How is boredom classified as a hindrance?

Boredom is a frequent problem for many meditators, myself included, and it commonly occurs in most peoples’ lives.

Is there a word in Pali that roughly translates to the english equivalent of boredom? It seems like boredom could be reasonably classified as one of the five hindrances in a few different ways, or perhaps as a mixture of those hindrances.

It could be:
Sensual desire - it is a vague undirected craving to be stimulated by something entertaining

Ill Will - perhaps not in the sense of hostility towards another person/being, but an aversion to the present moment

Restlessness - an itchy desire to be doing something else

Sloth/torpor - a low level of engagement and energy in what one is doing.

Of course, at the end of the day, it does not matter too much how we classify it. It should be enough to recognize that it is an unskillful state (at least while meditating) and work to abandon it. But I would like to understand it better so that I find it easier to abandon, and so I am asking others here for their thoughts.

There are certain unskillful states which I find it comparatively easy to let go of. But boredom is very sticky for me.


Hmm good question. I’ve always thought of boredom being somewhere in both of the sloth and torpor and restlessness hindrances. Usually boredom brings a lack of energy or engagement. Sometimes a wild feeling of boredom when you just want to run out of your house happens too.


It’s a form of aversion because it resists reality.

"Boredom has you bypass the present for the excitement of a future possibility. ”

—Seattle Meditation Society

It is reclassified as sloth as it fails to implement the practice potential of the present:

“And what is the food for the arising of unarisen sloth & drowsiness, or for the growth & increase of sloth & drowsiness once it has arisen? There are boredom, weariness, yawning, drowsiness after a meal, & sluggishness of awareness. To foster inappropriate attention to them: This is the food for the arising of unarisen sloth & drowsiness, or for the growth & increase of sloth & drowsiness once it has arisen.”


"“And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sloth & drowsiness, or for the growth & increase of sloth & drowsiness once it has arisen? There is the potential for effort, the potential for exertion, the potential for striving. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sloth & drowsiness, or for the growth & increase of sloth & drowsiness once it has arisen.”

—Samyutta Nikaya 46.51


I appreciate this discussion because I, too, wonder about boredom when it shows up. Just in general, even when I’m not meditating. Wikipedia describes the etymology like this:

The noun “bore” comes from the verb “bore”, which had the meaning “[to] be tiresome or dull” first attested [in] 1768, a vogue word c. 1780–81 according to Grose (1785); possibly a figurative extension of “to move forward slowly and persistently, as a [hole-] boring tool does.”

The Wikipedia entry then links this to the practice of being a bore, i.e., boredom.

Interestingly, in French, the analogous term ennui derives from Latin inodiare (“to make loathsome”) - to Old French anoier or ennuyer (which augments the meaning to include annoyance) - to the Modern French noun ennui. This modern French term also connotes a kind of existential boredom which, in my view, the English term doesn’t convey.

The Pali reads like this, in reference to the third hindrance:

Atthi, bhikkhave, arati tandi vijambhitā bhattasammado cetaso ca līnattaṁ.

Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi: There are, bhikkhus, discontent, lethargy, lazy stretching, drowsiness after meals, sluggishness of mind…

(Bhikkhu Sujato also translates arati as discontent.)

The Pali term arati is the negation of the noun rati, which means a liking (for something) per the Digital Pali Dictionary.

So if we bring this all the way back to the object of this discussion, I question whether there is a Pali word that is exactly analogous to the English term boredom or the French term ennui. The etymologies above reflect, in my opinion, an averse state of mind or mood (consistent with what @paul1 wrote). I have often wondered whether our current English term boredom is a product of modern culture … if we’re not activated by something in the moment, then we’re averse to that; if we don’t see purpose/meaning aligned to what we’re doing at points in time, then we’re averse to that (more existentially the French meaning). And so on.

Whether nesting boredom under byāpādassa (the literal word in the second hindrance) or under arati tandi vijambhitā bhattasammado cetaso ca līnattaṁ (the third hindrance) may be of less interest to me as the years go on. More recently I tend to observe a bored mind as a restless mind.

Anyway, the etymology research (thanks for the impetus @Soren :grinning:) helps me.


Certainly boredom is a very egotistical state ‘I am not sufficiently stimulated!’

As it’s associated with ego and a sense of self, it cannot be wholesome in the sense of leading towards nibbana.


