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Explanation of the Essence of the Two Hindrances through Ten Canonical Texts

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to the Text and Its Issues
2. Translation

1. Introduction to the Text and Its Issues

1.1. Choenul

We few Westerners who have had the luck to be led into the study of Korean Buddhism continue to be faced with the task of trying to make our Buddhist studies colleagues aware of the mountain of unexplored treasures contained in the Korean Buddhist textual corpus — works that shed light not only on the richness of the Korean tradition itself, but which provide much clarification and scholarly insight into the broader field of East Asian Buddhism, and indeed the entire Buddhist tradition as whole. One fascinating Korean text that I have wanted to work with for some time, and which this conference has finally provided me the opportunity to explore, is the very short, but very difficult analysis of the two hindrances that is contained within a larger text called the Jegyeong hoeyo 諸經 會要 by the Joseon monk Choenul 最訥 (1717-1790).

The Jegyeong hoeyo is a fascinating collection of charts and diagrams intended to clarify the complex dynamics and relationships of a wide variety of Buddhist doctrinal issues—an exemplary manifestation of the East Asian scholarly penchant for expressing doctrinal problems graphically. Included in this work are diagrams such as the Great General Chart of Dharma Approaches 大摠相法門圖, which works in Yogācāra affliction theory together with the framework of the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith [AMF]; the Chart of the Three Asaṃkhyeya kalpas 三阿僧祇圖; the Chart of the Five Stages of the Yogācāra Path 愚法小乗五位摠相圖; chart of the Twenty-five Meditation Applications in the Sūtra of Perfect Enlightenment 二十五種清淨定輪圖; Chart of the General and Specific in Getting Rid of Adventitious Defilements 遣払客塵通別義 圖説; Chart of the Consciousness-only Karmic Impressions 唯識習氣圖; Outline of the Aggregates, Fields, and Elements 蘊處界三科圖; chart of the Twenty Lesser Vehicle Schools 小乘二十部圖, and many, many others. There is demonstrated in this text, a distinctive kind of mastery of the Buddhist doctrinal tradition, with special depth in Huayan, Yogācāra, and Tathāgatagarbha issues.

One of the more notable works included in this collection is the one that is the subject of this paper, the Explanation of the Essence of the Two Hindrances through Ten Canonical Passages 十本經論二障體説. As indicated by the title, the author takes up an analysis of the two hindrances in ten selected passages from scriptures and treatises, using a hermeneutic method not seen in the traditional Yogācāra classics. After providing some background on the role and meaning of the two hindrances, we will engage below in an analysis of the structure and method used in this work.

1.2. The Two Hindrances in Buddhism, East Asia, Korea

The theory of the two hindrances (or “obscurations”) originates in Indian Yogācāra, where it is an integral component to the explanation of the path of the bodhisattva in contradistinction to that of the two lesser vehicles of direct disciple (śrāvaka) and solitary realizer (pratyekabuddha), a path that is explained in five stages. The basic rationale for the division of obscurations, or hindrances, into two types, is fairly straightforward, and reflective of the Buddhist view of the fundamental causes of the human condition of suffering. I.e., our direct suffering derives from the afflictive emotions we experience. Early Buddhism lists eight kinds of suffering: These include the four basic forms of suffering: birth 生, aging 老, sickness 病 and death 死, along with the four derivative forms of suffering: separation from that which we like 愛別離苦, association with that which we hate 怨憎會苦, inability to fulfill our desires 求 不 得苦 and the suffering from the instability of the five skandhas 五陰盛苦—in other words, our inability to be sure as to exactly who, or what we are at any given time. The first three of the four derivative forms can be associated with the latter two of the three poisons: attraction (desire, craving, etc.) and dislike (ill-will, antipathy, etc.). This pair arises based on the first of the three poisons—“ignorance”. Ignorance, however, is not a monolithic entity—it has various forms and interpretations, and while it is seen as mostly the conditioning agent for the negative emotive factors, it is also in turn conditioned by them.

The most directly important form of ignorance that leads to the eight forms of suffering introduced above, is the errant mental function of imputing the existence of an isolatable and enduring self, or ego. This self is believed in, and attached to. It develops the conceit “I am” (ātma-māna), and thus desires to accumulate things, create stability for itself, and compare itself with other selves. These other selves, end up being judged, through this self's own colored view, as superior, inferior, or wrongly equal. Name, profit, and thus, comparative evaluation, to some extent or another, become an apparently necessary preoccupation of this self, and thus it cannot but continually suffer from desire, pride, jealousy, ill-will, resentment, and a whole gamut of afflicted thoughts and emotions. Such thoughts and emotions, acting through the law of karmic causation, in every moment sow the seeds (bījas) of new circumstances, both desirable and undesirable, which appear in this life and the next. This is known as saṃsāra. These are known as afflictive “hindrances” because they prevent sentient beings from experiencing mental freedom and balance. They constrict the scope of our activities, bring pain, and thus are precisely the factors that prevent sentient beings from experiencing the blissful state known as nirvāṇa—the end goal of practice as understood in early Indian Buddhism.

