Doug Smith's New Vid: What Are the Five Hindrances?

The five hindrances get in the way of our meditation, and get in the way of living wisely. Here we will look at them and at methods for dealing with them skillfully, mostly from the early tradition.

For an earlier essay of mine on this topic see:

A good source for information on the hindrances in early Buddhism is Anālayo’s book “From Craving to Liberation – Excursions into the Thought-World of the Pāli Discourses (1)”.


Thanks for the repost, @AnagarikaMichael. :anjal:

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@dougsmith thanks for producing these interesting videos. I enjoy all of them that you post, and this one today started my day on a great note. :anjal:

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Hi Doug

I will offer a critique:

  1. The video certainly sounds ‘secular’ because sexual & sensual desire were not mentioned.

  2. The video seemed to begin with the ‘hindrance’ of attaching to pleasant feelings arising from meditation, such as rapture. How to get to this state of rapture when sexual & sensual desire is a hindrance?

  3. Restlessness’ as the 9th fetter (samyojana) appears to not be one of the five hindrances (nirvarana) to jhana because the non-returner has eradicated sensuality & ill-will & has obviously mastered jhana. I would imagine ‘restlessness’ as a fetter (samyojana) is another kind of restlessness, such as: “Now that I am mostly enlightened, what I am going to do with my life?” or “I am the next Buddha; I must find twelve disciples & save the world”.

  4. I found the style of music too busy & not in harmony with the subject.

Kind regards :seedling:


Hi @Deeele and thanks for the critique, it’s always important to hear what didn’t come across right.

While I don’t think I mentioned sexual desire in particular (this may be what you mean by it sounding secular, since sexual desire is more relevant in a monastic context) I did begin the video mentioning sensual desire (1:16). Probably I didn’t say enough about it.

Your point about restlessness is interesting, I’m wondering if there is some sutta discussion about various forms of restlessness.


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Piya Tan has written a good overview of the hindrances based on both early and later texts.

Five Hindrances

According to the Abhidhamma the hindrance of restlessness in a worldling, stream-entrant, or once-returner and the fetter of restlessness in a non-returner are one and the same mental factor. What distinguishes them is:

  1. The fetter of restlessness in a non-returner would never arise in an aversion-motivated consciousness (dosamūla citta). And …
  2. Unlike the hindrance of restlessness it would never be accompanied by worry/remorse (kukkucca).

Thank you Dhammanando. The following example is similar to my guess about restlessness as a fetter:

Another famous example is that of the “brahmin youth” Piṅgiya, who while listening to the Buddha teaching, see the beauty and truth of the Dharma, which could have liberated him as an arhat. However, at that very moment, he compassionately thought of his uncle and teacher, Bāvarī, and, as a result, become only a non-returner, while all his other colleagues and their follower, and his own followers, all become arhats.



Thank you @Dhammanando for the comment and link to Piya Tan’s article. I do enjoy his writing.

Yes, the abhidhamma analysis is interesting and makes sense. As I understand it, since the non-returner has overcome sensual desire and ill will completely, s/he will not experience aversion, worry, remorse, or restlessness based on sensual desire. Is this then the reason the restlessness they experience is no longer considered a hindrance?

There is always more to learn!

(To be clear, my video was intended to be approachable by non-specialists, so this is the kind of issue I would not have wanted to spend time on, much as it interests me personally).


I suppose that it would be, since the hindrance is always given as uddhacca-kukkucca, rather than just uddhacca.


Bhanthe, could this mean the restlessness of regret?

I don’t think so. If it was a genitive dependent-determinate compound its meaning would be “regret of restlessness”.

However, the commentaries always treat it as a copulative compound (i.e., uddhaccañca kukkuccañca) and the evidence for its being so comes as early as the Dhammasaṅgaṇī, Vibhaṅga and the Peṭakopadesa. To quote from the last-named:

Tattha katamaṃ uddhaccaṃ? Yo avūpasamo cittassa, idaṃ uddhaccaṃ. Tattha katamaṃ kukkuccaṃ? Yo cetaso vilekho alañcanā vilañcanā hadayalekho vippaṭisāro, idaṃ kukkuccaṃ. Iti idañca kukkuccaṃ purimakañca uddhaccaṃ tadubhayaṃ uddhaccakukkuccanīvaraṇanti vuccati.

