业的转化
益西彭措堪布

如果我们造下定、不定业,是否只能被动地感受果报呢?当然,如不依对治力,业不会有丝毫的减弱,定要毫厘不爽地感果。但如依四种对治力忏悔,则可以使重业减轻,轻业变无。

四种对治力即:依止力、破恶力、恢复力、对治力。依止力,如人误服毒后,需依医治疗,造罪之人应归依三宝,发菩提心,然后观想诸佛菩萨的种种功德庄严来忏悔业障;破恶力,如误服毒物之人极想将毒物吐出,造罪之人从内心深处发露忏悔,没有覆藏心;恢复力,如误服毒物的人发誓再也不吃毒物,造罪之人发誓纵遇命难亦不复造罪业;对治力,如误服毒物的人,为了疗毒需服药物,造罪之人以精勤行善,念诵金刚萨埵心咒等来清净罪障。

下面进一步讲述四种对治力。

一、依止力分外依止力和内依止力,外依止力即如理观想诸佛菩萨,内依止力指归依和发心。总之,依止力是归依三宝、忆念三宝功德,诚心祈祷三宝以清净罪障。忏悔时当为一切众生清净业障成就正等觉果位发起无伪的菩提心,从而将往昔的一切罪障彻底清净。如《入行论》云:“如人虽犯极重罪,然依勇士得除畏,依靠何者速解脱,彼者善人何不依?菩提心如劫末火,刹那能毁诸重罪。”

二、破恶力:应对自己所造的罪业生起后悔心,发露忏悔,不覆不藏。如果没有强烈的追悔心,单单口头上改悔,罪业不能得以清净。《弥勒狮吼论》云:“无知所造罪,一切当忏悔,智者若忏悔,不与业同住。”

三、恢复力:发誓今后不再造罪业,指静息十种不善业等。《毗奈耶广释》云:“若无诚意防护之心,所行悔罪,唯有空言。”《入行论》云:“断尽恶心时,说为戒度圆。”所以防护自心后不再作恶业至为重要。

四、对治力:指尽力行持善行以对治所造恶业。所依善法分六:(一)依止甚深经典,指受持读诵般若波罗密多等契经;(二)依胜解空性,指趣入无我空性,安住本来清净的空性,依空性见可灭除种种罪障;(三)依形象,指对佛、菩萨具足信心,造立经像;(五)依供养,指对佛像及佛塔作种种供养;(六)依名号,指听闻受持念诵诸佛名号、诸大菩萨名号。

初学者依靠四种对治力忏悔,便可将感生恶趣的重业转变,或令变成感受轻微苦,或使虽生恶趣但不领受恶趣诸苦,或者现身稍受头痛等即得清净。又使应长时受报的,变为短时受报或全不受报。消除罪业的程度要看净修之人力量大小——是否圆满具足四对治力,忏悔之力猛烈与否,时间相续是长久还是短促,等等差别无有一定。

或疑:经云:“众生之诸业,百劫不毁灭,因缘聚合时,其果定成熟。”此处讲所造罪业经由四对治力忏悔,便能清净,不感果报,如是二者岂不自相矛盾?

答:如果未以四对治力忏悔对治,无因无缘业果定无空耗之理。但如以四力对治,虽是定业亦能清净,何况不定业。因由忏悔及防护等,能破坏感异熟果之种子的功能,虽遇余缘,也必定不能感发异熟果。此与由生邪见或由嗔恚摧毁善根同理。

As long as we don’t recognise our real nature, we suffer. When we recognise our nature, we become free from suffering.

— Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

As a flower that is lovely, beautiful, and scent-laden, even so, fruitful is the well-spoken word of one who practises it.