Śākyamuni taught that the afflictions could be removed by practicing his middle way of the eightfold path, summed up in the three approaches of morality, concentration, and wisdom, with the wisdom aspect (prajñā) referring primarily to the deconstruction of this above-mentioned imputed self and its concomitant attachment. A moral life that includes close observance of one's thoughts, words, and deeds is seen here as essential to creating the proper environment for the destruction of self-centered tendencies, and the focus on such deconstructive exercises such as dependent origination could not be conducted with any significant effect without the cultivation of concentration. This, in a nutshell, is what later Great Vehicle thinkers called the approach of Lesser Vehicle Buddhism—a form of practice that is aimed at the removal of one's afflictions through these three general approaches. Great Vehicle Buddhists, when describing this prior model for the sake of using it as a foil, would posit two related types of practitioners who were exemplary in their practice of this path, the direct disciples of an enlightened teacher (śrāvakas) who could develop themselves based upon hearing his teachings, and religious practitioners who had developed a measure of self-sufficiency that allowed them to carry this practice out on their own, called solitary realizers (pratyekabuddhas). The content of the realization of this early Indian path to arhatship is articulated by the theoretical understanding of Indian scholastic (Abhidharma) Buddhism.

With the attachment to an imputed self as the source of all definable problems, there was apparently not yet a need seen to differentiate the types of hindrances to liberation into the pair of cognitive and afflictive. Still, with just a bit of imaginative thinking, we could do so quite easily by setting apart the mental action of imputation of a self and attachment thereto as a cognitive error, and all the resultant troubles as afflictive errors. After all, it is clear from the start that even in the eightfold path, the objects of the Buddhist meditative antidotes (pratipakṣa) of early Indian Buddhism are significantly cognitive in character (for example, meditation on the twelve-link process of dependent arising). Nonetheless, there is no hint of a theoretical division of obstructions to nirvāṇa into the two categories of afflictive and cognitive in the Abhidharma texts.

The shift from the doctrines of early Indian scholasticism to the Mahāyāna-based Yogācāra is radical and sweeping in many ways. The inclinations and character of the bodhisattva as Mahāyāna hero are spelled out in extensive detail, with focus being placed on three intertwined concepts: emptiness, compassion, and bodhi (enlightenment), which supercede the prior set of no-self, indifference, and nirvāṇa (cessation). Yet in defining the course of the bodhisattva's practice through the five paths, the Yogācāras take great pains to include the two lesser vehicle practitioners, in part, at least, so that fine and detailed distinctions can be made between their practices and progress in comparison with that of the bodhisattvas. The key element utilized in making this distinction is the newly introduced distinction of all mental disturbances (kleśa, doṣa) into two categories: (1) the afflictive hindrances (kleśa-āvaraṇa), which include most of the emotive, intellectual, and sensory defilements that had been outlined in detail by the Abhidharma scholars, and (2) a newly defined category, known as the cognitive hindrances (jñeya-āvaraṇa) 1

The general outline given to these two hindrances in basic Yogācāra texts such as the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra [YBh], formulaically explains the afflictive hindrances to be the sole object of the religious practice of the adherents of the two vehicles (although this hard definition does not hold up under close scrutiny, since, as mentioned above, the imputation of, and attachment to a self, along with a lack of thorough recognition of such things as dependent arising and impermanence clearly has a cognitive dimension). Of course, the bodhisattvas must also overcome the afflictive hindrances, but they must also be prepared, at a fairly early juncture, to cope with the correction of cognitive obscurations, which lie outside the purview of the awareness and practice of the lesser vehicle adherents. And what, exactly are these cognitive hindrances?

The establishment of the cognitive hindrances is directly related to the appearance of the Great Vehicle emptiness doctrine. As we know, the Mahāyāna doctrine of emptiness took the original doctrine of no-self to a new level by arguing that it was not only the individual self, or ego that lacked an intrinsic and defining nature, but also all the objective “things” that we perceive, whether these be physical objects, mental images, or linguistic constructs. It was understood by Mahāyānists that the uncritical acceptance of the reality of the elements of our existence was a far subtler and pervasive stumbling block than the acceptance of an ego, and if this was not overcome, the tendency to reify an ego-conception would be all the more difficult to eradicate. Thus, they said, to only eradicate the notion of an ego in the way of a lesser-vehicle arhat was a stage far removed from that of buddhahood, which implied the attainment of bodhi—enlightenment. The cognitive hindrances then, were seen to be operating at a generally subtler level than the afflictive hindrances. Also, while the karmic moral quality of the afflictive hindrances were understood to be mostly of negative value, the cognitive hindrances were for the most part understood as being karmically indeterminate, or neutral (avyākṛta 無記) a characteristic that would also tend to make them less obvious to identify and treat.

