Jonathan Foust

October 6, 2008

Snow White and the Seven Hindrances

Filed under: Dharma, Humor — jonathanfoust @ 11:04 am

The “Hindrances” have been on my mind recently. 

Learning to recognize the mind states of 1) ill will, 2) craving and sense desire, 3) restlessness and worry, 4) sloth and torpor and 5) doubt help us to more quickly sever our identification with them and examine them from a less stuck place.

For many years, I thought my practice was all about ‘getting rid’ of these troublesome states when they arose and moving on to something better.

A breakthrough occurred for me when I realized that their arising is an integral part of my practice and welcoming them as visiting teachers is a doorway into new insights and possibilities.

Meditation can be viewed as waking out of a trance.  The hindrances are very much trance states. 

When we are in them, they occlude all others thoughts.  When aversion – anger and judgement , for example, sets up camp inside, it feels permanent, overwhelming and intensely unpleasant.  I naturally want to get away from it, nuke it in some way.  

When I can stay deeply present to the experience, inevitably something shifts and my sense of who “I am” dramatically expands – or disappears. 

I was looking for some good teaching metaphors recently.   Was there some western equivalent of the five hindrances?  What about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?  I got real excited, got on google and started looking for the connection.

Here’s what I discovered:


Not much.


If you’re interested, though, here’s a look:


Grumpy.  OK, that’s easy.  Aversion and ill will.

Sleepy.    Again, easy.  Sloth and Torpor.

Dopey.    Probably the best match for Sloth and Torpor

Bashful.   Doubt.  No doubt.


So far so good.  But here’s where it starts to break down:


Sneezy.   No match, unless we change it to sleezy, in which case it’s a great match for Craving and Sense Desire.

Doc.        I’d have to put this in Restlessness and Worry.  Don’t docs worry and have lots of responsibility?

Happy.     Maybe Happy is enlightened dwarf?


There you have it.  In relationship to the crystal clear penetrating and codified insights of Gautama Buddha, a totally fuzzy, confusing and unhelpful correlation to the cosmology of Walt Disney World.  I suspect this will in no way help you to remember the five hindrances.


In any case, may whatever hindrance or dwarf arises in your experience serve the awakening of heart and mind.


1 Comment »

  1. Brother Jonathan,

    Joseph Goldstein recently has similar thoughts about the hindrances. So, rather than using them as whips on ourselves, use them as friendly opportunities to learn more about how the Dharma applies to our everyday lives.

    A few thoughts about the dwarfs…

    Happy: Perhaps, he is the one that is always looking for gratification. When Snow White falls under the apple’s spell, Happy is no longer happy.

    Sneezy: Despite suffering the pains of perpetual sneezing, he accepts it, saying “If you gotta go, you gotta go!” So, warts and all, Sneezy may be the most enlightened.

    BTW,here’s Disney’s take on them:

    Comment by John — October 10, 2008 @ 11:05 am

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