8 obstacles to practice Buddhism


Buddhism philosophy states that all beings have the Buddha nature. But not all beings are able to reach Buddhahood, enlightenment. To reach enlightenment one has to have a beneficial human body. It is the basis to reach enlightenment. There are many other beings like hungry ghosts and hell beings that are not able to reach enlightenment and many humans in unbeneficial circumstances as well.

There can be 8 obstacles to practice Buddhism or 8 unbeneficial circumstances. 4 of them are related to non-human beings:

1.Beings in Hell
2.Hungry Ghosts (pretas)

And 4 obstacles are related to human beings that have a human body, but are unable to practice Buddhism and reach Buddhahood due to unbeneficial circumstances. This might be:

5.Born in non-Buddhist country.
6.Beings with wrong views
7.Born in the age when there is no Buddha in the world
8.People with unhealthy, disturbed mind.

Now, why hell beings are unable to practice Buddhism? Because they have too many sufferings – especially sufferings of heat and freezing, and they are too worried about their suffering, they cannot practice Buddhism. Also they don’t have teachers who could teach them in hell.

Hungry Ghosts are unable to practice Buddhism because they constantly suffer from hunger and thirst and they are unable to think about anything else, but to suffer from those.

Animals are also unable to practice Buddhism, because they are too ignorant to understand what actually Dharma is. They are also unable to understand what teaching is good and what is bad.

The three types above are sometimes called “three bad fates” or “three bad conditions” – they don’t have faculties of clear understanding, logical thinking and they experience too many sufferings to practice Buddhism.

Gods with long lifetime always rest in a state of very deep meditative concentration. They feel very happy in that meditative concentration and are very attached to this state, like addicts. For this reason they are unable to differentiate and understand how to practice Buddhism properly. This state of meditative concentration cannot bring one to a Buddha state and even it is very, very long it is not eternal. Their feeling of happiness is still the mundane happiness; it doesn’t lead to absolute Buddha state. Gods continue to circle in cyclic existence and doesn’t abandon all sufferings. But they are not able to understand there could be something better than what they have. There are actually 2 subgroups of gods, gods of the forms realm and gods of the no-forms realm, both have the same obstacles. For these circumstances gods are unable to practice Buddhism. Gods have to reborn in a beneficial human body to reach enlightenment. It is said especially Hinayana practitioners have a great dangers to be reborn in the gods realm, because they use to practice shiney (Shamatha inSanskrit), calming of mind, tranquillity meditation without thoughts. They can slip into very deep state of trance without thoughts, similar to deep sleep and be reborn as gods. For this reason it is important to mix tranquillity meditation with insight meditation (lhatong in Tibetan; Wipassana in Pali).

A Human body is beneficial to practice Buddhism because we experience a certain suffering, we realize it is there, but not too much when compared with other realms of existence. Due to our understanding of suffering we want to renounce it and practice Buddhism. The sufferings in 3 lower realms – hells, hungry ghosts and animals – are so many that even if they would wish they cannot liberate themselves from suffering.

Between obstacles to practice Buddhism in Human form, the first is taking birth in non-Buddhist country. They don’t have Buddhist teachers and may be haven’t even heard about Buddhism. In our days it might correspond to some Islamic countries or African countries. They have no choice to understand what teaching is actually correct and which incorrect, what is a virtue and what is not.

The second group are beings with wrong views – they don’t realize that good actions leads one to happiness and bad actions – to unhappiness.

The third type is humans living in the age or times when Buddhas doesn’t take birth in this world. They don’t have teachers and teachings and cannot practice.

The last group are humans who have some kind of serious disabilities. Especially mentally sick people or people with very disturbed mind, who due to their sicknesses cannot understand what Dharma is, without logical understanding or with very limited one. The same could be true in regards to people with serious sexual disorders. If they are too attached to sex they cannot concentrate and meditate properly.