— The Buddha

佛之真义
净空法师

【何谓佛】

学佛人首先要明确的认识“佛”。“佛”是梵文音译,意思是圆满的智慧、究竟的觉悟。智慧、觉悟达到究竟圆满的人,就称之为“佛”,所以佛不是神仙。

中国古代教育的目标是“希圣希贤”,希望作圣人、作贤人,而圣贤与富贵、功名、权势是毫无关系的。孔老夫子是个平民,晚年从事于教学的工作,在中国历史上尊称他为“至圣先师”。就如同释迦牟尼佛在印度被尊称为“佛”,佛有究竟圆满的智慧,也就是说他明白宇宙人生的真相,通达因果变化的道理,这在中国称之为“圣人”,所以圣人与佛的意思是相通的。

【智慧】

佛的教学枢纽,就是“破迷开悟”。觉悟之后,在大宇宙中,自己就能做得了主宰。所以,佛家是以智慧作主,因为智慧才能解决一切问题。圣贤的教育,可说都是智慧的教育。因为智慧开了,自然就离苦得乐。此乐不是富贵之乐,不是名闻利养、五欲六尘享受之乐。释迦牟尼佛一生三衣一钵,日中一食,树下一宿,他是真乐!孔老夫子的学生颜回,在物质生活上贫困不堪,“一箪食,一瓢饮,在陋巷,人不堪其忧,回也不改其乐”。用竹篓盛饭,以葫芦瓢当茶杯,这样的生活,一般人认为是苦不堪言,颜回却能过得很快乐。所以,离苦得乐不是改变我们生活的方式,而是完全在心境上做一个大转变。明白这些道理,所谓是“心安理得”;安是得定,清净心现前就快乐了。

其实,养这个身很容易,身的需要不多,所以有智慧、聪明之人,决不为这个身去造罪业。反而是愈简单的生活,愈健康。何以会健康?快乐,所谓“人逢喜事精神爽”,人只要遇到自己欢喜的事情,就特别有精神。什么事情是最欢喜的?明白宇宙人生的大道理,这是最欢喜的。这种欢喜、快乐称为“法喜充满”,是从内心里发出来的,而不是外来的,还能永远保持。何以故?自性觉是无有穷尽的,天天觉悟,年年觉悟,时时觉悟,处处觉悟,当然快乐!外面五欲六尘的享受,那是刺激,那种乐是无常的,不能常久保持,所以称为“坏苦”。

“佛”不但对现前清楚、明了,对过去无始、未来无终也都清楚、明了。他生于富贵是富贵佛,生于贫贱是贫贱佛,富贵、贫贱与他毫不相干。所以,不论是贫贱还是富贵,作佛的快乐是相同的、是平等的,决不是说富贵人快乐多一点,贫穷人快乐少一点。功名、富贵、权势有也好,没有也好,他都能自在随缘的度日。由此可知,唯有佛法,能带给一切众生,真实究竟圆满的幸福。诸佛菩萨证得了,证得就是他真的得到了。

诸佛菩萨在哪里?各行各业都有。《华严经》“善财童子五十三参”,有男女老少、各行各业,他们都觉悟、明白了,所以他们都是佛菩萨。学佛一定要对“佛”的概念清楚、明白,这非常重要。若不清楚、不明白,那就是迷信,迷信决定与智慧相违背,为世人所厌弃。

虽然世间人厌弃迷信,可是实际上迷信的人很多。世间人喜欢觉悟、智慧,可是真正觉悟、有智慧的人并不多。这个趋向不只现前如是,过去如此,未来还如是。正因为事实如是,我们才肯定圣贤教育,必定能够恢弘广大,普利一切众生,佛法讲是普度一切众生,因为这是众生所希求的。佛法何以不能推广?“大智度论”云:“佛法无人说,虽智莫能解”,因为说的人太少了,没有人推行。

