Studying the first five fetters

During walking meditation today it occurred that understanding the nature of each of the fetters might be important. This seems obvious but it was not apparent to this lost one until the thought arose.

For example, consider how one might address identity view or sakkāyadiṭṭhānusayo. If this question arose, one might be referred to MN8 Self-Effacement. This sutta really hits home.

Proceeding along this line of thought, the question arises about how one should address perpetual doubt or vicikicchānusayo. Interestingly SuttaCentral itself was rather oblique in its recommendations. Clearly one must dig hard to find a sutta to deal with perpetual doubt. What sutta is the hammer for perpetual doubt?

And you can see how this line of thought progresses. One quickly runs aground in the quicksand of search for something which should actually perhaps be a critical part of study.

How should one (or we) proceed here?


Doubt is dispelled by further investigation.

“See this:
the discernment
of the Tathāgatas,
like a fire ablaze in the night,
giving light, giving eyes,
to those who come,
subduing their doubt.”

Thag 1:3

My own doubts were quelled by contemplating impermanence and equanimity. I was a hard-lined atheist before coming to terms with how short life was, and how life can be made even shorter by tragedy. When I stopped worrying about things that can’t be controlled or verified, I felt a lot more at ease.

Doubt and worry (Pali: kaukritya) may be closely related.

According to MN 63, abandoning the five lower fetters, a task that appears to be prescribed to mendicants, requires the meditative absorptions. A short excerpt:

“And what, Ānanda, is the path and the practice for giving up the five lower fetters? It’s when a mendicant—due to the seclusion from attachments, the giving up of unskillful qualities, and the complete settling of physical discomfort—quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.”
MN 63

Other suttas and the commentaries likely have more information on this topic.


I also had problems with doubt in my own practice. Doubt can be corralled in several ways.

  1. Putting the doubt aside. Just ignore it, and leave it alone, and it will go away on its own.
  2. Investigating deeper meditation. Compare your deepest meditation experience to what you’ve read, and you will see that it has always been accurately described by the Buddha. This helps bring confidence that the rest of the stuff he teaches is correct.
  3. Wisdom borne from stronger concentration. Insightful understanding arises spontaneously. Keep practicing meditation and eventually understanding will find you.

Hi Karl, just in case this is useful, otherwise just ignore :slight_smile:

With regards to doubt, I found that reflecting on the many ways that following the N8fp has resulted in a reduction of suffering in my life, was the thing that gave the most confidence. Following the Buddhas message of put it in practice and see it for yourself. :slight_smile:
My own character and personality are such, that I don’t accept things on faith alone very easily. So this aspect of Buddhism, enabled me to really put into practice what is ‘preached’ and to ‘evaluate’ the outcomes… (my science background). If one wanted to one could even go one step further and set up a system to monitor change over time, on criteria that are important to the individual… Might consist of specific happiness indicators, decrease of stress indicators, changes in external relationships, changes in reactions to external stimuli etc.

Now that I have identified the ‘experienced’ outcomes of practice to date, I find I have faith in the Word of the Buddha - I have faith, that if I continue developing the path then further development of this being will also continue :slight_smile:


i find AN 4.8 to be relevant. To me, over the murmurs of all speaking from this view or that, there are consistent qualities in the Buddha, which can be recognized here and now.

Looking forward to other responses.


Wow! I did not expect us all to have differing answers. They all ring true but they are individual.

Somewhat perplexed by this lack of consensus, I ran a search on all Bhante Sujato’s translations and found that “doubt” occurs with the following frequency in a few significant suttas:.


Notably, MN128 stands out. Could this be the single hammer of doubt we could refer to in addition to all your recommendations?

Or maybe we’re discovering how frequency of reference could be used to winnow search results. This seems like a fairly easy way to sort search results. If agreeable to all, we could make it so.


For me the second Factor of Awakening (Investigation of dhamma) is key to remove doubt. In this context I interpret dhamma as the Buddha’s teachings. Doubt is closely associated with ignorance. I remove ignorance by careful study and practice/realisation of the dhamma.


Though I think it’s also important to keep an open mind when investigating, not to grasp at current conclusions or observations. Attempting to replace uncertainty with certainty can be counterproductive, and sometimes “I haven’t got a clue!” is a wise response.


Take rebirth for example. For years rebirth was a burr in my saddle. Now it’s easy for me to practice with the joy of not having to have a fixed view to cling to.

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I think it is for a lot of us in western Buddhism.

I’m a reborn agnostic myself. :yum:

Doubt, here is not about things like whether I left the kitchen hob turned on, but rather about whether the path taught by the Buddha delivers what it claims to deliver. Doubt can only be eradicated by direct knowing and seeing reality for what it really is. All the questions about whether the Thathagatha exists or does not exist… etc which were religious view points at the time, fall away, as one see the true nature of this process of life.

Then one develops confirmed faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha- there’s no going back from what has been known and seen and they also come to understand that carrying out blind rites and rituals will not lead to Nibbana.

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How do you interpret the very first part of the noble eightfold path then?

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In this area I would interpret “Right view” as insight and cultivation into the full understanding that everything is impermanent and to cling to anything will bring dukkha.

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Any suttas to back that up? My understanding is that the vast majority of suttas describing sammādiṭṭhi mention rebirth.

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From MN9 Right View

And what is the root of the wholesome? Non-greed is a root of the wholesome; non-hate is a root of the wholesome; non-delusion is a root of the wholesome. This is called the root of the wholesome.


I would actually be interested if there is a substantial argument to be made for sammādiṭṭhi not including a rebirth belief/view. Perhaps, a separate thread is in order…

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Actually, you folks can stay here if you like. I’m very curious how folks are searching for suttas.

Venerable Kaccānagotta went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him: “Sir, they speak of this thing called ‘right view’. How is right view defined?”

“Kaccāna, this world mostly relies on the dual notions of existence and non-existence. But when you truly see the origin of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion… SN12.15 SuttaCentral


I have heard of some western contemporary teachers that state they do not believe in rebirth or they avoid the topic. I do not know them by name but I have heard that mentioned by others.

Hi @Mat, the sutta you quoted ends with the twelve links of dependent origination, which is all about how rebirth takes place through an impersonal self-sustaining causal process rooted in the absence of direct knowledge and vision of the four noble truths.

It only serves to support the understanding that to the Buddha at least, the development of the right view factor of the path involved acknowledging and eventually fully understanding the suffering involved in the process which brings about (re)birth.