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Lesson for mindfulness - part 12: Contemplation on mental objects

Lesson for mindfulness - part 12:

Contemplation on mental objects

According to the SatipatthanaSutta, the fourth and final method of mindfulness meditation is contemplation on mental objects (Dhammanupasana). In Buddhism, these mental objects include the five hindrances (panchanivarana): (1) sensual desire (2) ill-will, hatred or anger (3) drowsiness (4) restlessness and worry (5) doubts. Rahulastates:

These five are considered as hindrances to any kind of clear understanding, as a matter of fact, to any kind of progress. When one is over-powered by them and when one does not know how to get rid of them, then one cannot understand right and wrong, or good and bad.

When students start to mediate, they may soon find that there are certain thoughts that keep coming up and giving them difficulties. They may notice that their mind cannot stay with one thought for more than a few seconds, and that it wanders and clings to various thoughts like a wild monkey jumping in a tree, clinging to the various branches of the tree. This is the “monkey mind” that I mentioned above. These difficulties are given the title “hindrances” which I mentioned above. According to the SatipatthanaSutta text, when a hindrance arises in the mind, the meditator should apply mindfulness and be aware that the hindrance has arisen. One should try to identify the nature of the hindrance and then let it go. If the meditator finds it impossible to let go of a hindrance, then the meditator should use mindfulness repeatedly until it disappears.

It is important that the mediator should not become upset over the hindrances, thinking that they should not be there. He or she should think it is normal for everyone to have these hindrances. The meditator should not try to control or suppress these obstacles, but instead should think about their conditions. Whatever thoughts arise in the present are the result of past actions and thoughts. On the importance of not suppressing mental hindrances experienced during the meditation, Weissman and Weissman note.

Suppressing the hindrances is one extreme; indulging them is the other. If we suppress these things, then we will not get to know them and have the opportunity to let them go. If we indulge them, we will be continually under their power, sowing seeds for their continual arising in the future. We will not be able to see deeper into their nature and will be unable to get beyond their power to dominate the mind.

I have referred to the “five hindrances” before but have not explained them in detail. Because successful mediation depends on working with them, we need to have a clear understanding of them. These hindrances appear as obscure and hinder the mind’s potential for developing sustained, well-focused application to any task, including education and career goals. “By recognizing them and learning to undermine them, meditation can allow the calm, stillness and brightness in the depths of the mind to ‘shine through’ (Harvey).