From “Flow” theory, boredom can arise either because a task is too easy or because it’s too hard. For beginning meditators, it’s usually the latter. We have high hopes for what we can achieve in a sit and when we can’t accomplish that, we disengage. So, for me, the best thing is to just remind myself that all I have to do is take a breath. One breath. That’s literally all you have to do. Having accomplished that, allow yourself a little smile. You just meditated! Congratulations! Can you do it again? Then, as you build up the momentum, you can start to make the task more difficult so as to stay engaged. “Breathing in long… Breathing in short… Aware of the body… Relaxing the body…” and so on. Maybe that helps :blush:


From the insight view if the practitioner’s main theme has been material acquisition, they are unaware of the spritual implications of the present, thus are prone to boredom. Through self-examination they become aware of the main defilement they are prone to giving rise to urgency:

" In the same way, a monk’s self-examination is very productive in terms of skillful qualities:[2] ‘Do I usually remain covetous or not? With thoughts of ill will or not? Overcome by sloth & drowsiness or not? Restless or not? Uncertain or gone beyond uncertainty? Angry or not? With soiled thoughts or unsoiled thoughts? With my body aroused or unaroused? Lazy or with persistence aroused? Unconcentrated or concentrated?’

“If, on examination, a monk knows, ‘I usually remain covetous, with thoughts of ill will, overcome by sloth & drowsiness, restless, uncertain, angry, with soiled thoughts, with my body aroused, lazy, or unconcentrated,’ then he should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, relentlessness, mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities. Just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, relentlessness, mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head; in the same way, the monk should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, relentlessness, mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities.”

—Anguttara Nikaya 10.51

@Khemarato.bhikkhu best resource you would recommend to understand flow theory?

The foundational text is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. A collection of his work on positive psychology can be read free on the Internet Archive if you want to go straight to the source.

For secondary literature :thinking: I don’t know to be honest! I was introduced to his ideas in university when I worked in a positive psychology lab, so I never really engaged the literature per se. I just took advantage of the grad students by asking too many questions*! The Wikipedia article might not be a bad place to start… :person_shrugging: (I welcome any recs others have…)

* - Since you’re in the Pāḷi class with me, that’s probably not hard for you to imagine!


To foster appropriate attention meaning to contemplate on the feeling of boredom and see it as it really are, that is Anicca, Dukha and Anatta. It arises, stays for a while and then ceases. No need to follow the feeling.
Is this the correct way ?
Thank you.

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I think it is very hard to get over this hindrance without seclusion. When the six sense contacts are being inundated constantly with sensory information in the desire realm we become attached to that non-stop flow of information. However, spending a few weeks in silence in solitude with no cell phones and no constant stream of sensory information can reveal boredom for what it is. Coming out of that seclusion can feel like an assault rather than anything desirable. Boredom is also very very sticky for me. :pray:


Exactly, I believe you have perfectly described my situation as I experience on a daily basis. The question I often ask myself is…how to view this conundrum. I do meditate, but can’t do it for 18 hours of daily lay life. Is it then part of my personal karma?

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I personally view it as part of my kamma. I rejoice that I’ve had access to some seclusion that’s enabled me to see the boredom for what it is. Doesn’t mean I’m not still addicted to it, but at least I don’t regard the addiction as healthy nor necessary. I hope to be rid of it some day and I think the experience of seclusion might be a first step?

One thing that is clear to me is that the sensory information is not itself the problem, it is my addiction to it. The boredom comes because I grasp at the sensory information and crave it and this causes the continued existence of the addictive habit. I think it possible to train myself to be immune to this sensory information and the seclusion helps by allowing the space to see the addiction for what it is.

At least, that’s what I like to humor myself with. :joy: :pray:


There was a thread a while ago on boredom. It may have some relevant replies, just beyond classification.


I remember being in a class that had to go the library for some reason and the feedback from the librarian returned to us through our prof was that we were “bored and boring.” Still in my list of best top-ten comments, ever.


Is this the correct way ?

No that’s passive mindfulness, an incorrect doctrine. The feeling must be changed to something profitable. The rapture which must be cultivated (“trained”) in the second tetrad of mindfulness of breathing is a spiritual feeling containing reverence. That is what boredom must be changed to by repeatedly training the mind.

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Dear Dhamma Friend,

The thorough investigation (contemplation) of this feeling boredom. through mindfulness practice.

The Characteristic of it is impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless. Arises and passes away.

If one meditate just to get calm and tranquility by concentration in the breadth and loses awareness and mindfulness. It is merely the mind in a sleeping state, not very beneficial. After leaving the cushion, all the suffering comes back again.

The issue here is the five aggregates of clinging which is a habitual auto reaction.

The Citta have to sees clearly and understand itself. In its originality the Citta is stilled, not moving not affected by its content. it merely aware.

Example you put spicy chilli into a plastic container. Does the container feel spicy? It is not affected by the content.

It is the wrong view of the citta that causes problem. The container thinking the (content) chilli is me, mine and myself.

There are recommendation to change or to manipulate the feeling. Here it is beneficial to asked who is the one who wanted change?

The wrong practice: unpleasant feeling arise, you detest,you desire to push it away. Pleasant feeling arise, you desire, attached to it, intoxicated to it, you fight hard to preserve it. (This is the normal attitude of beginners of meditation and those whose chiefly motivation is to seek peace but doesn’t take the time to understand peace itself.)


I am not the Chili. The Chili is not me. The Chili is moldy!
LOL! With Metta! :laughing: :pray: :innocent:

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