Hindrances to concentration: Dullness and drowsiness

Stages of the Path #124: The Fourth Noble Truth

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Part of a series of Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks on the Stages of the Path (or Lamrim) as described in the Guru Puja text by Panchen Lama I Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen.

  • Reflecting on precious human life to counteract dullness
  • Doing purification practice to counteract very strong drowsiness
06-03-10 Stages of the Path #124: Fourth Noble Truth

We were talking about dullness and drowsiness as a hindrance to our meditation. Dullness is when the mind is dull. It’s like you’re bored, your mind’s flat, you don’t feel like meditating, you’re just kind of spaced out. And then drowsiness is when you’re really nodding off. I was talking last time about some of the antidotes to drowsiness: getting exercise, doing prostrations, putting cold water on your face, checking your posture, visualizing light coming in. Those also work for dullness. But especially for dullness, when the mind’s kind of flat and disinterested, then it’s very helpful to reflect on the precious human life, or to reflect on buddha nature. I find it particularly helpful to think about bodhicitta. When you just think about what the bodhisattvas do, and how they can (for me anyway) how they can be, then my mind feels really uplifted, thinking, “Oh, there are people like that in this world, and someday I can become like one of them.” I find that quite uplifting. You want to do something to make your mind more interested in your meditation topic, and uplift the mind.

Sometimes when you’re having really bad problems with the drowsiness, and like I said it doesn’t have anything to do with having gotten enough sleep or not, then do some purification practice, because sometimes this tendency to feel drowsy can come because of having created negative karma in the past, such as not treating Dharma materials properly, just kind of disrespecting the Dharma in general. If we disrespect the Dharma then when it comes to practicing it the karmic result is our mind is not interested. It’s kind of similar to the attitude we had when we did that destructive karma. So in that case doing some purification practices for whatever kind of negative action we may have done in previous lives that brings on the drowsiness, that can be very, very effective.

That’s the third one. Tomorrow we will go on to restlessness and remorse.

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