什么样的人才能说、才能推行?智慧开了才行。所以,要想开智慧,希望自己像佛菩萨一样讲经说法,把佛法介绍给别人,就必须将障碍智慧的东西舍弃;用最浅显的话来讲,障碍智慧的是自私自利的念头,自私自利的行为。智慧不开,永远迷在事实真相之中,这是迷惑。人迷惑,必定随顺错误的知见、思想,于是就造业,造业就是错误的行为。由于错误的思想与行为,产生错误的果报,这个果报称为“六道轮回”。我们今天的处境就在其中,生生世世都沦落在六道里面。

开智慧的方法很多,我们采取的是“持名念佛”,这个方法就是“禅定”,不仅佛用“禅定”的方法,婆罗门教、瑜伽、数论也是用这个方法。念佛真能开智慧吗?能,但是要懂得方法,明白道理。道理明白了,才有坚定的信心,“华严”云:“信为道元功德母”。若修学净土法门,半信半疑,一定不会有成就。因此,坚定的信心,决定不可动摇的信心,就是成就的第一因素、条件。

禅定就是意志专注,集中意志专念一桩事、专想一桩事,将其他的妄念渐渐摆脱,就能得定。专想一桩事,这桩事就会现前,譬如专想和平,你从和平当中就得定了,就会产生效果,和平的社会就能现前。

婆罗门教用禅定的方法,境界能达到大梵天,他们就是用禅定与大梵天沟通,所以他们称大梵天是造物主。很可惜他们的禅定功夫达到这一层次之后,就不能再向上提升。而佛家讲的禅定,层次更高,能成就究竟圆满的禅定。《楞严经》的“首楞严大定”,《华严经》的“师子奋迅三昧”,往生经的“念佛三昧”,这都是究竟圆满的禅定。所以,对于宇宙人生真相,彻底圆满究竟的明了,就称作“佛”、“菩萨”,这是我们学佛希望达到的目标。

这样高深的禅定,我们一生当中做不到,因为我们的寿命太短了,所以寿命短也是魔障。正因为如此,我们才发愿求生西方极乐世界,用现代话说,就是移民到极乐世界。极乐世界的生活环境好,寿命长,有足够的时间修学,我们才能成就究竟圆满的大定。

定起作用就是智慧,智慧能照了世出世间一切事理。所以,学佛对佛的本质要认识清楚。与这些原理原则相应的,就是佛法;违背这些道理与修学方法的,就不是佛法。佛法所求的是明心见性,所使用的方法是断烦恼、开智慧;而假的佛法、魔法,与此正好相反。所以,我们从这些地方就能辨别是非、邪正、真假、高下,一接触就晓得它是正法、还是邪法,也知道他修行的层次到某种程度。

我们要想得到这种殊胜的功德利益,一定要认真努力,万缘放下,要著重心地清净,六根接触六尘境界,一丝毫都不沾染,这是禅定功夫。从定境生智慧,这才能自利利他,才能将佛法介绍给别人,帮助一切众生。

Happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors.

— His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Mythic Symbols of Fortune and Character
by Venerable Dao Ran

Since the parasol tree was believed to be appealing to the phoenix, the Chinese people venerated it as an auspicious symbol. There are records dating as early as the Book of Odes. Zheng Xuanjian of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220 CE) stated: “the phoenix stops on no trees other than the parasol tree”. Yao Jiheng said in the Introduction of the Book of Odes: “The parasol tree grew in the high mountain facing the sun. The phoenix stopped on the parasol tree and sang. Today, we use the phoenix to mean the high mountain and the parasol tree to mean the sun”. Therefore, the phoenix follows the parasol tree as the mountain’s apex follows the sun.

Zhuang Zhou of the Warring States Period wrote in Zhuang Zi: “The phoenix flew from the south sea to the North Sea, stopping on no trees other than the parasol tree, eating no food other than bamboo and drinking no water but that of the sweet spring”, which reflected the difference between the phoenix and other ordinary birds.