Each of the five stages in the path to perfect enlightenment laid out by the Yogācāras were distinguished from each other primarily by the extent to which the practitioner had first quelled, and then permanently eradicated each of the two hindrances, with final eradication of the most subtle forms of the cognitive obscurations (their habit-energy form) being the final counteraction leading to the attainment of buddhahood. Each of the types of hindrances is really a rubric for a broad category of mental disturbances and imbalances, each one having a varying number of manifestations. For example, each of the types of hindrances has subliminal and conscious manifestations; each exists in dormant and active form; and each can carry on to some extent in the form of karmic impressions (vāsanās) after the main dormant and active forms have been quelled or eliminated. And despite the repeated hard and fast lesser vehicle/greater vehicle distinctions that are made between two, a little bit of understanding of the standard descriptions of both kinds of paths is going to lead the astute student to wonder if there are not some grey areas between the two. There have to be, since there are in fact some grey areas between the distinctions of afflictive and cognitive in themselves. At a commonsense level, it is obvious that emotional imbalance is going to have an effect on cognitive clarity. But also at the technical level, there are afflictions listed in the Yogācāra table of mental factors that are clearly cognitive in character, and clearly have both cognitive and emotive effect, such as the five views, perhaps the most importance of which is the conceit “I am.” There are also problems in the effort of trying to map the means and potential for eliminating different sorts of hindrances of both categories, depending upon how deep a layer of consciousness at which they are thought to reside. 2

What we have attempted to provide above is a basic overview of the origination of the two hindrances theory in its traditional Yogācāra format. It should be noted, however, that when we see the hindrances discussed in later East Asian works (a prime example being Choenul's text translated below) it is quite often a quite different model of the hindrances that is being invoked—one that is derived not from standard Indian Yogācāra works such as the YBh, Madhyānta-vibhāga, or Mahāyānasaṃgrāha, but from the presentation of the hindrances given in Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith and related tathāgatagarbha texts. As with much other apparently-Yogācāra terminology that appears in that treatise, the meaning of these terms are significantly transformed in a manner to fit the soteriological map that develops out of that text. Since I have already treated this alteration in some detail in another paper, 3 I will try to summarize here as briefly as possible.

The AMFs articulation of the hindrances is fully embedded within its framework of intrinsic enlightenment 本覺 vs. activated enlightenment 始覺, beginningless ignorance, and the treatise's description of the fall into suffering and the production of karma through nine progressive stages that originate with the first movement of mind. The afflictive obstructions of the AMF are precisely this first movement of mind, termed as “intrinsic ignorance,” or “non-enlightenment.” The sentient being does not cognize the quiescent and unitary nature of suchness that is the one mind, and thus the mind karmically moves, initiating, in a downward spiral: the perception of the subjective perceiver and objective world, mental discriminations, continuity, attachment, definition of names, production of karma, and finally, suffering and transmigration. But the content of the hindrances itself is defined clearly as the inability to perceive suchness, which means that precisely speaking, it is much more like a cognitive obscuration than an emotive affliction.

The cognitive obstructions of the AMF are defined in the context of the activation of enlightenment 始覺, viz., they are defined as the inability to discriminate the things of the world in an accurate manner—an impairment of correct discriminating function. Although the framework of this pair cannot be said to be utterly bereft of any connection to the original Yogācāra set, the entire view toward the understanding of the makeup and activity of unenlightened vs. enlightened mind that is being put forth is significantly different. In terms of precise definition, the afflictive obscuration (truly, here, an obscuration) is decidedly cognitive in character, even if we can observe that its end result is a descent into affliction. There are a bunch of other ramifications here in terms of the degree to which this view characterizes the activity of the bodhisattva, and leaves out the discussion entirely of the two vehicles, but exploring them here would be too much of a digression.

If one explores the Buddhist canonical corpus, one will not find a full-length treatise that explores all the complexities of two-hindrance theory—even something that thoroughly discusses the problems contained only in the original Indian Yogācāra corpus 4 —that is, except for the treatise on the hindrances written by the Korean scholar-monk Weonhyo (617-686) entitled Ijangui (“System of the Two Hindrances”). It seems that Weonhyo decided to delve into the problem of the two hindrances in the process of writing his commentaries to the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith, upon duly noting the radical difference to be seen between the content of the hindrances described in the Indian Yogācāra texts and that being given in the AMF. Once into this exploration, Weonhyo goes the whole way—not only trying to sort out the differences between the traditional Yogācāra explanation and that of the AMF, but also attempting to master the range of problems inherent in the Indian Yogācāra discourse itself. The resultant treatise can be seen as the definitive work on this topic within the entire Buddhist tradition.

