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In Buddhism, the five hindrances (Pali: ) are negative mental states that impede success with meditation (jhāna / bhāvanā) and lead away from enlightenment . These states are:

  1. Sensual desire (kāmacchanda): Craving for pleasure to the senses.
  2. Anger or ill-will (byāpāda, vyāpāda): Feelings of malice directed toward others.
  3. Sloth-torpor or boredom (thīna-middha): Half-hearted action with little or no concentration.
  4. Restlessness-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca): The inability to calm the mind.
  5. Doubt (vicikicchā): Lack of conviction or trust.

In the Pali Canon

In the Pali Canon's Samyutta Nikaya, several discourses juxtapose the five hindrances with the seven factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga). For instance, according to SN 46.37, the Buddha stated:
"Bhikkhus, there are these five obstructions, hindrances, corruptions of the mind, weakeners of wisdom. What five? Sensual desire... ill will... sloth and torpor ... restlessness and remorse... doubt....
"There are, bhikkhus, these seven factors of enlightenment, which are nonobstructions, nonhindrances, noncorruptions of the mind; when developed and cultivated they lead to the realization of the fruit of true knowledge and liberation. What seven? The enlightenment factor of mindfulness... [discrimination of states... energy... rapture... tranquility... concentration...] equanimity....

In terms of gaining insight into and overcoming the Five Hindrances, according to the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha proclaimed:
How, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances?

Herein, monks, when sense-desire is present, a monk knows, "There is sense-desire in me," or when sense-desire is not present, he knows, "There is no sense-desire in me." He knows how the arising of the non-arisen sense-desire comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen sense-desire comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sense-desire comes to be.

Each of the remaining four hindrances are similarly treated in subsequent paragraphs.

The Buddha gives the following analogies in the Samaññaphala Sutta (DN 2, "The Fruits of the Contemplative Life"):
"... [W]hen these five hindrances are not abandoned in himself, the monk regards it as a debt, a sickness, a prison, slavery, a road through desolate country. But when these five hindrances are abandoned in himself, he regards it as unindebtedness, good health, release from prison, freedom, a place of security."

Similarly, in the Sa gārava Sutta (SN 46.55), the Buddha compares sensual desire with looking for a clear reflection in water mixed with lac, tumeric and dyes; ill will with boiling water; sloth-and-torpor with water covered with plants and algae; restlessness-and-worry with wind-churned water; and, doubt with water that is "turbid, unsettled, muddy, placed in the dark."

From post-canonical Pali literature

method of

path of


first jhana based

on bodily foulness
nonreturning or

ill will first jhana based

on metta
sloth and

perception of light arahantship

and worry
serenity arahantship and

doubt defining of phenomena

The Pali commentary's methods

and paths for escaping the hindrances.
According to the first-century CE exegetic Vimuttimagga, the five hindrances include all ten "fetters": sense desire includes any attachment to passion; ill will includes all unwholesome states of hatred; and, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt include all unwholesome states of infatuation. The Vimuttimagga further distinguishes that "sloth" refers to mental states while "torpor" refers to physical states resultant from food or time or mental states; if torpor results from food or time, then one diminishes it through energy; otherwise, one removes it with meditation. In addition, the Vimuttimagga identifies four types of doubt:

According to Buddhaghosa's fifth-century CE commentary to the Samyutta Nikaya ( ), one can momentarily escape the hindrances through jhanic suppression or through insight while, as also stated in the Vimuttimagga, one eradicates the hindrances through attainment of one of the four stages of enlightenment (see Table 1).

See also



  • Anālayo (2006). Satipatthāna: The Direct Path to Realization. Birmingham: Windhorse Publications. ISBN 1-899579-54-0.

  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Pubs. ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2005). In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon. Boston: Wisdom Pubs. ISBN 0-86171-491-1.

  • Nyanasatta Thera (trans.) (1994). Satipatthana Sutta: The Foundations of Mindfulness (MN 10). Available on-line at

  • Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at

  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997). Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life (DN 2). Retrieved 08-09-2008 from "Access to Insight" at

  • Upatissa, Arahant and N.R.M. Ehara (trans.), Soma Thera (trans.) and Kheminda Thera (trans.) (1995). The Path of Freedom (Vimuttimagga). Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 955-24-0054-6.

  • Walshe, Maurice O'C. (1985). Samyutta Nikaya: An Anthology (Part III) (Wheel No. 318-321). Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society. Retrieved 2008-11-09 from "Access to Insight" (2007) at

External links

  • Nyanaponika Thera (1993), The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest (Wheel No. 26). Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society. Retrieved 08-09-2008 from "Access to Insight" (1994) at
  • Ajahn Dhiravamso (2008), The Five Hindrances [Dhamma talk video]. Serpentine: Bodhinyana Monasterymarker. Retrieved December 8, 2008 from

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