In the Former Qin Dynasty (351 – 394 CE), Fu Jian planted thousands of parasol trees and bamboo to attract the phoenix. There is a saying: “plant the parasol tree and attract the golden phoenix”. In Suzhou, the private garden, “Canli Garden”, was famous for the parasol tree planted there. The name came from a poem by Du Fu, an acclaimed Tang poet: “the parrot pecked the abandoned rice and the phoenix stopped on the old parasol tree”. As the ancient people usually related the parasol tree with the phoenix, people today still say that planting the parasol tree will entice the phoenix. This became an auspicious and aesthetic pastime for rich households with courtyards.

With its big, straight trunk, the parasol tree was highly praised by writers in ancient China, who considered it a symbol of upright character. The lone parasol embodied a pure disposition in a corrupt world. This image was circulated by the Wei, Jin and the Southern and Northern Dynasties (220 – 589 CE), and the poems of Song Baozhao, Xie Tiao and Li Qiao all had references to the lone parasol tree. Wang Changling, Bai Juyi, Wang Anshi and Pan Zhen’s poems also described the inner character of the parasol tree and endowed it with the characteristics of “haughty and upright”. The image of the phoenix tree also inspired government officials. Officials praised the monk Seng Yu, who introduced the parasol tree to the imperial piazzas. And the common citizenry even linked the appearance of the stars to the planting and growth of these auspicious saplings.

The deer was treated as an auspicious animal in traditional Chinese culture, symbolizing good fortune, happiness and longevity. People still gift their friends and family with boards, scrolls, and hall paintings written or carved with phrases like “longevity like the deer or turtle” or the heads of deer, which invite “auspice, fortune and longevity”. Mythical figures were always graced with young deer beside them. It was said that the god of longevity rode on a deer. In the Tang Dynasty, the city or county governments played the “Deer Bleats” and held deer feasts for successful candidates of the imperial examinations.

The deer was a fairy tale animal with noble characteristics. Its image of health and vitality can be seen in the traditional Chinese paper-cutting and New Year pictures. It was also beautified and apotheosised by writers and artists into a holy animal, the qilin. Legends of divine deer that can see through human nature have a long history. Masterpieces like the painting of Knights Shooting the Deer from the Han Dynasty, the deer carving lying at the feet of the Buddha, and the deer in the stone paintings of the Shang Dynasty discovered in Bai Cha He of Inner Mongolia are diverse and distinctive. In the Jin Dynasty, nobles used the pattern of deer as decoration. The description of the nine-coloured Deer in the Dunhuang wall painting was adapted into myths and, many centuries later, films.

In the eyes of the Chinese people, the deer is a gentle and friendly animal embodying innocence and great beauty, living harmoniously with human beings (especially the spotted deer with its white spots and red-brown fur). In ancient times, only aristocrats and royals had the right to feed and appreciate deer. King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty built a Deer Platform which was “three miles long and thousands of feet high” (4).In the Book of Odes, there was the record of “the king was in the Ling You Hunting Garden, and the deer lay in there” and “stayed together”. The deer were fed for the nobles’ appreciation and kept for hunting, sacrifices and food. Deer bones were used for divination in the Shang Dynasty. Their horns, carved with words, were discovered in the Yin Dynasty Ruins. In the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, it was popular to craft bird or animal monster statues wearing real deer horns for tombs. Deer horns were considered to have magical properties, which would protect the dead in the afterlife. As a symbol of traditional Chinese culture, the golden deer heralded the auspicious confirmation of an eminent monk called Tan Hong.

因缘可变,命运可改!