The final scriptural articulation of two hindrances, which appears slightly after Weonhyo's time, is that outlined in the Yuanjue jing (Sūtra of Perfect Enlightenment). The discussion in that text moves yet again further from the original Yogācāra model. Despite its superficial invocation of the Yogācāra model of the practitioners of the three vehicles working at quelling and eliminating through the five paths, the fact is that the only real concern of the SPE is the cognitive hindrances, which it approaches from various angles in a number of chapters, placing special stress on the fact that the most dangerous sort of cognitive hindrance is the mistaken belief that one has attained some level of enlightenment, and is thus qualified to act as a guru. 5

1.3. Choenul's Approach to the Hindrances

With the above background in our minds, we have some framework now available to us for the task of approaching Choenul's analysis of the hindrances, which is, for whatever its worth, at least an interesting exercise, including a telling choice of texts. To begin with, Choenul fits very well the pattern of the late Joseon monk who is a Seon practitioner and also an erudite scholar, whose primary orientation is a Huayan with a good mix and AMF-style tathāgatagarbha, and some East Asian (Faxiang) Yogācāra included along the way. One might guess from the title that he has selected passages from ten different texts, but actually, he has only used seven, as four citations are from the AMF. The points of the ten citations are as follows:

  1. The AMF (from the passage on the nine marks)
  2. The Sūtra of Perfect Enlightenment
  3. Zongmi's Commentary on the Diamond Sutra
  4. (Fazang's?) Commentary on the AMF.
  5. The Buddhabhūmi-śāstra (which uses the AMF paradigm)
  6. The Śūraṃgama-sūtra (East Asian apocryphon influenced by the AMF)
  7. Vimalakīrti-sūtra (using Chengguan's commentary)
  8. The AMF (passage on the pure marks of wisdom, using Fazang)
  9. The AMF (passage on the purity of original enlightenment)
  10. The Cheng weishi lun.
In regard to this list, we can readily observe the following:
  1. Four citations are from the AMF, and the passage from the Buddhabhumi is based on the same paradigm.
  2. Three passages are elucidated via the comments of a Huayan master.
  3. The text from the Vimalakīrti-sūtra does not actually mention the hindrances by name.
  4. The only text that would actually be based on something close to an orthodox Yogācāra position would be the Cheng weishi lun, but even this is not an original Indian Yogācāra work. Thus, there are virtually no citations from Indian Yogācāra texts.
  5. Most surprisingly, there is not even a mention of Weonhyo, or his watershed treatise of the two hindrances, the Ijangui.

I am not yet prepared to make conclusive value judgments about the character of Choenul's scholarship based on my work with this text to this point. 6 To his credit, his work is sophisticated, and he has drawn on passages and made a number of perspicacious observations regarding matters that I had not previously considered. But students interested in hindrance theory should be aware of the overwhelming East Asian slant to the work. Another point that may eventually be made is that given the hermeneutical approach being used here, the non-acknowledgment of the distinction between the Indian Yogācāra view of the hindrances and the AMF/Huayan-ish approach may not matter all that much. In any case he does not mention it. But it would be nice to know if it is because he doesn't think it's important, or he doesn't know about it.

Even more interesting, is that as a Korean monk he makes no mention of Weonhyo's treatise on the hindrances, nor even a reference to Weonhyo's commentaries on the AMF. It seems that Choenul is either incredibly loyal to the Chinese Huayan tradition, or for some reason the Ijangui was not available to him at the time. It is quite mysterious.

The Huayan approach to this analysis starts at the top, as Choenul indicates his intention to use a hermeneutical model of a Song-Yuan period Huayan master named Purui 普瑞 (or Boseo, in the event that he proves to be Korean). 7 This model separates the relationship between obstructing function and obstructed object into four types: (1) shared obstructions, wherein a single mental disturbance obstructs multiple positive factors; (2) specific obstructions, where a single mental disturbance obstructs a single positive factor; (3) analogous obstructions, where subtle mental disturbances obstruct subtle positive factors, and coarse mental disturbances obstruct coarse positive factors; (4) disparate obstructions, where coarse hindrances obstruct subtle [factors] and subtle hindrances obstruct coarse factors. Then Choenul adds four of his own permutations to the above set, and goes to work.

