Buddha resisted all temptations, including the sensuous Three Daughters of Mara. I can’t even resist a Snickers Bar. He was enlightened, loving to all, ego-free, and spent tons of time under a Bodhi tree. I can’t claim any of those. So, I may not ever be an arahant (enlightened one) and if I were meant to be one, I trust I’d be well on the way. So, I’m cool with Buddha being Buddha and doing, saying, knowing, and acting in his marvelously kind and wise Buddha ways. And, with Gabi being Gabi and doing, saying, knowing and acting in her marvelously irrational, overly-emotional, spiritually-reaching, doing-the-best-her-beautiful-self-can-do Gabi ways. I’m cool with that.
Measuring ourselves against others, mara, is fetter number eight. Fetters are the ‘issues’ that we get stuck on, that make us suffer. Bless-his-dear-soul Buddha decided to make life easy for us, again, and create a simple-to-understand way to stop suffering. You see, Buddha relinquished all suffering from his life; hence, he could be ridiculously fat and happy. (I’m guessing tons and tons of guilt-free snickers bars!) And, as a gift to us simple earthlings, he gave the Ten Fetters of the Mind- it’s Buddha’s proven 10-step program to end suffering. Allow me….
What Do I Gain From This?
I always love it when people ask me that. What’s the point? What do I get out of this? How does this theoretical monk-talk help me in my normal, everyday, modern non-monk-ly life?
We want to learn from any sources of knowledge that inspires us. Is Buddhism the ultimate answer? No. It’s just what I’m exploring in great depth now that I’m living in Buddhist countries. Next month, next year; I’ll keep seeking inspirational information to help me take the next steps on my journey, from God-knows what source.
We want to learn the 10 Fetters of the Mind because, much like everything else we’ll ever talk about. Why?
Because the more we touch inspirational things, talk about inspirational topics and with inspirational people, the more we engage in inspirational material,;the more likely it will seep in and eventually become the fibers that define us.
So, we want to learn the fetters, and the noble path, and all the other new things we can; because some of that sand will stick to your naked body in the sand storm [Dell} and that will help recreate who you are, how you deep with pain and obstacles in your life, and who you will become.
What Are The Fetters?
Fetters are the ‘issues’ that we struggle with that create suffering. They are divided into lower fetters and higher fetters. If you are struggling with one of the lower fetters, you’ve got to come back again to do more work. If you are stuck on a higher fetter, you’re one step away from Nirvana (the highest of heavens). Let me draw it for you, just so that you can see the whole picture.
Fetters 1-5- lower fetters
Fetters 6-10- higher fetters
Fetters 1, 2 and 3- Sotapanna (you have up to 7 lives to come back to)
Fetter 4- Sakadagami (you’ve got to come back once more)
Fetter 5- Anagami (you don’t return but wait for Buddha to come take you to Nirvana)
Fetters 6, 7 8, 9, 10- Arahant (overcome this & ‘advance to go, collect $200’.you’ve made it baby!)
I officially suffer from 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10. Like I’ve said before, I’ll be around a while.
Now, I can (and have) talked for hours about each fetter. Each is a world to explore, and often, take a lifetime to overcome. Each fetter has layers and layers for us to learn from. Really good stuff that can make us aware of our issues, and guide us as to how to free ourselves of our own bondage.
In this article, I’ll do a quick run-through, hardly giving them true justice. As I write the follow-up articles, you’ll find links here to the ones that interest you most.
The Earthly Things That Cause Us Suffering-Lower Fetters
Fetter 1: Sakkaya-ditthi (personality belief)
This fetter has to do with me, me, me and the messed up, creative ways I ruin my own life. Sakkaya-ditthi (personality belief) means that I have this allusion of who I am and how great I am. This is where my ego gets in the way. It is the constant focus on a “me” that I think is there that creates suffering, fighting, internal and external conflict. “Oh, Lord Jesus, I have sinned!” said the Jewish girl.
Fetter 2: Vicikiccha (skeptical doubt)
This lovely little fetter has to do with me being constantly wasting my energy on doubts. Who am I? What do I believe? Is this true? What is the meaning of life? Why does this happen? The result of Vicikiccha (skeptical doubt) is that I drain all of my energy on worries, fears, doubts, concerns, and overwhelm. That makes me suffer.
Note: When we discuss each fetter individually, we will look at how some of these things are really good for us, really healthy for us. Loving myself, having doubts can both be marvelous springboards towards reaching my greatest self and towards discovering new information. No doubt. We’ll discuss at length how each of these can apply and actually height our ‘earthly, modern’ lives. But, not yet. Patience, my child. Patience.
Fetter 3: Silabbata Paramasa (adherence to wrongful rituals or ceremonies)
This is one of my favorites (probably cuz I can enjoy it without feeling attached to it). Fetter 3 is surprisingly one of the two fetters I don’t suffer from. [wipe brow with relief].
This fetter lets us know that no bowing, dipping, fasting, meditating, chanting, or dancing will make us holy. Silabbata Paramasa teaches us that though rituals and ceremonies may be lovely, nothing external to us will make us holy. Fetter 3 says spirituality only comes from going within, deep within; and to believe that some ceremony or guru will make you spiritual is false.