如果要解脱,就必须要修行,千万不能不把修行当成一回事,只是在有空的时候才打打坐、念念经,没有空的时候就得过且过,而应该将修行作为主要的努力方向,这样在我们离开人世的时候,才会有所收获。每一个人都知道,我们都是赤条条地来,两手空空地去,即使拥有全世界的财富,也不可能带走一分一文,在命归黄泉之际,带走的既不是银行的存款、豪华的别墅、名贵的汽车,也不是亲密的伴侣、慈祥的父母、心爱的子女,能够跟随我们来,并伴着我们去的,只有修行以及通过修行所取得的成就,不仅如此,而且也只有它们,才能挽救我们的生生世世,才能改变我们的命运。

佛教徒从来就不相信什么命中注定的说法,我们认为,所有的东西都是因缘和合,都是可以改变的。如果一切都是定数,都不可更改,那又何必修行、何必学佛呢?学佛的目的,不就是为了改变命运吗?因此,为了打破这些观念,为了超越这些因缘,我们就必须修行。

— 堪钦慈诚罗珠仁波切

如何发愿往生极乐世界
希阿荣博堪布

今天是藏历十二月十五日(编者注:本文写作日期),也是阿弥陀佛的节日。在这个吉祥的日子里,我想给大家念诵《极乐愿文》和《上师阿弥陀佛修法极乐捷径》的传承。《极乐愿文》的作者是藏地的大成就者恰美仁波切,恰美仁波切一生通达大乘显密教典,诸佛密义全部了然于心,但在显现上恰美仁波切专志于净土法门,最后以大神通力不舍肉身并携带眷属、家犬等直接飞往极乐刹土。

《上师阿弥陀佛修法极乐捷径》是莲师当年为悲悯我们这个时代的众生而留下的伏藏法,莲师的功德我不必多说。多年前此法依莲师授记由法王如意宝的上一世列绕朗巴大师取出,现在也已由法王如意宝在汉、藏等地广弘。

法王的弘法利生事业,在很多佛经和传承上师的著作中都有明确的授记。法王如意宝也因为他的无量悲心与广大的利生事业,被公认为当今世界最伟大的上师。法王这一世,在密法方面广弘无上大圆满法,在显宗方面则以净土法门为主,并且法王自己也发愿往生西方极乐世界。五明佛学院每年定期召开四大法会,其中之一就是在藏历九月天降日召开的极乐法会。在第一次法王主持的极乐法会上,从西藏、青海和四川等地来的藏汉信众多达四十余万,法会期间法王曾意味深长地对信众们讲道:“你们一生中所造的恶业不少,今生更应求生西方极乐世界,永脱苦难,凡与我结过缘的人,因信愿不足或业障过重,今生未能如愿往生,无论下一世你们转生到哪一道中,我都将化身到你们身边,度化你们,直到你们往生极乐世界为止。”听到法王的教言,在场的几十万弟子无不落泪。二百多年前,大圆满祖师吉美林巴尊者的四大弟子之一多珠根桑银彭在《未来预言》中写道:“色啊当天喇沟处,乌金化身名晋美,赐给四众菩萨徒,显密正法如明月,利生事业高如山,清净徒众遍十方,结缘其者生极乐。”根据这个授记,所有与法王结缘的人都可以往生极乐世界。法王如意宝还曾经讲过:供养他钱财不是与他结缘,修持他所传承下来的法才是真正地与他结缘。法王希望所有发愿往生西方极乐世界的弟子都能圆满念诵阿弥陀佛圣号一百万遍(藏音:炯丹迪得因夏巴,札炯巴央达巴,作波桑吉,滚波奥华德美巴拉香擦洛,巧多嘉森且奥。汉译:皈依、顶礼、供养世尊善逝出有坏圆满正等觉怙主无量光佛),或者汉文“南无阿弥陀佛”六百万遍。

依据佛陀亲自宣说的经典和祖师们的教言,往生西方极乐世界要具足四种因和断除两种障碍,四种因:第一是忆念阿弥陀佛和极乐世界的功德,并生起不退的信心。第二生起菩提心。第三积累资粮。第四发愿往生并回向功德。具足了这四种因,一定能够往生。

