The 5 Hindrances and 7 Factors of Awakening

The Five Hindrances

Attachment, grasping, greed

Aversion, ill will, hatred

Sloth and Torpor

Restlessness, anxiety, and worry

Doubt about being capable, worthy, able to practice. (This is not the same as the “Great Doubt” that is referred to in many Zen writings, which motivates and drives deep inquiry into the nature of self and all phenomena, without accepting superficial understanding: “What is this really? Who am I, in my very essence.”)

A good discussion of the 5 Hindrances from the Insight Meditation Center can be found at http://insightmeditationcenter.org/articles/FiveHindran

 Useful reflections, adapted from Insight Meditation site:

  • Which of the 5 hindrances seems to be the strongest or most common for you? Does this change? Which most affects your meditation now?  Your daily life?
  • Do you recognize any conditions in your meditation or in your life that appear to cause the hindrances to manifest?
  • What disadvantages do the hindrances bring to your meditation? To your life? Is there an effect when the disadvantages are recognized?
  • What understandings, abilities, states of mind, and practices do you know that can best help free you from the grip of the hindrances? You might draw up a list and then consider which are strongest for you. (Consider also the 7 Factors of Awakening, below.)
  • Notice what opportunities arise to develop these qualities, and what appears to hinder you from doing so.

The Seven Factors of Awakening

sky-bird

Mindfulness

Investigation of phenomena, silent observation of what is happening

Diligence, effort, and energy.  Volition to be mindful

Joy, rapture.  Touching that which is refreshing and beautiful, both within and without.

Tranquility, ease, quietness of mind, relaxation

Concentration– one-pointedness of mind.

Equanimity, balance in the face of change, being aware of all phenomena without grasping or aversion

From Jack Kornfield: “Three of these factors are passive elements. They are concentration, or one-pointedness of mind; tranquility, or quietness of mind; and equanimity, or detachment and balance of mind in the face of change. Three other factors are energetic elements. These are effort, which means the volition to be mindful; investigation, or silent observation of what is happening; and rapture, which manifests as bliss and an intense interest in the spiritual practice.

The seventh factor is mindfulness, the key to practice. The development of this particular quality of mind automatically develops all of the other factors. Mindfulness, noticing the object in the present moment, also has the function of bringing these factors into proper balance.”  (Italics and bold type are Ken’s)

From Fred Eppsteiner: “I would say that Mindfulness is the primary underlying factor for the other six.  I would suggest that there are 6 factors of Enlightenment and they are all nourished by Mindfulness.”

An excellent You Tube video of Fred talking about the 7 factors of Awakening with a focus on Mindfulness can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y6E2sRUM8k .  There are other videos in which he discusses the other factors.

Thich Nhat Hanh devotes a chapter to these factors in his book “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching.”