Again, since I am still at a relatively early stage in studying and evaluating this work, I hesitate to jump to making value judgments. But I must confess that at this point, I don't really grasp the interpretive value of categorizing the hindrances according to this framework. Nonetheless, there are interesting observations made regarding the hindrances along the way, which certainly have contributed something to my understanding of the issue, for example, the citation from the Cheng weishi lun that makes it clear that in actual function, the hindrances cannot but overlap into each other's territory—the afflictive hindrances must certainly affect cognition, and the cognitive hindrances must certainly buttress afflictive mentation. Nonetheless, they are defined as such based on their primary function.

2. Translation

2.1. Abbreviations

2.2. Explanation of the Essence of the Two Hindrances through Ten Canonical Texts, by Choenul 十本經論二障體說 最訥

二障能所經論中法相、大節諸方講席、未 有定論。加之初學、 莫之會通。故今引十本聖量、更承理教之力而細釋
其義、以寄 通識。冀諸同袍不厭煩引。

Although the basic gist of the dharma-characteristics of the subjective and objective aspects of the two hindrances as taught in the sutras and treatises have been treated in lectures all over the place, there is still no definitive theory. Hence, when one teaches them to beginners, they are not able to fully understand them. Therefore, I am here drawing on citations from ten scriptures and treatises to avail myself of the power of the doctrine so as to explain their connotations in detail, and make them broadly understandable. I pray that my colleagues will not weary of these citations.

普瑞大師云。 「以惑障德曲有四義。 一通障 隨一惑障多德故。 二別障 卽以一惑障一德故。三相 順障、如以細惑障細德。
麁 惑障麁德。四相違障、以麁惑障細、以 細障麁。」

The great master Purui (or Boseo) said: “In terms of the obstruction of positive factors by mental disturbances, there are, precisely stated, four implications: (1) shared obstructions, wherein a single mental disturbance obstructs multiple positive factors; (2) specific obstructions, where a single mental disturbance obstructs a single positive factor; (3) analogous obstructions, where subtle mental disturbances obstruct subtle positive factors, and coarse mental disturbances obstruct coarse positive factors; (4) disparate obstructions, where coarse hindrances obstruct subtle [factors] and subtle hindrances obstruct coarse factors.”

釋曰、初二義通別障 能所相望 應成四句。謂、能別所總障、 能總所別障、能所倶總障、能所倶別障。 今初義卽初句。
次義、 卽末句。中二句可知。後二義違順 障意、各有四句準上思之。下引十本證之。

Explanation: With the first two implications of shared and specific hindrances, in terms of agent/object relationship, it is possible to establish four kinds of situations. These are: (1) obstruction where the agent is specific and the object is general; (2) obstruction where the agent is general and the object is specific; (3) obstruction where the agent and object are both general, and (4) obstruction where the agent and object are both specific. Now, the first implication given above is equivalent to the first situation given here. The second implication introduced above is equivalent to the fourth situation given here. The middle two situations can be understood. The final two implications that are contained within the situation of disparateness [in terms of coarseness and subtlety] must be thought out within each of the four situations. Below, I give ten textual references to confirm these [hermeneutic models].

一。起信論九相文云、 「不如實知眞如法一故、不覺心起、有其妄心。 8 T 1667.32.585b26-27

1. The section on the nine marks in the Awakening of Faith says: “Since one does not correctly understand the singular dharma of suchness, an unenlightened thought arises, and there is deluded thought.”

釋曰。所迷眞如卽所障 本 覺細德。能迷不覺、卽能障細惑。乃相順別障、卽二三兩義也。其妄心者、 但是所 知障上、
一分起後喧動之煩惱障、故無所障體。此 約隨流竪說 故、但有三法無始覺。

Explanation: the suchness that is misconstrued is equivalent to intrinsic enlightenment—the subtle positive factor that is obstructed. The agent of delusion is unenlightenment, which is the subtle mental disturbance that acts as an obstruction. Thus here applicable here [in terms of the hermeneutical schema introduced above] is the category of analogous specific hindrances, which includes both the second and third implications. 9 Although this “deluded thought” is seen as being within the purview of cognitive hindrances, it is also partially gives rise to the subsequently motivated afflictive hindrances, and hence there is no essence of what is being obstructed. Since this explanation is established in the context of going with the samsaric flow, there are only the three dharmas of no activated enlightenment. 10

二。圓覺經云。 一者理障、 礙 正知見。二者事障 續諸生死。

2. The Sūtra of Perfect Enlightenment says: “The first are the hindrances of principle, which obstruct correct cognition; the second are the hindrances of phenomena, which bring about continued rebirth.”

