense desire, aversion and ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and skeptical doubt) are “energy dumps”. The first steps on the path involve developing the ability to focus attention on breath awareness to concentrate and calm the mind, combined with the ability to be mindful of distractions away from breath awareness and to turn attention away from the distractions and back to the breath. Each hindrance was described as to characteristics and impact on the body/mind processes. Classical antidotes for the hindrances were also described. The freed up energy from ongoing breath awareness can then be available for cultivating vipassana, which is the ability to note the emergence, fulfillment, and dissolution of self states, in order to further personality integration.
This is the last of the talks about the five hindrances in our series of dialogues reviewing the Satipatthana Sutta. Skeptical Doubt is perplexity and a lack of confidence as a condition of the mind. In the discussion, the role of the Five Powers was also reviewed.