需要断除的两种障碍:一是犯下五无间罪,二是犯下诽谤正法罪。五无间罪是指杀父、杀母、杀阿罗汉、出佛身血和破法轮僧。杀害自己的父母一般有良知的人不会做。法轮僧、佛陀和阿罗汉在当今时代我们很难遇到,所以现代人一般不会犯下五无间罪,但有些不如法的行为会成为近五无间罪,这在《极乐愿文》中写得很清楚,如果有,要好好忏悔。

与五无间罪相比,诽谤正法罪很容易在有意无意间违犯,所以一定要注意。大、小乘中所有的显密佛法全部是佛陀为利益众生而宣讲的无伪善说,如果诽谤其中任一教法或者认为佛法中这一教法殊胜、那一教法低劣等,就构成了诽谤正法罪,因为佛法是诸佛与圣者们所宣说的,所以诽谤佛法,也就诽谤了佛陀与僧众。如果造下了这样的恶业,不真心忏悔,下一世不用说往生极乐世界,就是人身都很难得到,果报不可思议。还有一种情况,就是现在有的在家人随意评论和诽谤出家人,作为一个学佛人这是很不如法的。释迦牟尼佛曾经讲过,每四位比丘当中就有一个是佛的化现。所以在出家人中谁是圣者、谁是凡夫我们根本无法判断。有的人讲,这个出家人的行为不如法,对佛法的损害很大。出家人有这样的显现,绝不是佛法的问题。虽然他有这样的显现,但我们依然无法判断;无法判断,就不要诽谤。因为诽谤出家人的因果实在是太大了。你如果认为某个出家人的行为不如法或者对这个出家人没有信心,可以不去拜见、不去供养,但记住不能诽谤。

佛法包括教法与证法,高僧大德们心中内证的是证法,为众生宣讲的是教法。如果诽谤为利益众生正在广转法轮的高僧大德也就是诽谤佛法。佛陀圆寂前也曾对阿难讲道:阿难莫悲伤,我于未来时,化现善知识,利益汝等众。看到佛陀的这些教言,有过这样行为的人应该反观一下自己,从现在就要马上断除诽谤高僧大德的行为,好好忏悔,否则会断送自己的解脱之路。如果诽谤的是一个佛菩萨的话,依据《极乐愿文》等经论的教言,业障和因果不可思议。所以我们大家今后都不要去评论别人,否则会伤害到我们自己。除以上所讲的两个往生的障碍,还有就是已经进入密乘的弟子不能破密乘根本戒。破了密乘根本戒,没有忏悔清净前也是不能往生的。

具足了往生的四种因并且断除了障碍往生的过失,不论是成就的圣者还是普通的凡夫,都可以往生到极乐世界。这是阿弥陀佛发下的广大愿力,也是传承上师特别是法王如意宝通过他们的修持为我们做出的印证。关于极乐世界的功德,我们以前已经讲了很多次,在汉传佛教的《净土五经》和藏传佛教的《净土教言》等经论中都有详尽的宣讲,大家回去后一定要认认真真地修持。

大家都是在家人,在家人生活在社会上肯定需要一些资粮,不仅是你们,我也一样,如果没有一点资粮确实很难生活下去。但作为一个学佛的人,追求的是真正的解脱,平时吃的、穿的够用就可以了,否则人的贪欲是很难满足的。今天有了一百万,就想一千万,有了一千万,就想一个亿,这样下去,永无止境,而生命却会在你追逐贪欲中一天天地缩短。到死亡来临时,不用说你积下的财富,连自己的这个肉身也带不走。前几天我去一位弟子家里,听她讲,她的邻居是一个身价很高的大企业家,平时身体看上去也很好。今年一月初这个企业家的一个项目完成,在庆祝的酒会上,他只喝了两小杯酒就突然死在了酒席上。本来他还计划再开发下一个更大的项目,但下一个顶目没看到,自己却离开了人世。一月初到现在只有二十几天的时间,现在他的家人已经为了争夺他的遗产打得不可开交。一个人如果用自己的所有精力去追求世间的财富,最后的结果可能都会这样。所以我们在满足自己的基本生活所需后,应该用更多的精力修持佛法。