釋曰、按彼疏抄、但有 三 法竪說二障與前不殊。但前在隨流位 說
隨流事。以論中 不覺 文故也。今在反流位、說隨流事。以經中五性差別文故也。 以正知見爲理 障所障 者、似同以細障麁義。然要揀法相。智不卽理 故以知見二
字因 爲眞理。故宗密圭山云、此宗以知見爲理云云。

Explanation: Making use of the commentaries, there are three propositions by which the two hindrances are established which do not differ from those in the prior example. But in the prior example the situations of accordance with the samsaric flow are explained from the perspective of accordance with that flow—i.e., using the AMF's textual passages on non-enlightenment. In the present example, the situations of accordance with the samsaric flow are explained from the perspective of resistance against the flow — i.e., the sūtra's text on the distinction in the five natures. In taking correct cognition and views as that which is obstructed by the hindrances of principle, this seems to be the same as the situation of a subtle [hindrance] obstructing a [coarse] positive factor. Yet we must take care to look at the aspects of the argument carefully. “Wisdom” is not equivalent to “principle,” and therefore the two characters of “knowledge” and “views” are caused to be the true principle. Therefore Zongmi Guishan said: “This is because this sutra takes correct awareness as its cardinal principle...”

三。般若經疏云。 「煩惱障障心、心不解脫。 所知障障慧、慧不解脫。 」 11

3. The Commentary on the [Diamond] Prajñā Sūtra says: “The afflictive hindrances obstruct the mind, so that the mind is not liberated. The cognitive hindrances obscure wisdom, so wisdom is not liberated.” 12

釋曰。此以本覺心始覺 慧 敵對二障。以動寂明暗二、 一向相違別障。卽二四兩義。

Explanation: This text takes the mind of original enlightenment and the wisdom of activated enlightenment as the things which the two hindrances oppose. Since movement and stillness, brightness and darkness are two, this is an example of the specific obstructions with that is different in terms of coarseness and subtlety — i.e., the second and fourth meanings. 13

四。起信論疏更料揀文云。 「煩惱礙能障眞如根本智、智礙能障世間自然 業智。 」

4. When the Commentary to the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith picks up the two hindrances for analysis, it says “The afflictive obstructions act to obscure the fundamental wisdom that cognizes suchness; the cognitive obstructions act to obscure the karmic wisdom that understands the mundane world and nature.” 14

釋曰。眞如世間 眞俗 二 理、根本自然業智 根後二智也。此有二釋。一、兩對中 皆擧理而唯取智分 配 二 障狹也。正
同下佛論中 相違別障一義也。二、雙約 理智兩兩 分配、則所障寛也。此同前相違義。但疏、則理皆屬細、智皆屬麁。

Explanation: Thusness and the mundane are the two principles of the real and the secular; original and natural karmic wisdom are the two wisdoms of original and subsequent[ly attained]. Here there are two explanations: (1) In the opposition of the two, both are based on a principle and are only distinguished in terms of the type of wisdom—a narrow definition of the hindrances. This is exactly the same as will be given in the example below from the Treatise on the Buddha-bhūmi Sūtra, where there is the single interpretation of specific obstruction by opposites in terms of subtlety and coarseness. (2) Both principle and wisdom are distributed in pairs, and thus that which is obstructed is broad in scope. This is the same connotation as the prior instance of disparateness in terms of subtlety and coarseness. However, in the commentary, the principles are both subsumed under the subtle, and wisdoms are both subsumed under the coarse. Here, the principle of reality and fundamental wisdom are [understood to be] subtle, and the mundane principle and subsequently attained wisdom are coarse. This is the difference.

五。佛地論云佛地論云。根 本智、後得 智、離煩惱障及所智障。

5. The Treatise on the Buddha-bhūmi Sūtra says: “Innate wisdom and subsequently attained wisdom; free from the afflictive hindrances and cognitive hindrances.” 15

釋曰。所障體、唯約二 智。 與前初義全同。 但以意推之、則有相順別障、所別能總障、能別所總障、 能所倶 總障等四
義。圭峯大士各就當類 隔句成對。 一如 前文 此只 取勝用。但明相違別一義。上三段理智云云 詳之。

Explanation: The essence that is obstructed is only defined in terms of two wisdoms, which is exactly the same as the first meaning in the prior example. However, if we push the interpretation, then we can also see the four interpretations of specific hindrances: hindrances that are commensurate in terms of subtlety and coarseness, hindrances where the object is specific and the agent is general, hindrances where the agent is specific and the object is general, and hindrances where both agent and object are general. The Great Master Guifeng distinguished each according to its category, separating the phrases to make a contrast. Just like the prior passage, if we just take the most predominating interpretation, then it clarifies the single interpretation of specific hindrances that are commensurate in terms of coarseness and subtlety. The prior three parts that say “principles and wisdom...” elaborate the details.

