HOW TO BECOME ENLIGHTENED
The 10 Hindrances on the Path
On this blog you will often find many posts that are fun, frivolous, and humorous, but one thing I take very seriously is the idea of spiritual practice. The Star Science aims to really cut through the philosophical fluff that is prevalent in a lot of the New Age dogma out there and though sometimes I delight in taking the piss, there are times when I truly aim to relay some centuries old and philosophically sound spiritual advice.
This is one of those times.
Embarking on the path towards spiritual illumination is no light task and everyone is at different levels of development. Each of us must work out our own salvation no matter how many lifetimes it may take but one thing is for sure… There are no shortcuts towards Enlightenment. Anyone that tells you that is certainly a liar or a charlatan. Many times you’ll hear some guru or supposed keeper of spiritual secrets telling their discipleship that there is some quick and easy method toward progress in all things spiritual and in just 3 installments of $39.99 all their Karmic debt will be wiped clean and they’ll be cleansed and shine like a brand new penny hot from the mint. However, it’s useful to remember that there is no escape from Universal Law, which is as enduring as the changing of the seasons and inevitable as the course of the stars. “As you reap, so shall ye sow.” What you earn comes to you and what you have not earned can never be yours, and neither the gods nor man can alter the quality of these facts. The Law of Cause and Effect is as inescapable as death and the Buddhist Wisdom that all matter is impermanent and constantly changing goes hand and hand with this fact. Any effort to avert these truths will surely result in misery.
To walk on the path of spiritual development is a massive undertaking that is not for the faint of heart. Think about it. You are attempting a study that has burdened the greatest collection of intellects throughout the history of mankind. If you are seeking out the study of metaphysics and spiritual insight in order to increase your income, or cure your headaches, or raise your vibrational energy so that you can “Ascend”, then you are bordering on absurdity and possibly even sacrilege. Choosing to walk this path is often wrought with pitfalls so it is of the utmost importance that we start with the most noble of intentions. The other rub is that you may make little progress towards your goal of spiritual enlightenment in this particular lifetime, which is enough to send most Westerners toward the exit. We’re not here to condemn anyone but simply to offer some Ancient Wisdom that has been passed down from the sages of antiquity so that you may incorporate it into your life in a way that best allows for your own personal spiritual growth.
Ancient Wisdom puts forth the notion that there are 10 Perfections that one must acquire if they are to reach Enlightenment and we will cover these in a separate post but for now we’re going to discuss the 10 Hindrances or obstacles on the Path of Enlightenment. The following can be a tough pill to swallow for anyone living in a human body, but I hope that by pointing them out, each of you will be able to further progress on the path you have chosen.
THE TEN HINDRANCES
1. The belief in a permanent personality / ego. (sakkāya-diṭṭhi)
This first one is one of the most difficult and also the one that most of us in Western society suffer from. In fact, our whole system of finance is based on this ego centric way of viewing the world and is perhaps one of the main reasons we have reached this advanced stage of environmental collapse. If we act in a very ego-centric way we fail to recognize that we are connected to everyone else and all of creation. When we don’t see ourselves in others we can become selfish and that leads to suffering.
2. Doubt / extreme skepticism. (vicikicchā)
Doubt is very common in Western thought mostly as it pertains to scientific materialism but it can also mean personal doubt on your own spiritual path because maybe you are not progressing as fast as you would like. This can lead you to abandon your spiritual practice all together for a life of cheap thrills and gadgets that occupy your attention every waking moment in an attempt to fill the emptiness with distraction.
3. Clinging to rites, rituals, and ceremonies. (sīlabbata-parāmāso)
As we see in many of the organized religions of today, the practice of rites, rituals, and ceremonies is often an empty and useless endeavor. How many Christians that attend mass every Sunday and receive Jesus in the form of a circular wafer leave the church and continue to do things that Jesus Christ himself would find utterly appalling? How many weddings have you attended that end in bitter and ugly divorces where lives are ruined and children embittered? There is no solace in empty rites, rituals, and ceremonies.
4. Attachment to sense desires. (kāmacchando)
This one is often difficult to explain to spiritual seekers who are just starting out and even more difficult for advanced individuals to maintain. An attachment to our sense desires means that we are a prisoner of our human vessel. Addicts in particular experience this because they are in constant need of another fix to satisfy the cravings. However this is not limited to just addicts. We see this all across the board, not just with drinking and drugs, but with food cravings, internet and smart phone compulsions, pornography, and the constant need for entertainment. This does not mean we should become a recluse who lives a totally ascetic life. On the contrary, an enlightened individual enjoys many things but simply remains unattached to their pleasures by recognizing it in the moment with the realization that it is impermanent and not something to cling to. By the same token, when something unpleasant arises, an enlightened individual does not push it away or avert it. The term for this state of being is equanimity and is said to be the state of true happiness.
5. Ill-will / anger. (vyāpādo or byāpādo)
Anger and the wishing of harm to another are mental impurities that should be eradicated from the mind. In addition, your thoughts have tremendous power upon the physical realm, so just imagine the repercussions negative thoughts can have for yourself and others. If you cannot control your anger you are basically saying that you have no control over yourself and without proper self control you cannot embark on the path towards inner light.
6. Craving for existence or existence in the Form World. (rūparāgo)
This one highlights the tremendous problem of craving. Again, it’s difficult for individuals that are new to the path to understand the idea of releasing yourself from wanting to be a part of the physical world and to engage in the circus of life. However, it’s inevitable that an enlightened person comes to the realization that any attachment to the sense world is ultimately going to bring misery of some form.
7. Craving for non-existence or existence in the Formless World. (arūparāgo)
This one highlights another troubling problem that has to do with a craving towards actual spiritual enlightenment and to an incarnation in some heavenly afterlife and all the pleasures contained in realms of this nature. This is especially challenging and certainly something that I admittedly struggle with a lot. An escape from the shackles of material existence can seem incredibly appealing to a spiritual seeker but can ultimately lead you in the wrong direction.
8. Conceit. (māna)
You might think that you would find this one higher on the list but this one can be quite tricky. The idea of superiority especially in matters spiritual is a hindrance that can arise in even the most spiritually advanced and is something to be on guard for. Try to remember that we are each at our own level of spiritual understanding and are advancing at the rate that is best for each of us. No spirit is left behind. We will all make it. Someday.
9. Restlessness. (uddhacca)
Another one I struggle with in the sense that I tend to do things to the extreme. It’s best to follow the middle path, like Socrates said, “In all things, not too much” applies here. We are to cultivate patience. We mustn’t be lazy and apathetic but also we shouldn’t be striving towards enlightenment with reckless abandon in a puritanical way either.
10. Ignorance. (avijjā)
The final hindrance is that of Ignorance and it encompasses all the others. It’s the ignorance of the true nature of reality itself, which includes no permanent self, suffering, and the Law of Impermanence. In order to eradicate this one you must experience reality at the deepest level. Mystics of all practices regard this as the Universal Truth and is the key to experiencing true Enlightenment.