Fetter 4: Kama-raga (sensual desire)
This one is why we love Hollywood movies, porn, soap operas, and our own real-life dramas: sex. It’s why the internet first went public. It’s so strong, so powerful; and often, the desire, and us pursuing that desire, leads us to great suffering. You know what I’m talking about: all those really illogical, sex-driven decisions you and I have made over the span of our lives. You know exactly what I’m talking about. So, in brief, sex gets a fetter all of it’s own, and well, eh-hum, we know, we know how good and how bad it can be for us.
Fetter 5: Vyagpada (ill-will)
This fetter encompasses everything that we feel that is driven from ‘the devils’ realm’. For Buddhism, the list of ill-will would take me pages to cover, but I think a brief list would include: anger, rage, jealousy; desire for revenge, to harm others, to inflict pain upon others or myself, to create conflict. Vyagpada (ill-will) literally means “to hit against” for it is here that we hit, with fury and vengeance, against all that we can. We know how that leads us to suffering. When we are driven by ill-will, the result is always infinitely more suffering. We’ve all been there.
The Spiritual Things That Cause Us Suffering-Higher Fetters
Though I was so sure the higher fetters were above me; when I studied them, I was surprised how relevant they were to my life today. Here too, there are a mountain of things we can do to instantly to reduce the suffering in our lives.
Fetter 6: Rupa-Raga (attachment to form)
This fetter focuses on that amazing out-of-body, spiritual experience that we feel when we reach, if only for a moment, enlightenment through some body-focused meditation. Rupa-raga literally refers to the ‘tightening of the upper abdominal wall’ . It talks about the relationship between a body part moving and us knowing that it is moving. It’s a very powerful calming practice, and becomes a fetter (an issue to overcome) when we crave it. (I’ve written one kick-ass article about Rupa-Raga that I think will rock your world!)
Fetter 7: Arupa-Raga (attachment to the formless)
Just like rupa-raga (attachment to form) was a body/knowing experience; arupa-raga (attachment to the formless) is a non-body/knowing experience. In really simple terms (because I have not fully grasped this one yet), Arupa-Raga is a level above rupa-raga (attachment to form). Arupa-Raga is another longing, desire, clinging to a meditative state which I want to return to. It’s another form of creating suffering, because I’m yearning to be in this ‘higher’ , altered state and not satisfied where I am.
Fetter 8: Mana (conceit or arrogance)
This fetter literally means ‘to measure against’. I spoke of him in the article’s introduction. Mana does not mean ‘conceit’ or ‘arrogance’ as in ‘my ego’ and ‘me, me, me’; that’s fetter one- Sakkaya-ditthi (personality belief). This form of pride occurs because I am judging myself on some scale. In Mana, I comparing myself to others and deciding if I am superior, inferior, or equal; or I’m comparing myself to myself and deciding that I am improving, getting worse, or staying the same. It is this constant ‘grading myself’ and judging that creates suffering, and keeps me from enlightenment.
Fetter 9: Uddhacca (restlessness)
Fetter number nine is a nudging dissatisfaction of what is. Uddhacca (restlessness), for me, are those ADHD moments when I have twenty things going off in my head at the same time, and I feel like a rabid chicken running around with my head cut off. Less dramatically as well, Uddhaccca is our minds full of doubt, worry, and fear, or even excitement that distracts us from being calm and in the moment. The opposite of Uddhacca (restlessness) is ‘one-pointedness,’ where we’d love to be: here, now, focused, concentrating.
Fetter 10: Avijja (ignorance)
This last fetter is not ignorance to facts, information, earthly knowledge; but to something much higher, on a spiritual realm. Avijja (ignorance) is not knowing of The Four Noble Truths, the heart of Buddhism. When one suffers from Avijja (ignorance), he misses the constant impermanence of all things, misses the roots of dukkha (suffering); and thereby, cannot reach his ultimate spirituality. Avijja, for me, is like saying, even here in the last rungs before enlightenment; even here, you can totally, totally, totally miss the point of the entire game.
And so, now you know; now I know; now we know. Now, we can look over this list and say something profound like this:
How are you dear one? Here’s a few things you want to be aware of. Here’s a few things you want to look at and contemplate which ones you are struggling with in your precious life. So, me, read, reflect, and see what wondrous things may come out of awareness to those things which you create in your soul pain. I love you,
Are you also going to Buddhist-hell of committing all of the above sins? 🙂 I used to think I was a wise, old soul with much experience. Hog wash! According to this, I’m so smacking new, I’m covered with baby vomit. Will you also be around a long time? Recognize where you have to learn and grow and overcome?
I’m here. Physically, in Siem Reap, Cambodia informing my body to get reeved up for aerobics in an hour and a half. (Been super tired lately). Emotionally, in Siem Reap loving my family, and in many others thoughtful places where my soul has some more healing to do. Spiritually, right here, right now; right here, right now; right here, right now. (And the mantra sings on….)
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