我是五明佛学院一名普普通通的堪布。因为在法王如意宝的座下听闻了二十一年的佛法,所以今天在这里可以给大家讲一讲,但在修行方面应该和大家没什么区别。有时候晚上躺在床上的时候我会常常想,自己这一世虽然没有造下杀生、诽谤佛法等等这样的恶业,但一个凡夫平时肯定会有许多的过失,如果在明天早上我没有醒来,也许没有把握往生到极乐世界,所以我们师徒要一起努力修持,共同发愿往生。

发愿往生后,要常常忆念阿弥陀佛和极乐净土,因为常常观想,在自己突然遇到危险时,就能够想起阿弥陀佛和极乐净土。这样经过长时间的修持,会在梦中见到阿弥陀佛和极乐净土,最后在临终自己非常恐惧的时候,也会想起阿弥陀佛和极乐净土,最终往生极乐世界。

我虽然是一个凡夫,但今天给大家传承的法都是法王如意宝传给我的。法王是真正的圣者,在我依止法王的二十余年中,从来没有扰乱过上师的心,也没有一次让上师示现不悦,所以这两个法的传承是非常清净的。法王现在虽然已经离开了我们,他传承下来的法还在,只要我们按照法王和传承上师的教言修持,一定可以往生西方极乐世界。

All the violence, fear and suffering that exists in this world come from grasping at the self. What is the use of this great monster for you? If you do not let the self go, there will be no end to suffering. Just as, if you do not release a flame from your hand, you can’t stop it from burning your hand.

— Shantideva

The Five Mental Hindrances
by Prof. David Dale Holmes

Venerable Nyanaponika in The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest, begins:

“Unshakeable deliverance of the mind is the highest goal in the Buddha’s doctrine. Here, deliverance means the freeing of the mind from all limitations, fetters, and bonds that tie it to the wheel of suffering, to the circle of rebirth. It means the cleansing of the mind of all defilements that mar its purity; the removal of all obstacles that bar its progress from the mundane (Pali: lokiya) to the supramundane consciousness (lokuttara citta), that is to arahatship.”

“Many are the obstacles which block the road to spiritual progress, but there are five in particular which, under the name of hindrances (nivarana), are often mentioned in Buddhist scriptures.”

The Five Mental Hindrances are:

1. Sensual desire
2. Ill will
3. Sloth and torpor
4. Restlessness and remorse
5. Skeptical doubt

“They are called ‘hindrances’ because they hinder and cloud . . . the development of the mind (bhavana). They can hinder right concentration so the mind remains bound within the mundane state — blocked from attaining access to supramundane states. The mind which demands nourishment based on fetters to mundane states will be tied to attachments from which it cannot be delivered.” (Nyanaponika 4, 1993)

Concerning nourishment, Venerable Nyanaponika quotes the Pali texts:

Just as monks, this body lives on nourishment, lives dependent on nourishment, does not live without nourishment — in the same way, monks, the five hindrances live on nourishment, depend on nourishment, do not live without nourishment. (Samyutta Nikaya 46:2)

Nourishment of sensual desire:

There are beautiful objects; frequently giving unwise attention to them — this is nourishment for the arising of sensual desire that has not yet arisen and the nourishment for the increasing and strengthening of sensual desire that has already arisen. (SN 46:51)

Nourishment of ill will:

There are objects causing aversion; frequently giving attention to them — is the nourishment for the arising of ill will that has not yet arisen, and for the increase and strengthening of ill will that has already arisen. (SN 46:55)

Nourishment of sloth and torpor:

There arises listlessness, lassitude, stretching of the body, drowsiness after meals, mental sluggishness; frequently giving unwise attention to it — this is the nourishment for the arising of sloth and torpor that have not yet arisen and for the increase and strengthening of sloth and torpor that have already arisen. (SN 46:51)

