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).