六。楞嚴經云。 「爲煩惱所知二障所纏、良由不知寂常心性。 」

6. The Śūraṃgama-sūtra says: “Our subjection to binding by the two hindrances of affliction and cognition is precisely why we are unaware of the quiescently eternal nature of the mind.”

寂心性理、常心性智。隔句 明 之、具前相違別障等四義、準前。

The quiescent nature of the mind is its principle, the eternal nature of the mind is its cognition. If we separate the text for the purpose of clarification, it can be seen as including the four connotations of specific hindrances that are disparate in terms of coarseness and subtlety, just like the prior passage.

七。淨名經云。 「不滅痴愛 起 於明脫。」

7. The Vimalakīrti-sūtra says: “Giving rise to enlightenment and liberation without extinguishing delusion and attachment.”

釋曰。痴、無明所知障。 愛、 我執、煩惱障也。明卽始覺之明。脫卽本覺之脫也。淸涼云。 「斷痴、慧明。滅愛、心脫。」 敵對 成障
一如圭山長水其實。具前四障義 例上知之。

Explanation: “Delusion” is ignorance — the cognitive hindrances. “Attachment” refers to the attachment to a self—the afflictive hindrances. “Enlightenment” is the enlightenment of the activated enlightenment. Liberation is the liberation of original enlightenment. Qingliang (Chengguan) says: “Eliminating ignorance, wisdom enlightens; extinguishing attachment, the mind is liberated.” Opposition itself creates the obscurations. This is the same as the reality taught by Guishan 16 and Changshui which includes the above four meanings of the hindrances. This can be known by example.

八。起信論智淨相文云、 「破和合識相、滅相續心相、顯現法身、智純 淨。 」

8. The passage in the Awakening of Faith on the pure marks of wisdom says: “One shatters the combining aspect of consciousness, extinguishes the continuing aspect of mind, manifests the Dharma body and one's wisdom is purified. ”

此中應有能別所總、能總所 別、 能所倶總、及相違別障等四義。賢首但就相順別障 隔句發顯 亦上相違不 同。

[Explanation:] From this text, we should be able to glean the four interpretations: agent as specific and object as general, agent as general and object as specific, agent and object both general, as well as disparity in terms of coarseness and subtlety in regard to the specific. Xianshou (Fazang) only focuses on the aspect of accordance in terms of coarseness and subtlety in regard to specific hindrances, and thus breaks up the sentences to express it. Yet it is not the same as the coarse/subtle disparity in the prior example.

九。起信論性淨本覺文云、 「出煩惱礙智礙純淨明。」

9. The passage from the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith on the purity of original enlightenment says: “[dharmas that are not empty] are free from the hindrances of defilements and the hindrances of wisdom [and are free from compound marks,] because they are pure and bright.”

非但性淨本覺出於二礙。 離垢淨始覺亦出二礙。今但所別能總一義以明。

It is not only the naturally pure original enlightenment that is free from the two obstructions. The activated enlightenment that is free from pollution is also free from the two obstructions. Now it is only the interpretation of specific object and general agent that is taken up for clarification.

十。唯識論、第十云。 「所知障亦障涅槃。如何但說菩提障。說煩惱 但障涅 槃。豈彼不能障菩提。應知聖教依勝用說理。
實 倶能通障二果。」

10. The tenth section of the Treatise on Consciousness-only says: “The cognitive hindrances also obstruct nirvāṇa. Why is it only said that they obstruct bodhi? And it is said that the afflictions only obstruct nirvāṇa. How could they not be capable of obstructing bodhi? You should know that the holy teaching relies on the most prominent function in explaining the principle. In fact, both are able to pervasively obstruct the two realizations.”

此論有三節。初反難別 障。 次應知下許縱聖教就勝說別。後理 宲下 奪顯己意、結歸通障。余以管見
更伸四重不同。一能所通局不同。謂一二局配相順能所 俱 別。三 四局配相違能所俱別。五六七八捴含違順能所通
別。 第九單 明能通所別。第十分說能所通別。二三四重不記。

In the treatise there are three sections. The first is the opposition to the problem of specificity of the hindrances. The next tells us that we should understand that the holy teaching makes its distinctions based on taking the most prominent aspect. The last from “in fact,” expresses the writer's own opinion, ending up in a shared purview of the hindrances. In my own limited view, we can lay these [ten examples] out into four levels of non-sameness, and one situation where the pervasiveness and limitation of agent and object are not the same. These are: (1) the first and second examples, which are of obstructions whose distribution is that of specific agents and objects which are accordant in terms of coarseness and subtlety; (2) the third and fourth examples, which are of obstructions whose distribution is that of specific agents and objects which are disparate in terms of coarseness and subtlety; (3) the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth examples, which are of obstructions that are generally disparate in terms of coarseness and subtlety, whose agents and objects are both shared and specific. The ninth example only clarifies the case of where the agent is shared and the object is specific. The tenth case explains the case where the agent is specific and the object is shared. The second, third, and fourth levels are unexpressed.