“Herein, what is agitation? Any disquiet of mind is agitation. Herein, what is worry? Any rasping of mind, guilt, guiltiness, rasping-in-the-heart, remorse, this is worry. This worry and the agitation mentioned above are together called the hindrance of agitation-and-worry.”

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Thank you bhanthe! :anjal:

If the udacca of a five hindrances are the same as the uddacca of the five higher fetters, it could mean that the removal of former is temporary and the removal of the latter (when practicing to become fully enlightened), is permanent.

There wouldn’t be a need for two types of udacca that way. :slightly_smiling_face:

with metta

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Dear @dougsmith, I liked your video, particularly about being mindful of the hindrances outside meditation also.

Here is some stuff that you might find relevant to this topic:

####Pleasure in meditation
DN 29 makes an explicit distinction between being addicted to the pleasure of the 5 senses, and being addicted to the pleasure of jhana. The latter addiction to the jhanas is said to “conduce absolutely to unworldliness, to passionlessness, to cessation, to peace, to higher knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.”

There’s also the well known sequence found in e.g. AN 10.1, where it is tranquility and samādhi rely on joy and rapture as preceding conditions.

MN 14 also explains that it is the pleasure and joy from jhanas that makes it impossible to be seduced by sensual pleasures.

I think it is not supported by the suttas to include the pleasure of calm and contentment in the first hindrance. It seems to me that it is exactly those kind of skillful non-sensual pleasures that can grow into the rapture necessary for samādhi.


AN 10.61; The five hindrances are the nutriment of delusion (avijja), which I think goes well with your point about being mindful of the five hindrances in day-to-day life. It’s also unskillful behavior that is the nutriment for the 5 hindrances.

Taken together with AN 10.1, I think there’s a good case for being even more explicit in saying that good meditation is driven by virtuous behavior.

In any case, cool video :slight_smile:


Thanks very much for your kind commentary @Erik_ODonnell. This is a question for me, inasmuch as for example in MN 52 Ānanda distinguishes between those who attain arahantship through insight into the impermanence of jhāna and those who through “desire for the dhamma, delight in the dhamma” do not attain arahantship. I was reading that as an implicit warning not to become attached even to non-sensual pleasures such as jhāna. I think there are some other passages in the suttas with a similar concern, though perhaps I misremember?

Indeed it may be that this attachment to pleasures of jhāna is not properly considered a hindrance, since the hindrance is that of sensual desire and this is not related to sensual desire. Nevertheless the desire for jhāna must be overcome to reach the final goal.

Anyhow very interesting concerns, thank you! :pray:

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In MN 52 the attachment to jhana leads to becoming a non-returner, i.e. guaranteed Nirvana after hanging out in the pure abodes for a time, rather than an arahant, probably not the worst fate :slight_smile:

Also there’s MN 66:

…These are the five strings of sensuality. Now, any pleasure & happiness that arises dependent on these five strings of sensuality is called sensual pleasure, a filthy pleasure, a run-of-the-mill pleasure, an ignoble pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is not to be cultivated, not to be developed, not to be pursued, that it is to be feared.

"Now, there is the case [of the four jhanas]. This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.

Or MN 139:

“‘One should know how to define pleasure, and knowing that, one should pursue pleasure within oneself.’ So it was said. And with reference to what was this said?

“Bhikkhus, there are these five cords of sensual pleasure… I say of this kind of pleasure that it should not be pursued, that it should not be developed, that it should not be cultivated, and that it should be feared.

“Here, bhikkhus, [the four jhanas]. I say of this kind of pleasure that it should be pursued, that it should be developed, that it should be cultivated, and that it should not be feared.

The difference between sensual and spiritual pleasant feeling is also a part of the feeling satipatthana in MN 10, so a good meditation exercise could perhaps be to see if an arisen pleasant feeling is spiritual or sensual.

Isn’t kind of cool to have a spiritual practice where you’re allowed to have some pleasure though? Personally I’m glad it’s not all hardship! :slight_smile:


Indeed! As the Buddha recalled in his experience as a youth under the rose-apple tree, the pleasure of meditation is a pure form of pleasure.

I only wish it were easier to achieve! :footprints:


If this is the true motivation for one’s practice then there is more to be done (not that you were suggesting that). :anjal:

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