The 10 Fetters:

The Ten Fetters

We must release ourselves from the 10 fetters to embrace nirvana.

A fetter is a chain used to restrain a prisoner, typically placed around the ankles.

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In Buddhist teachings fetters are the mental chains that bind all of us to the cycle of Samsara bringing much Dukkha (suffering) into our lives. Only by severing the ten chains that bind us are we able to embrace Nirvana.

What are the 10 Fetters?
Among the many tidbits of awakened wisdom our great teacher Siddhartha shared with us is the ten fetters. The 10 Fetters (Samyojana) of Buddhism according to the Pali Canon’s Sutta Pitaka are:

  1. Self-Illusion (Sakkaya-ditthi)
  2. Doubt (Vicikiccha)
  3. Attachment to Rules and Rituals (Silabbata-paramaso)
  4. Sensual Lust (Kamacchando)
  5. Ill Will (Vyapada)
  6. Craving for fine material existence (Rupa-raga)
  7. Craving for immaterial existence (Arupa-raga)
  8. Conceit (Mana)
  9. Restlessness (Uddhaccan)
  10. Ignorance (Avijja)
The first fetter, Self-illusion is the view that we have an unchanging soul, or permanent self. If pertains to the view of non self (Anatta) which is the teaching that there is no permanent self in humans which some refer to as a soul.

The Buddhist teachings of Non-self is one of The Three Universal Truths.

The second fetter is doubt about Buddha’s teachings and his Dharma. Our disbelief in the teachings of Buddha will also bind us to the circle of life, (Samsara).

Buddha specifically mentioned having doubt about his teachings of The Eightfold Path. Following the Eightfold Path will release us from Dukkha, and lead us to Nirvana.

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The third fetter, attachment to rites and rituals addresses people who blindly follow established rules, and rituals without truly understanding the teachings. People who are merely attached to rituals will never reach enlightenment.

The Buddha said, “Neither the repetition of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring us the enlightenment of Nirvana.

The fourth fetter, sensual lust refers not only to sensual lust of an intimate nature, but sensual desires of our six senses which are sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and mind. The fourth fetter is also one of The Five Aggregates.

The fifth fetter, ill will refers to our negative intentions, and actions towards others. If we are still holding on to anger from the past, and act in a hateful or aggressive way towards others, these reactions will continue to bind us to samsara until we sever those chains.

The sixth fetter, Craving for fine material existence is the desire to be reborn in the physical, material realm of existence.

The seventh fetter, Craving for immaterial existence is the desire to be reborn into a formless realm.

The eighth fetter, conceit is having an excessively high opinion of oneself. Being conceited and arrogantly believing that you are superior to those who are less fortunate than you will continue to bind you as well.

The ninth fetter, Restlessness is having an unfocused mind. When we are distracted by random thoughts we will not be in the peaceful state of mind that is needed to embrace nirvana.

The tenth fetter is Ignorance. This refers to ignorance of The Four The Four Noble Truths, and The Eightfold Path. This ignorance will prevent us from knowing The Law Of Impermanence which governs all things. This ignorance will bind us to Dukkha.

We must sever all ten fetters to free ourselves from suffering.

Severing the 10 fetters that bind us to suffering.

Buddha taught that the way to sever the first five fetters is through embracing Jhana enlightenment and Vipassana insights in unison with each other.

The 10 fetters are severed in four stages according to the Pali Canon.

If we sever the first three fetters we will become a stream enterer (Sotapanna)

If we sever the first three fetters, and let go of our attachment to the fourth and fifth fetter, we will become a once returner (Sakadagami)

If we sever the first five fetters completely by learning about the Jhanas, we will become a non-returner (Anagami)

When we have severed our ties to all 10 fetters we will become an Arahant

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