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Perception is an impersonal process which arises and perishes in a moment. If the momentariness and impersonal nature of perception are not appreciated with wisdom and insight, then mistaken conceptions are created with endless distortions as a result.
There are four mistakes that distort perception.
When one regards…
… what is impermanent as permanent.
…what is unable to actually bring true happiness, or sustain happiness, as pleasant and the source of happiness.
…what is not self as self.
…what is unwholesome as wholesome
These distortions, born of ignorance, increase craving, grasping, and suffering. By the practice of mindful discernment one can see through these distortions and dismantle them.
There are these five obstacles or Hindrances the Buddha tells us are blocking us from the mindful discernment needed to dismantle these distortions —and unblock the path to awakening and release from suffering.
Obsessive (sensual) Desire
Clinging tightly. From unconscious routine habit patterns to unceasing blind pursuit of hedonistic gratification with no restraint for harms and devastation caused. A thirst that is never quenched.
Pushing away. From simple denial, to jealousy, revenge, wishing or enjoying others misfortune, to de-humanizing others, to violent hatred and killing.
Sloth and Torpor
I don’t care. I can’t be bothered. Someday but not now. It doesn’t matter.
Restlessness and Remorse
I have so much agitation, worries, dramas, distractions, entanglements, mental proliferations, …caught up in regrets and the unresolved.
Nothing helps, I am unworthy of relief, I am too weak and defective, no spiritual path is really effective. Lack of confidence and commitment.
The reward for dissolving the hindrances is not just beneficial to longer deep meditations leading to insight, but every step in weakening these hindrances takes us nearer to the stages of wisdom where deliverance from these hindrances is unshakable—where the distortions of perception can be seen for what they really are.
The Buddha says:
There are five impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that block insight. What five?
Sensual desire is an impediment and hindrance, an overgrowth of the mind that blocks insight.
Ill-Will… Sloth and torpor… Restlessness and Remorse… Sceptical doubt are impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that block insight.
Without having overcome these five Hindrances, it is impossible for one to know:
- one’s own true goodness, the goodness of others, and the goodness of both;
- nor will one be capable of realizing the wisdom, the knowledge and vision enabling the attainment of purification (from distortions).
But if one has overcome these five impediments and hindrances, these overgrowths of the mind that block insight, then it is possible that, with one’s strong insight, one can know one’s own true good, the good of others, and the good of both; and one will be capable of realizing wisdom, the knowledge and vision enabling the attainment of purification (from distortions). — AN 5:51
One whose heart is overwhelmed by unrestrained covetousness will do what one should not do and neglect what one ought to do.
One whose heart is overwhelmed by ill-will… by sloth and torpor… by restlessness and remorse… by doubt will do what one should not do
(the unwholesome) and neglect what one ought to do (the wholesome).
But if one has seen these five as distortions of the mind, one will give them up. And doing so, one is regarded as one of great wisdom, of abundant wisdom, clear-visioned, well endowed with wisdom. This is called “endowment with wisdom.”
— AN 4:61
To dissolve the Hindrances the Buddha asks us to observe them in the following way:
- When sensual desire is present in one, one knows, “There is sensual desire in me,” or
- when sensual desire is absent one knows, “There is no sensual desire in me.”
( Awareness of experience/perception/distortions)
- One knows how the arising of non-arisen sensual desire comes to be;
( The origin of suffering. Ignorance/delusion/clinging.)
- One knows how the passing of the arisen sensual desire comes to be;
( Passing away through recognition and release of clinging through awakening/realization/wisdom)
- and one knows how the non-arising of future sensual desire comes to be.
( The wholesome path to the end of suffering. The eight fold path.)
The same for ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and remorse and doubt.
Recognize that the hindrance has arisen,
see it’s origin,
see it’s passing away,
and cultivate the path that prevents the hindrance from arising in the future.
It all begins with recognition.
As the Buddha says:
“ When Ill Will is present in one, one knows, “There is Ill Will in me…”
When a person lives heedlessly,
a person’s craving grows like a creeping vine.
One runs now here
& now there,
as if looking for fruit:
like a monkey in the forest.
If this sticky, uncouth craving
overcomes you in the world,
your sorrows grow like wild grass
If, in the world, you overcome
this uncouth craving, hard to escape,
sorrows roll off you,
like water beads off