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The 5 Hindrances

by Sensei Alex Kakuyo (@SameOldZen)
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As human beings, we sometimes falter when we walk the Buddhist path. We have the best of intentions; hoping against hope to end suffering for ourselves and other sentient beings. But inevitably obstacles arise that make it difficult for us to walk the path. This is especially true when it comes to the practice of Right Effort.

We might have a strong desire to meditate when we get home, but then a favorite T.V. show comes on and we forget. Or we may drive to work with the intention of treating all living beings with compassion, but then a semi-truck almost runs us off the road. There are a host of problems that keep us from practicing the Dharma. And we can become discouraged if we don’t learn how to deal with them effectively.

That being said, none of these issues are new. For as long as Buddhism has existed, there have been people who struggled to make the practice part of their daily lives. However, in his wisdom the Buddha discussed the 5 major hinderances to Right Effort in the Nīvaraṇa Sutta when he said:

Monks, there are these five hindrances. Which five? Sensual desire as a hindrance, ill will as a hindrance, sloth & drowsiness as a hindrance, restlessness & anxiety as a hindrance, and uncertainty as a hindrance. These are the five hindrances.

Learning to deal with these hindrances in an effective manner is a key component of Right Effort. And while it’s not always easy, it’s simple to counter each one of them. The key is to pay close attention to our body, speech, and mind in every moment, so that we aren’t caught by surprise when hindrances to practice arise. When we do this, we can stop them in their tracks, and exert the necessary energy to continue our training.

Some of the ways that I deal with the five hindrances are as follows:


Sensual Desire

The truth is that sometimes we just don’t want to practice. This can happen if we’re overloaded with work, or we’ve made plans to go out with friends. I deal with this hindrance in two ways.

First, I work to integrate my practice into everyday activities. For example, I often chant nembutsu while I’m riding in elevators, and I practice mindfulness of the body while walking; focusing on the feeling of the pavement against my

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