Because the words we’re using for each of the five
hindrances are translations from the Pali language, we need to
take some care with the meanings we attach to these words and
look carefully at the intent of the teachings.
What do you think of when you hear the word doubt?
Before you begin this lesson on doubt, reflect
on how doubt functions both in your lfe and in practice.
In English, the word “doubt” can
be used in different ways. Sometimes doubt can be helpful, at
other times, not. . So it’s important to distinguish the
different kinds of doubt that may arise in the mind.
What kinds of doubt might be skillful? When
is doubt helpful?
Helpful doubt is the attitude or quality of investigation and
inquiry. We might say this is the opposite of blind belief. Rather
than just blindly accepting what we hear or read, we actually
have a capacity for wise investigation. In some Zen practices
you will hear this referred to as “ the great doubt”: “Who
am I?” “What is this?” The Buddha
himself taught that one should not take any teaching, including
his, simply on faith, but rather it should be tested by your own
experience. Does it lead to the weakening of greed and hatred? Then
that teaching and pracgtice should be cultivated. Does it
lead to more attachment and ill-will? Then it should be
abandoned. This kind of healthy doubt inspires us to learn
for ourselves what leads to awareness, insight and the end of
Do you experience this indecision? Do you become
frozen with doubt at the crossroads
Should I go
left? Should I go right? Should I go
this way? Should I go that way?"
What are the situations that
you experience such doubt in? Does such doubt infect
your practice? If so, where in practice do you get
stuck in indecision?
When you come to a fork in the road, take it!
Yogi Berra’s famous statement illuminates that quality,
there’s nothing to do in that mind-state. We’re
just kind of frozen in place.
To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing
immobility as a means of transportation.
The Life of Pi Yann Martel
When doubt is strong, when
indecision or perplexity are strong, we stay fixed in place. We’re always checking ourselves;
we’re always wondering, “Should I do this? Should
I do that?” In the process we miss the opportunity of making
our own decision and learning from it, of choosing one direction
or another and discovering which way was the right way. Doubt
doesn’t even give us that opportunity.
So we want to see in our lives when, consciously or unconsciously,
we are choosing doubt as a philosophy of life, because it’s
not very effective.
It’s not a skillful way to engage with the world, and it’s
not a skilful way to engage in our meditation practice.