'hindrances', are 5 qualities which are
obstacles to the mind and blind our mental vision. In the presence of them we
cannot reach neighbourhood-concentration (upacāra-samādhi) and full
concentration (appanā-samādhi), and are unable to discern clearly the
truth. They are:
- sensuous desire (kāmacchanda),
- ill-will (vyāpāda),
- sloth and torpor (thīna-middha),
- restlessness and scruples (uddhacca-kukkucca), and
- skeptical doubt (vicikicchā).
In the beautiful similes in A.V.193, sensuous desire is
compared with water mixed with manifold colours, ill-will with boiling water,
sloth and torpor with water covered by moss, restlessness and scruples with
agitated water whipped by the wind, skeptical doubt with turbid and muddy water.
Just as in such water one cannot perceive one's own reflection, so in the
presence of these 5 mental hindrances, one cannot clearly discern one's own
benefit, nor that of others, nor that of both.
Regarding the temporary suspension of the 5 hindrances on
entering the first absorption, the stereotype sutta text (e g. A.IX.40) runs
"He has cast away sensuous desire; he dwells with a
heart free from sensuous desire; from desire he cleanses his heart.
"He has cast away ill-will; he dwells with a heart free
from ill-will, cherishing love and compassion toward all living beings, he
cleanses his heart from ill-will.
"He has cast away sloth and torpor; he dwells free from
sloth and torpor; loving the light, with watchful mind, with clear
consciousness, he cleanses his mind from sloth and torpor.
"He has cast away restlessness and scruples; dwelling
with mind undisturbed, with heart full of peace, he cleanses his mind from
restlessness and scruples.
"He has cast away skeptical doubt; dwelling free from
doubt, full of confidence in the good, he cleanses his heart from doubt.
"He has put aside these 5 hindrances, and come to know
these paralysing defilements of the mind. And far from sensual contacts, far
from disadvantageous things, he enters into the first absorption, etc."
The overcoming of these 5 hindrances by the absorptions is,
as already pointed out, a merely temporary suspension, called 'overcoming
through repression' (vikkhambhana-pahāna). They disappear forever on
entering the 4 supermundane paths (s. ariyapuggala), i.e. skeptical doubt
on reaching Sotāpanship; sensuous desire, ill-will and mental worry on reaching
Anāgāmiship; sloth, torpor and restlessness on reaching Arahantship.
For their origination and their overcoming, s. A. I, 2; VI,
21; S. XLVI, 51.
See The Five Mental Hindrances, by Nyanaponika Thera