How does misconduct condition the hindrances?

In AN 10.61 it’s said that the condition for the five hindrances is the three forms of misconduct, and that these are dependent on lack of restraint. I wonder what these two connections mean in practice, though. Why do the three forms of misconduct condition the five hindrances, and why does lack of restraint condition the three forms of misconduct?

“‘Monks, a beginning point for ignorance—such that one might say, “Before this, ignorance did not exist; then it came into play”—cannot be discerned.’ This, monks, has been said. Nevertheless, it can be discerned, ‘Ignorance comes from this condition.’ And I tell you, ignorance has its food and is not without food. And what is the food for ignorance? ‘The five hindrances’ … And what is the food for the five hindrances? ‘The three forms of misconduct’ … And what is the food for the three forms of misconduct? ‘Lack of restraint of the senses’ … And what is the food for lack of restraint of the senses? ‘Lack of mindfulness & alertness’ … And what is the food for lack of mindfulness & alertness? ‘Inappropriate attention’ … And what is the food for inappropriate attention? ‘Lack of conviction’ … And what is the food for lack of conviction? ‘Not hearing the true Dhamma’ … And what is the food for not hearing the true Dhamma? ‘Not associating with people of integrity,’ it should be said.

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It strengthens them. The more sensual indulgence, stronger is sensual desire. The more anger and hate, stronger is ill—will. The more lazy, the stronger sloth and torpor. The weaker sense restraint is, the stronger restlessness. The more all of those, the greater remorse and doubt.


To have the Highest Level of Morality conditions one to the most Perfect Liberation.

Misconduct brings about harm, having it’s root in the fires of lust only.

For the above, one can simply observe or learn about secular addiction theory; such as here: Its really just a natural process.

For example, no person is born into this world addicted to the drugs heroin or cocaine. It is only through the actually use of heroin or cocaine a person (i.e., the psycho-physical organism) becomes addicted. This is simply the nature/natural law of indulging in sensual pleasures. Indulging in sensual pleasures causes craving for that sensual pleasure that also arises at a later time. Thus the Teachings say:

And what is the result of kamma? The result of kamma is of three sorts, I tell you: that which arises right here & now, that which arises later [in this lifetime], and that which arises following that. This is called the result of kamma.

AN 6.63

For example, if, now, I consume an effective amount of alcohol, there will be three results:

  1. pleasure & merriment today
  2. a headache tomorrow
  3. a craving for alcohol in the near future

Therefore, in terms of the five hindrances:

  1. the headache tomorrow may be the hindrances of irritation (ill-will), remorse & sloth;
  2. the craving in the near future will be the hindrance of sensual desire.


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I’m not sure that this “why?” question is answered or even answerable.

In the case of the hindrance of flurry and worry…

The wicked flee though no man pursueth, but the righteous are brave as a lion.
Proverbs 28.1

“Again, whatever assembly an immoral person deficient in virtuous behavior approaches—whether of khattiyas, brahmins, householders, or ascetics—he approaches it timid and disconcerted. This is the third danger for an immoral person because of his deficiency in virtuous behavior.”

Yet as far as I know the OT doesn’t say why the wickedness of the wicked gives rise to states of mind that make them flee, nor the Buddha why the misconduct of the dussīlas gives rise to states of mind that make them timid. It just seems to be a widely acknowledged brute fact that bad conduct gives rise to undesirable states of mind.

In Anguttara Nikaya 10.176 these are expanded upon in both skilful and unskilful forms.

“Thus, when associating with people of integrity is made full, it fills [the conditions for] hearing the true Dhamma… conviction… appropriate attention… mindfulness & alertness… restraint of the senses… the three forms of right conduct… the four establishings of mindfulness… the seven factors for awakening. When the seven factors for awakening are made full, they fill [the conditions for] clear knowing & release. Such is the food for this clear knowing & release, and thus are they made full."—Anguttara Nikaya 10.61

These conditions are simply physical and straightforward. In Anguttra Nikaya 10.176 the Buddha goes to lengths to explain the conditions are intrinsically pure or impure:

“These, Cunda, are the ten courses of skillful action. When a person is endowed with these ten courses of skillful action, then even if he gets up at the proper time from his bed and touches the earth, he is still pure. If he doesn’t touch the earth, he is still pure. If he touches wet cow dung, he is still pure. If he doesn’t touch wet cow dung, he is still pure. If he touches green grass… If he doesn’t touch green grass… If he worships a fire… If he doesn’t worship a fire… If he pays homage to the sun with clasped hands… If he doesn’t pay homage to the sun with clasped hands… If he goes down into the water three times by nightfall… If he doesn’t go down into the water three times by nightfall, he is still pure. Why is that? Because these ten courses of skillful action are pure and cause purity.”