Nourishing restlessness and remorse:

There is the unrest of the mind; frequently giving unwise attention to it — that is the nourishment for the arising of restlessness and remorse that have not yet arisen and strengthening of restlessness and remorse that have already arisen. (SN 46:51)
Nourishment of doubt:

There are things causing doubt; frequently giving attention to them — that is the nourishment for the arising of doubt that has not yet arisen and strengthening of doubt that has already arisen. (SN 46:51)

We have all experienced sensuous desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and sceptical doubt. They are like bad companions that like to hang around, but there is a way to get rid of them: the conquest of the Five Mental Hindrances can be achieved by starving them — giving them nothing to feed on — through “de-nourishment.”

SENSUAL DESIRE

Suppose the object of perception is a beautiful young woman or man. Despite our eyes being attracted by outward beauty, we may also realise that her/his body is full of blood, pus, guts and faeces — and not quite as attractive as it first seems.

When we note an object of sensual desire entering the perceptive field, we may observe and analyse it as a source of impurities. Knowing that an attractive form is also ruled by feelings, perceptions, arising mental associations, and resultant consciousness, we realise that the desired object is a bundle of urges and energy aggregates that are certain to spell trouble.

And so it is with all Five Mental Hindrances — what first attracts the senses or consciousness may start a fire within the mind instead of providing soothing satisfaction. When the eye and the other six senses are not trained, they will want to get up to mischief, and, therefore, they have to be carefully contained.

ILL WILL

When the senses want pleasant perceptions, but instead get undesirable ones — ugly, noisy, smelly, distasteful, or repulsive to touch — then suffering ensues.

Suppose a neighbour’s music is too noisy, or his garbage is too smelly. It is easy to get involved and react to the unpleasant perception, developing a sense of consciousness and thinking, “This is not right! I’m going to tell him!” No sooner have you reacted than the neighbour is reacting back, and you are both feeling ill will. The moment you get involved and react, you lose whatever sense of equanimity you had and you may begin growling like an untamed animal.

The antidote to ill will is a good grounding in loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. When these four factors are there, you will not make your neighbour your enemy — no matter how badly he behaves. Under no circumstances should we lose composure. Loss of equanimity affords an opportunity for the ill will to nourish itself and run rampant — and this is exactly what ill will wants to do with you.

SLOTH AND TORPOR

We fall into sloth (lack of motivation and laziness) and torpor (lethargy and listlessness) when we sink into a state of inertia and cannot arouse enough energy to do anything — but we can combat inertia by arousing energy through an act of the will.

If our mind becomes dull, we can arouse energy through reflecting on birth, decay, disease, death, and impermanence. We can avoid over-eating or change body postures in order to keep alert or contemplate the perception of light, remain in the open air, or do walking meditation in places where there are sharp-sided stones, or, alternatively, converse with suitable Dhamma friends, to arouse sympathetic joy.

RESTLESS AND REMORSE

We have all felt restless, uneasy, nervous, or full of worry and remorse. The antidote for de-nourishment of restlessness is the application of wise attention to direct the mind into calmer mental states of quietude and tranquillity, or, alternatively, through practising the monk’s rules more thoroughly, thereby developing calmness.

The more restlessness there is in the mind, the more opportunities the defilements will have to stir up nervous energy, to create a spark in the mind that eats up nervous energy as fuel for negative nourishment.

SCEPTICAL DOUBT

There may be doubt within the mind or uncertainty, which enters via outside influences. Once a spark of uncertainty has arisen to ignite doubt, it is hard to establish and maintain confidence.

Uncertainty, which lurks and hides in the dark corners of the mind, can be a dangerous enemy because it attacks from inside where we are defenceless, owing to a lack of focus and concentration. It is good that we have the Five Precepts, which counterbalance the Five Hindrances, giving us the confidence to follow the Buddha’s doctrine of unshakeable deliverance of the mind.