Fall and Winter Sangha-wide Study of the Five Hindrances
October 16-30 material is below this introduction.
We will begin our 4-week study of Ill Will on Oct 19 (Thurs sit), Oct 23 (Mon), and 24th (Tues). Until Thanksgiving, each week’s new Reflection and Home Practice will begin on a Thursday.
In the Buddha’s lifetime, the exploration of the teachings was never a solely intellectual undertaking. It always involved the investigation of experience through meditation; in this way, there is a blending of study and practice in daily life. In this spirit, we invite you to bring this very personal approach of the teachings into your life, keeping in mind this statement from Bhikkhu Bodhi:
“A spiritual tradition is not a shallow stream in which one can wet one’s feet and then beat a quick retreat to the shore. It is a mighty, tumultuous river which would rush through the entire landscape of one’s life, and if one truly wishes to travel on it, one must be courageous enough to launch one’s boat and head out for the depths.” The Noble Eightfold Path, p. 3
The Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday sitting groups are undertaking an in-depth study of the Five Hindrances, the mental forces that cloud the mind. These are classically listed as sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restless and worry, and doubt. As Gil Fronsdal writes, “Ranging from weak to very powerful, these forces hamper our ability to remain mindful, develop concentration, and have clear insight. They pull our attention away from our efforts to meditate. Even with the best of intentions to stay focused, these forces can propel us into the world of pre-occupation and distracted thought.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 5)
We are considering each hindrance for 4 weeks, using Gil Fronsdal’s weekly reflections as subjects of investigation. The teachers will reference his book Unhindered: A Mindful Path Through the Five Hindrances and also the practices and talks posted on his website. If you don’t have his book you might read this 7-page summary from his website. Introduction to the Five Hindrances. Fronsdal
Gil’s introductory talk can be streamed or downloaded. Here are selected quotes from Gil’s chapter on Sense Desire Fronsdal Unhindered Ch 4 Selected Quotes. Gil’s talk about sensual desire is here. Ill Will selected quotes: Unhindered Ch 5 Ill Will Selected Quotes and the link for Gil’s audio talk on Ill Will
As always, it will not be necessary for sit attendees to be reading the book or the material on his website to engage in the discussion.
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices Oct 19-25 (Thurs sit) and Oct 23/24 through 29/30 (Mon and Tues sits).
Reflection “Mindfulness of ill will – What role does ill will have in your life? How strongly does ill will or aversion operate for you? How free are you from acting on ill will? How often do you regret acting on aversion or ill will? What have been some of the more unfortunate consequences resulting from expressing ill will?
Home Practice For mindfulness practice, anything can be the focus of mindful attention. During this week, spend some time examining any aversions that might arise for you. These might be quite small movements of aversion or major outbursts. In situation where it is ok to do so, allow the aversion to be present without judging it, acting on it, or abandoning it. Notice carefully how aversion or ill will feels physically. Notice how it affects the quality of your mind and thinking. How does it affect your attitude?”
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practice starting Oct 12 (Thursday sit), and Oct 16 & 17 (Monday and Tuesday sit)
Reflection “Safeguarding the sense doors– How does your experience of having sense pleasures differ from your experience of desiring sense pleasure? How do these differ physically, emotionally and mentally?”
Home Practice “One way to avoid getting caught up in desire is to safeguard yourself at the sense doors. This means two things: First, it means to limit what you see, hear, and experience so that these things do not trigger or reinforce your desires for them. Secondly, it involves being attentive to sights, sounds and experiences at the moment you perceive them and then leaving them alone – do not let your mind get pulled into desire for these things. Devote a few days to practice both forms of safeguarding. This practice is often more effective if you have a clear sense of the advantages of not being pulled into the world of desire.” (Fronsdal Unhindered p. 37)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices for October 2 – 16 (Mon and Tues sits) ; October 2 – 11 (Thursday sit).