Im not convinced there’s a big mystery here, if you have been fooling around with the chieftons wife, your gonna be nervous when you enter the assembly hall.

Similarly the silas are repeatedly described as having the effect that the mendicant feels “blameless”, that is, they reflect on thier behaviour and can see no reason for anyone to accuse them of wrongdoing, consequently they feel happiness, when they are happy the mind settles, the body feels pleasant, etc etc…

On the other hand, if you beat your wife you might conceivably be worried about her brother attacking you in revenge, doubtful about her forgivness, etc etc…

The argument really seems to be not much more than that actions have consequences for the mind of the actor and purifying ones actions goes some way to purifying ones mind.

Would also say that the OP’s qoute is a good argument against “origin” as a translation of samudaya, but i guess thats another story

Both misconduct and hindrances are perversions of the mind. It is inherently rooted in discontent and delusion, and perversion mentallly feels really good for one who is discontent and deluded.

Mendicants, there are these four perversions of perception, mind, and view. What four?

Taking impermanence as permanence.
Taking suffering as happiness.
Taking not-self as self.
Taking ugliness as beauty.

These are the four perversions of perception, mind, and view.

AN 4.49

The hindrances are less obvious perversions than the misconducts but they’re still perversions.

This is also exemplified in the agganna sutta, which shows sex in general as immoral, a misconduct, and not merely sensual desire

Those who saw them having sex pelted them with dirt, ashes, or cow-dung, saying, ‘Get lost, filth! Get lost, filth! How on earth can one being do that to another?’ And even today people in some countries, when a bride is carried off, pelt her with dirt, ashes, or cow-dung. They’re just remembering an ancient primordial saying, but they don’t understand what it means.

What was reckoned as immoral at that time, these days is reckoned as moral. The beings who had sex together weren’t allowed to enter a village or town for one or two months. Ever since they excessively threw themselves into immorality, they started to make buildings to hide their immoral deeds. Then one of those beings of idle disposition thought, ‘Hey now, why should I be bothered to gather rice in the evening for supper, and in the morning for breakfast? Why don’t I gather rice for supper and breakfast all at once?’

So actually the misconducts and the hindrances are both immoral and a result of a perverted view that takes pleasure in the immoral due to discontent. This is why a sense of shame is a requirement for upholding the virtues and by extension thwarting the hindrances, but a sense of shame can only come from right view.

Bhikkhus, ignorance is the forerunner in the entry upon unwholesome states, with shamelessness and fearlessness of wrongdoing following along. For an unwise person immersed in ignorance, wrong view springs up. For one of wrong view, wrong intention springs up. For one of wrong intention, wrong speech springs up. For one of wrong speech, wrong action springs up. For one of wrong action, wrong livelihood springs up. For one of wrong livelihood, wrong effort springs up. For one of wrong effort, wrong mindfulness springs up. For one of wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration springs up.

SN 45.1

The misconducts condition the hindrances because they’re all ultimately rooted in delusion which conditions the misconducts and in turn the hindrances.

It’s why one becomes appalled when one attains right view. Like the sutta with the prince in the palace going to bed with his mistresses, in the middle of the night a past life memory of him being a monk doing asubha meditation arises, he attains right view, wakes up disgusted at what he did with the mistresses,and in shock runs away from the palace and ordains. His perversion rooted in delusion was lifted.

The same goes for sensual desires perceived as burning coals for one with right view.

I also recommend reading Sakka’s question that made him become an ariya in DN 21, he asks where the unwholesome comes from and the Buddha shows the causation all the way to perception.

Thinking has the perceptions & categories of objectification[1] as its cause, has the perceptions & categories of objectification as its origination, has the perceptions & categories of objectification as what gives it birth, has the perceptions & categories of objectification as its source. When the perceptions & categories of objectification exist, thinking comes into being. When the perceptions & categories of objectification are not, it doesn’t."

Objectification = papañca. The tendency of the mind to proliferate issues from the sense of “self.”

