Counteracting the hindrances

Stages of the Path #131: 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.

  • How the absorption factors exist in us right now
  • How we use the absorption factors when cultivating concentration
  • Which absorption factors counteract which of the hindrances
06-16-2010 Stages of the Path #131: Fourth Noble Truth

We were talking about the five absorption factors that we need to cultivate to attain serenity. These five factors—coarse engagement, refined engagement, rapture, bliss, and one-pointedness—they exist in us right now and they may be present in our ordinary consciousnesses, but ordinarily we’re not specifically developing them or noting them, and they certainly don’t work together in our ordinary consciousness. Whereas when we’re cultivating concentration these five factors have to come together and work together in order to suppress the various hindrances to concentration. So even though the five work together, some of the factors have more sway, or more impact, in confronting different of the hindrances.

For example, the coarse engagement works against dullness and drowsiness by putting the mind on the object. We have a mind of coarse engagement: “I’m going to engage with the object, I’m not going to fall asleep.” So it puts the mind on the object.

Refined engagement—this is the mind that keeps the mind on the object afterwards—that one counteracts doubt by keeping the mind steady on the object without the jumpiness of doubt. Once we get on the object we can’t start thinking, “Well, maybe this, maybe that, I’m not sure, am I doing it right….” And jumping around with doubt. Rather, the sustained engagement keeps the mind focused there.

Rapture counteracts malice and ill will because when we have malice and ill will our minds are very unhappy. Remember Shantideva said that an unhappy mind is the source of anger, so by getting rid of that unhappy mind of malice and so forth, rapture does that. It makes the mind happy and joyful, so therefore the mind isn’t filled with malice and ill will.

Bliss is the remedy to restlessness and worry because the mind naturally prefers what is delightful over what is agitating. So rather than stay spinning with our worries and troubles and apprehensions and anxiety, the mental factor of bliss comes and keeps the mind very steady.

Then the mental factor of one-pointedness works against sensual desire by unifying the mind in a worthwhile way on one object. Because when the mind’s filled with sensual desire it’s not unified, is it? It’s all over the place planning how I can get what I want and how I can keep it, and how I can have more than what everybody else wants. That mind isn’t very one-pointed. So one-pointedness specifically works against the sensual desire.

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