Skillful Effort: Introduction/The Ten Fetters

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 149-152)

“And what is Right Effort?  Here, a bhikkhu engenders wishes, makes effort, arouses energy, exerts the mind, and strives for the non-arising of evil, unwholesome states that have not arisen; engenders wishes makes effort, arouses energy, exerts the mind, and strives for the abandoning of evil, unwholesome states that have arisen; engenders wishes, makes effort, arouses energy, exerts the mind, and strives for the arising of wholesome states that have not arisen; engenders wishes, makes effort, arouses energy, exerts the mind, and strives for the stabilizing, for the collation, for the increase, for the maturity, for the development, for the perfection through cultivation of wholesome states that have arisen.  This is called Right Effort.”  –The Buddha

Skillful Effort 

Bhante G.:  “At every moment we choose whether to embrace wholesomeness or unwholesomeness.”  P. 149.

In order to be able to choose, we need to see our train of thought.  Mindfulness is paying attention moment to moment to what is.  By being mindful we see our thoughts and make skillful choices.  This is paying mindful attention.

This takes effort, Right Effort.

As the Buddha noted, we can direct our effort in four ways:

  1. Prevent the arising of unwholesome states of mind.
  2. Overcome unwholesome states which have arisen.
  3. Strive for wholesome states to arise.
  4. Maintain those wholesome states which have arisen.

Prevent the arising of unwholesome states of mind

How can we prevent unwholesome states which have not arisen?  These are states that have arisen before.  It is the remembering them with remorse that can kindle unwholesome states to arise again.

Overcoming unwholesome states which have arisen

First, it is important to understand what unwholesome states are. These can be expressed as the Ten Fetters or, in a grosser sense, the Five Hindrances.  They are called fetters because they are restraints and tie us to suffering.

The Ten Fetters are:

  1. Belief in the existence of a permanent self or soul
  2. Doubt in the message of the Buddha
  3. Belief that one can end suffering merely by following rules and rituals
  4. Greed for sensual pleasures
  5. Hatred
  6. Subtle desire to exist in fine material form
  7. Subtle desire to exist in immaterial form
  8. Conceit or the underlying perception of self-identity.
  9. Restlessness and worry
  10. Ignorance

The Five Hindrances are grosser manifestations of fetters:

  1. Greed (from Greed for sensual pleasures)
  2. Ill-will (from Hatred)
  3. Dullness and drowsiness (from Ignorance)
  4. Restlessness and worry (from Restlessness and worry)
  5. Doubt (from Doubt in the message of the Buddha)

Strive for wholesome states to arise

This will be addressed in a future talk

Maintain those wholesome states which have arisen

This will be addressed in a future talk. 

Reflection

  • Re-read the recap every day.
  • Pay mindful attend to your thoughts.  Can you discern the unwholesome thoughts?  In which of the Ten Fetters do these thoughts fit?

Next: Skillful Effort: The Five Lower Fetters I
Previous: Skillful Livelihood II