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The five hindrances to meditative stabilization

The five hindrances to meditative stabilization

The text turns to training the mind on the stages of the path of advanced level practitioners. Part of a series of teachings on the Gomchen Lamrim by Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa. Visit Gomchen Lamrim Study Guide for a full list of contemplation points for the series.

  • The causes of and antidotes to lethargy and sleepiness
  • Overcoming agitation and regret
  • Recognizing and removing deluded doubt
  • Five methods to counteract the hindrances from the Pali tradition
  • An overview of the five faults and eight antidotes

Gomchen Lamrim 113: The five hindrances to meditative stabilization (download)

Contemplation points

  1. Consider the third of the five hindrances: lethargy and sleepiness. There are both mental and physical aspects to these. How have you seen lethargy and sleepiness operate in your own life, both on and off the cushion? Why is this such a hindrance to concentration? What are the antidotes you can apply to counter the mind of lethargy and sleepiness?
  2. Consider the fourth of the five hindrances: agitation and regret. What kinds of things do you feel anxious about or regret? What story do you tell yourself about events in your life that leads to anxiety or regret? Why are these such a hindrance to concentration? Nagarjuna implores us to put down what we have regretted and purified, to let it go. Why does making ourselves suffer from guilt not help us to grow and change? Do you find it difficult to put things down? What can you do to cultivate this skill? What other antidotes can you apply to counter this hindrance?
  3. Consider the fifth of the five hindrances: deluded doubt. Nagarjuna states that its like standing at a fork in the road and being so paralyzed by the decision, that we go nowhere. He says that it is the worst of the mental factors. Why do you think this is so? Venerable Chodron said that in choosing the path that is most beneficial, she asks herself how she can best keep her ethical conduct and to contemplate bodhicitta. Consider a decision you have made, or are in the process of making, in this light. Does shifting your mind in this way change the way you think about the choice? How might your decisions be different if you favor good ethical conduct and bodhicitta over what might bring you the most worldly happiness?
  4. Go over each of the five ways to oppose the hindrances: contemplate the opposite of what is distracting you, examine the disadvantage of that particular hindrance, don’t give attention to the thought, give attention to stilling the thought formation (investigate WHY you are thinking that thought, what conditions led up to having the thought, watch the thoughts from a detached viewpoint, etc), crush the non-virtuous mental state with a virtuous one. Spend some time on each of these. Have you employed these in your practice? If so, in what situations were they useful? What can you do to cultivate and strengthen them, using them more readily to overcome the hindrances both on and off the cushion?
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.