Gil’s Cultivating Contentment Reflection: “What experiences do you have that are more satisfying than sense pleasures? What meaningful feelings do you have which are not connected to sense pleasure? How can you nourish these feelings? How does the presence of these feelings affect your desires for sense pleasure?”
Home Practice “Actively develop contentment and appreciation for what you already have. Contentment is not just a way of evaluating or thinking about our lives. It also involves a relaxation of our body so that we are more settled here and now. See if you can let go of some desires then replace them with contentment. Notice how contentment affects your desires” (Fronsdal Unhindered p. 35)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices for September 25 – Oct 1 – Being a student of sense pleasure.
Reflection “What role does sense pleasure have in your life? How much are you oriented toward sense experiences? How much of your day is spent in pursuit of sense pleasure? Which of your daily activities are influenced by the desire for sense pleasure? For example, in cooking a meal how much of the preparation time is devoted to enhancing the sense pleasure of the food? Among the things you purchase, how much of the expense results directly from the greater sense pleasure the object brings?”
Home Practice – “Devote a period of time – at least a few days – to look for opportunities to study what effect the experience of sense pleasure has on you. When and what kinds of sense pleasure are more satisfying and less satisfying for you? What forms of sense pleasures bring you the greatest feelings of well-being? What do you experience after a sense desire has been satisfied?” (Unhindered p. 33)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices for Sept 18 – 24 – Riding out a desire:
Reflection – Riding out a desire: (Unhindered p. 31) What affect does desire have on your body, your mind, and your ability to pay attention? What parts of your body are activated when your desires are strong? Is tension or stress present with desire? Is your mental state more expanded or constricted when you have desire? How might desire prevent you from accurately seeing the object of desire?
Home Practices – Riding out a desire: (Unhindered p. 31)
Spend some days noticing your stronger desires for sensual pleasure. Remember that mental pleasure is also a form of sensual pleasure. Some typical forms of sensual desire are desires related to food and drinks, sexuality, comfort, entertainment, exercise. When you are having a strong bout of desire, do not act on it or distract yourself from it. Instead, bring mindfulness to what happens to the desire as you stay aware of it. Stay mindful of it until it is no longer present. How strong is the impulse to satisfy the desire? How does it change as you remain mindful of it? What beliefs and justifications might come along with the desire? How long does it last? How do you feel once the desire has passed?
Here are some reflections for the introductory week: (Unhindered p. 17)
“Which of the 5 hindrances is the strongest or most common for you? Which is the weakest? Which is most likely to affect your meditation? Which is most likely to influence your behavior in daily life? In both meditation and daily life, on which occasions do the hindrances usually arise in you? What are the common conditions for their arising? What are the mental and emotional states that are most likely to trigger the hindrances? What external circumstances elicit the hindrances? In what ways do the hindrances limit you? How do they diminish your ability to be mindful and wise? Do they interfere with what you want to accomplish?
Home Practices for the Introductory Week: (on page 18 of Gil Fronsdal’s Unhindered)
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 you are most familiar with. Which has been most useful? What is your motivation for practicing with the hindrances? How important is it for you to overcoming their hindering influence?
Notice what opportunities you have in your daily life to bring mindfulness to the hindrances. Are you able to use some or all of the practices included in the acronym B.E.L.L.A. (Be, Examine, Lessen, Let go, Appreciate)? Or R.A.I.N. (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Nurture or Non-identification)? Which of these are most useful for you? What obstructs your ability to practice with the hindrances? What supports your ability to do so?
Previous All-Sangha Topic
During the fall and winter ’16, extending through the spring of ’17, our sangha focused on the Eightfold Path. We spent a month on each path factor. Much of the material we used is from dharma teacher Gil Fronsdal’s excellent online program on this topic, Gil’s essays and dharma talks introduce each path factor and include many reflections. The teachers also referenced 2 other sources: Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book available online noble-8-fold-path-bhikkhu-bodhi and Bhante Gunaratana’s Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness which is widely available for sale.