So this goes back to perversion of the 4 perceptions quoted above. The perversion of perception “seeing no-self as self”, is the same as the poison of delusion which is identity view and conceit.


Do you mean that the misconducts end up strengthening the taints, which strengthen the five hindrances?
Why would the cessation of the misconducts cause the cessation of the five hindrances?

The term I used was “brute fact”, not “big mystery”. They’re not the same. Something for which I can reasonably suppose there’s an explanation, but one that I’m quite ignorant of, is a mystery. But a brute fact is something for which I have neither an explanation nor any good grounds for supposing that there might be an explanation.

Why my computer crashes and why the Surinam toad has a pointy head are (for me) big mysteries, but I’ve no doubt that a computer techie and a herpetologist could clear up the mystery.

On the other hand, that wholesome kammas gives rise to pleasant vipākas is (if factual) a brute fact. That is, it’s a fact that’s not explainable by any deeper fact, at least in the Buddhist and Jaina dharmas. I guess in theistic dharma traditions it probably wouldn’t be viewed as a brute fact: “It happens like that because Lord Krishna has appointed a committee of demi-gods to keep a tally of everybody’s actions and dispense the appropriate rewards and punishments.”

Yes, but the type of person called dussīla isn’t necessarily doing anything as gross as this. Any frequent performance of any of the three kinds of bodily or four kinds of verbal unwholesome action make one dussīla. It might be nothing more than frequent theft of paperclips from one’s office or habitual indulgence in frivolous speech.

No I mean the hindrances depend on misconduct which depends on perversion of perception (delusion).

Because the 5 hindrances are misconducts.

The 3 misconducts means unwholesome mental, verbal, and bodily action.

Mental covers perception and feeling.

That means if there is no mental misconduct, there is no 5 hindrances.

Sensual desire happens in the mind first and foremost.

The sensuous yearning of a man is his thoughts bound up with attachment.

Saṅkapparāgo purisassa kāmo

The world’s attractive things are not sensuous yearning

Nete kāmā yāni citrāni loke

The sensuous yearning of a man is his thoughts bound up with attachment.

Saṅkapparāgo purisassa kāmo

The world’s attractive things remain as they are

Tiṭṭhanti citrāni tatheva loke

The wise eliminate their hankering for them

Athettha dhīrā vinayanti chandan ti

Sensual desire ends in first jhana

Secluded from sensuous pleasures and spiritually unwholesome factors, he enters and abides in first jhāna, which is accompanied by thinking and pondering, and rapture and physical pleasure born of seclusion [from sensuous pleasures and spiritually unwholesome factors]. For him the mental imagery of previous sensuous pleasure ceases.

For someone who has attained the first absorption, sensual perceptions have ceased.

AN 9.31

5 hindrances = verbal & mental misconduct = perversion of perception = delusion, greed, hatred

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The way you explain Dahmme is just brilliant. Sadhuuuuu!

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Isn’t misconduct the same as unskillful volitional formations? Since the five hindrances aren’t volitional (it’s not as if you were willing to have lust or doubt in your mind), why would they be included in the three misconducts? Also, if they were included, then the sutta would be redundant when it says that the five hindrances depend on the three forms of misconduct.

I guess you’re basing yourself in MN 44, right?

“In-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications.”

If we interpret “sankhara” as identical to volition and, at the same time, include perception and feeling under it, we get a big problem because nobody actually controls perceptions and feelings directly; that’s why they’re different aggregates. Besides, we need to differentiate the different meanings of the word sankhara. Sometimes it means fabrications, sometimes action. In the context of the three forms of misconduct , it means volitional formations, but, in the context of MN 44, it means fabrications.

I think Bhikkhu Bodhi clarified this matter quite well when he discussed Nanavira’s interpretation of dependent origination:

The definition of the three sankhara found in the Culavedalla Sutta, and elsewhere in the Canon (at S IV 293), does not occur in the context of PS nor in a context that even touches on PS. This particular definition of the three types of sankhara—kayasankhara, vacisankhara, cittasankhara—always occurs in the course of a discussion on the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling (saññavedayita-nirodha). It is intended to prepare the way for an explanation of the order in which the three types of sankhara cease when a monk enters the attainment of cessation.

That makes sense, but strengthening something is different from being a dependent condition of it. Before ill-will arises, is it always the case that one of the three forms of misconduct must be present? Can’t we just wake up annoyed without having done anything wrong before?