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Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
fall 2006| 46 |buddhadharma are both untrue. They are both the product of dis- torting what is seen, heard, sensed, and cognized. They are both delusion. It is just that the positive view is a more useful delusion. In fact, it is the view that will lead you to discovering the truth. The Buddha explained that it is the five hin- drances that distort perception and corrupt our thinking. He called the five hindrances the nutri- ment that feeds delusion (Anguttara Nikaya (AN) 10.61). The first hindrance, sensual desire, selects what we want to see, hear, sense, and cognize. It often embellishes the truth. It presents to our consciousness the product of wishful thinking. The second hindrance, ill will, is the negative impulse that blocks us from seeing, hearing, sensing, or cognizing what we don’t want to know. It blinds us to what is unpleasant, and to what is contrary to our view. Psychology knows the second hindrance as the process of denial. The third hindrance is sloth and torpor. This does not distort what we see, hear, sense, or cognize; rather, it buries it in a fog so that we are unable to discern clearly. The fourth hindrance, restlessness and remorse, keeps our senses on the run, so fast that we do not have sufficient time to see, hear, sense, or cognize fully. Sights do not have time to fully form on our retina before the back of the eye has another sight to deal with. Sounds are hardly registered when we are asked to listen to something else. The fourth hindrance of restlessness, and its special case of remorse (inner restlessness due to bad conduct), is like the overdemanding boss in your office who never gives you enough time to finish a project properly. The fifth hindrance is doubt, which inter- rupts the gathering of data with premature ques- tions. Before we have fully experienced the seen, heard, sensed, or cognized, doubt interferes with the process, like a cocky student interrupting the teacher with a question in the midst of the lecture. It is these five hindrances that distort perception, corrupt thinking, and maintain a deluded view. It is well known among serious students of Bud- dhism that the only way to suppress these five hin- drances is through the practice of jhana. As it says in the Nalakapana Sutta (MN 68), for those who do not attain a jhana, the five hindrances (plus discontent and weariness) invade the mind and remain. Anything less than jhana is not powerful and lasting enough to suppress the five hindrances sufficiently. So, even if you are practicing bare mindfulness, if the five hindrances are still active at a subconscious level, you are not seeing things as they truly are; you are only seeing things as they seem, distorted by these five hindrances. Thus, in order to fulfill the Buddha’s teach- ing to Bahiya and Venerable Malunkyaputta, in order that “in the seen will be merely what is seen, in the heard will be merely what is heard, in the sensed will be merely what is sensed, and in the cognized will merely be what is cognized,” the five hindrances have to be suppressed and that means jhana! Seeing Things as They Truly Are It is true that the five hindrances become suppressed just prior to jhana, in what the commentaries call upacara samadhi, “stillness of mind at the threshold of jhana” (my own translation). So, how can you know for sure that these insidious five hindrances, which usually operate at a subconscious level, are fully suppressed? How do you know if you are in upacara samadhi? The acid test for upacara samadhi is that you can move effortlessly over the threshold into first jhana. In upacara samadhi, there is no obstacle, no hindrance, between you and jhana. If you can’t enter jhana, the five hindrances are still there. So, to make sure they are gone, you try entering a jhana, and you enter. When the mind emerges from the jhana, it rests on the threshold, in upacara samadhi, for a long time, just as when you leave a house, you stand on the threshold again. It is at this point, during the period immediately after a jhana experience, when the five hindrances no longer invade the mind, that one is finally able to practice “in the seen is merely what is seen, in the heard is merely what is heard, in the sensed is merely what is sensed, and in the cognized is merely what is cognized.” As the Buddha repeatedly said (e.g., AN 6.50), only as a result of jhana (samma samadhi) does one see things as they are (yatha-bhuta-ñanadassanam) and not as they seem. The End of a View of Self An experience of a jhana can blow you apart. What do I mean by that? I mean that the data supplied by the jhana experience, contemplated immediately after in upacara samadhi, when the hindrances cannot distort anything, destroys the delusion of self, soul, me, and mine. In the first jhana mostly, and in the higher jha- nas completely, the potential to do, will, and make choices – what I call “the doer” – has disappeared. The data is so clear, and the five hindrances are no longer able to prevent you from seeing that there is no one at the controls of your body and mind, to put it bluntly. Will is not a self, or a product of a self. Will is just an impersonal natural pro- cess that can come to an absolute cessation. You have seen this for yourself, and you can trust this knowledge because it occurred when the corrupt- ing five hindrances were suppressed. This insight is the most certain that you have ever known: free will is a delusion. You, the reader, will be incapa- ble of agreeing with me. This is because your five hindrances are still active, and they will prevent An experience of a jhana can blow you apart. The data supplied by the jhana experience, when the hindrances cannot distort anything, destroys the delusion of self, soul, me, and mine.