Skillful Effort: The Five Hindrances

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 158-161)

The Hindrances are unwholesome states that arise from the 10 Fetters.  They can be more powerful than Fetters in leading to distraction.  As Bhante G notes:  they are “states that can prevent you from making any progress in your meditation or from doing things skillfully in your life.” In other words, the hindrances block concentration and make it difficult to see the larger picture of life.  It is like being in prison where you can’t see your way out.

The Five Hindrances are:

  1. Greed
  2. Ill-will
  3. Dullness and Drowsiness
  4. Restlessness and Worry
  5. Doubt

The Hindrances will arise time and time again.  We first need to understand the Five Hindrances using Skillful Understanding before using Skillful Effort to lessen their impact.  We cannot overcome the Hindrances while we are deluded.


This is the desire to obtain things such as food, possessions and sex.


Ill-will includes hatred, anger and resentment which basically are reactions to what we don’t like.

Dullness and Drowsiness

When the mind is sluggish, this is called dullness.  When the body is languishing, this is called drowsiness.  Both conditions make it hard to concentrate or work.  As with the other hindrances, it become very difficult to practice mindfulness or to meditate.

Restlessness and Worry

These stem from fear about what might happen in the future and the uncertainly of the outcome. With restlessness and worry, there can be no peace of mind.


When you are perplexed, you are in doubt.  You cannot decide what to do.  Thoughts arise that take you away from the present moment.  You begin to wonder about the outcome of what you are doing.  This leads to restlessness and worry.


  • Each day, re-read this talk and reflect on it.  Can you recognize the hindrances as they arise?
  • Hint:  Any thought that distracts from your meditation or prevents you from acting skillfully is a hindrance.

Next: Skillful Effort: Preventing Negative States of Mind
Previous: Skillful Effort: The Five Higher Fetters