1. In view of their manner of function, the translation of āvaraṇa as “obscurations” is perhaps more fitting.

2. Despite these obvious problems, it is interesting that there is relatively little in the way of a sustained and systematic attempt made in most Yogācāra works at pointing out and rectifying these discrepancies.

3. “The Yogācāra Two Hindrances and their Reinterpretations in East Asia”, JIABS, forthcoming (2004)>

4. The Madhyānta-vibhāga (T 1599 and 1600) is commonly mentioned for containing a full chapter on the hindrances. But this discussion is little more than a compilation of lists, containing no meaningful analytical or critical discussion of the relation of the hindrances to each other.

5. Again, this is something that I have addressed to some extent in the paper mentioned above. It is also a matter that Zongmi discusses with clarity in his major commentary to the SPE. I have translated and published on the web Zongmi's discussion of the hindrances, wherein he takes up a comparison of the three different models I have discussed here. See

6. One of the main reasons for this, is that I have not yet been able to locate the original passage in the work of the Song-or-Yuan period Huayan monk upon which Choenul develops his entire hermeneutical strategy, so that I can determine exactly how much of this approach originates with Choenul, and how much is borrowed.

7. I have not yet been able to find any information on Purui, apart from that contained in the Ono's Bussho kaisetsu daijiten that lists him as an author to two voluminous works (each over 300 pages) in the Zokuzōkyō. I have looked through these works, but have not yet been able to locate the citation in either one of them—I'm waiting for CBETA to digitize them!

8. The full source text says: 不覺義者。謂從無始來不 如實知 眞法一故。不覺心起而有妄念。

9. Thus: (2) specific obstructions, where a single mental disturbance obstructs a single positive factor; (3) analogous obstructions, where subtle mental disturbances obstruct subtle positive factors, and coarse mental disturbances obstruct coarse positive factors.

10. It is not clear from this text alone what the “three dharmas of no activated enlightenment” are, but they would appear to be something derived from one of the commentaries on either the AMF or the SPE.

11. 一爲對治我法二執故。由此二執起煩惱 所知二 障。由煩惱障障心、心不解脱。造業受生輪轉五道。由所知障障慧、 慧不解脱。不 了自心。不達諸法性相縱出三界亦滯二乘。不得成佛故、名障 也。T 1701.33.155a01-05 金剛般若經疏論纂要 .

12. From the Commentarial notes on the Kumārajīva translation of the Diamond Sūtra (T 235) by Zongmi 宗密, redacted by Zixuan 子璿 T 1701.33—the same Changshui 長水 mentioned below in the commentary to section 7 . In writing this work, Zongmi cites extensively from the commentary on the sūtra done by Asaṅga and Vasubandhu 金剛般若經論, and thus it is in large part a distillation of that work. A fuller reading of this passage in that commentary goes like this: “The first is for the purpose of countering the two attachments to self and phenomena. Based on these two attachments one gives rise to the hindrances of affliction and cognition. Since the afflictive hindrances obstruct the mind, the mind is not liberated, and one creates karma, undergoing rebirth through transmigration in the five destinies. Since the cognitive hindrances obscure wisdom, wisdom is not liberated. One does not fathom one's own mind, and does not penetrate the nature and characteristics of phenomena, and thus foolishly seeks to escape the triple realm, adhering to the ways of the two vehicles. Since one does not attain buddhahood, it is called a hindrance.” T 1701.33.155a01-05 金剛般若經疏論纂要

13. I.e., (2) specific obstructions, where a single mental disturbance obstructs a single positive factor, and (4) disparate obstructions, where coarse hindrances obstruct subtle [factors] and subtle hindrances obstruct coarse factors.

14. All three of the major commentaries on the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith (those by Huiyuan, Weonhyo, and Fazang) repeat this sentence (which is the same as the original sentence in the treatise itself). One might assume that Choenul is referring here to Weonhyo, but it is not clear, and since this is all he has cited, it doesn't really matter.

15. The Treatise does not contain this exact line, but it does contain scattered discussions of subsequently attained wisdom, as well as freedom from both hindrances.

16. This name Guishan, when given above in section # 2 refers to Zongmi, but here it might refer to a colleague/contemporary of Changshui—two Huayan-Chan monks whose writings repeatedly stress the position of the absolute true thusness, tending to deny such relative notions as the destruction of afflictions, etc. See T 1848, esp. T 1848.44.333a04, etc.