The Mind and The Five Mental Hindrances

By Chandra Gunasekara

The Buddha as befits man gave pride of place to the mind. In the Cittavagga of the Dhammapada he states that the mind is pure at birth and it is the subsequent impact of adventitious thought born of sense stimuli that defiles it.
To attain Nibbana, one has to cleanse oneself of all these defilements. There are many obstacles however which impede and hinder the spiritual progress of the mind. Five hindrances in particular known as Pancha Nivarana are often cited , in the Buddhist scriptures. They are sensual desire (kamacchanda), ill will (vyapada), sloth and torpor (thina middha), excitement and worry (uddacca kukkucca), doubt , and perplexity (vicikicca). In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha explains with the aid of water as a smilies how each of these cloud one’s mental vision.


The mind at birth, the Buddha said is lustrous and pure. Its contact with the outer world that defiles and sets it a flutter like a fish thrown out of water Gasping and grappling in the throes of death.
The mind that for sense pleasures yearn
Is like a bowl of coloured water
In whose admix of red, blue or yellow
No true reflection of oneself can be seen.
The mind that seethes with anger,
Is like a pot of boiling water
In whose frenzy of making steam and vapour No true reflection of oneself can be seen.
The mind that’s overcome with sloth and torpor,
Is like a pond that’s overgrown with moss and weeds In whose dark and murky depths of water, No true reflection of oneself can be seen.
The mind to excitement and worry given,
Is like a sea of storm-tossed water
In whose constant motion of to and fro No true reflection of oneself can be.