saṃyojana (T. kun tu sbyor ba ཀུན་ཏུ་སྦྱོར་བ་; C. jie 結) is translated as "fetters," "bonds," etc. These are unwholesome mental factors that keep one bound to cyclic existence (saṃsāra) and impede the attainment of liberation (nirvana).
Within the four stages of the supramundane path, successive stages of the path are attained through the progressive purification of the fetters.
A list of ten fetters is spoken about extensively in the Pali tradition and in the Abhidharma-kosa of the Sanskrit tradition. This list is mentioned in both the Sutta Pitaka and Abhidharma Pitaka of the Pali tradition.
An alternate list of ten fetters is mentioned only within Abhidhamma Pitaka of the Pali tradition. Other lists of fetters are also presented in various commentaries of the Sanskrit tradition.
- view of a personal identity (satkāyadṛṣṭi)
- deluded doubt (vicikitsā)
- attachment to rites and rituals (śīlavrataparāmarśa)
- attachment to sensuality (kāmarāga)
- ill will (vyāpāda)
- desire for existence in the form realm (rūparāga)
- desire for existence in the formless realm (arūparāga)
- conceit (māna)
- restlessness (auddhatya)
- ignorance (avidyā)
This group of ten fetters is mentioned in both the Sutta Pitaka and Abhidharma Pitaka of the Pali tradition. Pali scholar Bhikkhu Bodhi refers to this list as the "ten fetters according to the Suttanta method."
Lower and higher fetters
- lower fetters (orambhāgiya-saṃyojana) - the first five of the ten fetters; these are eradicated upon becoming a non-returner (anāgāmi)
- higher fetters (uddhambhāgiya-saṃyojana) - the last five of the ten fetters; eradicated upon becoming an arhat.
- The five fetters abandoned by the first three paths are called the lower fetters (orambhāgiya-saṃyojana) because they bind beings to the lower world, the sensuous plane of existence. One who has eradicated them, the non-returner (anāgāmi), no longer returns to the sensuous plane, but he is still bound to the round of existence by the five higher fetters (uddhambhāgiya-saṃyojana). With the attainment of the path of Arahantship, these five higher fetters are also eradicated: desire for fine-material existence, desire for immaterial existence, conceit, restlesness, and ignorance.
Buddhist Dictionary states:
- The first five of these are called ‘lower fetters’ (orambhāgiya-saṃyojanā), as they tie to the sensuous world. The latter five are called ‘higher fetters’ (uddhambhāgiya-saṃyojanā), as they tie to the higher worlds, i.e., the fine-material world and the immaterial world (AN 9:67, 68; 10:13; DN 33, etc.).
- He who is free from 1–3 is a sotāpanna, or stream-winner, i.e., one who has entered the stream to Nibbāna, as it were. He who, besides these three fetters, has overcome four and five in their grosser form, is called a sakadāgāmi, a ‘once-returner’ (to this sensuous world). He who is fully freed from 1–5 is an anāgāmī, or ‘non-returner’ (to the sensuous world). He who is freed from all the ten fetters is called an arahat, i.e., a perfectly holy one.
The ten fetters and the four stages of the path
The four stages of the supramundane path
1. view of personal identity
up to seven rebirths
- attachment to sensuality (gross form only)
at most one more rebirth
4. attachment to sensuality
at most one more rebirth
6. desire for existence in the form realm
no more rebirths
The diagram above shows the fetters that are cut through at each stage of the four stages of the supramundane path.
Within Pali Suttas
This list of ten fetters is referenced in many Pali suttas, including:
- Sabbāsava Sutta (All the Defilements)
- Alagaddūpama Sutta (The Simile of the Snake)
- Saṁyojana Sutta
Alternate list of ten fetters
An alternate list of ten fetters is presented in the Dhamma Sangani (Dhs. 1113-34) of the Pali Abhidhamma Pitaka. This list is also found in the Culla Niddesa (Nd2 656, 1463) and in post-canonical commentaries. Pali scholar Bhikkhu Bodhi refers to this list as the ten fetters according to the Abhidhamma method.
- attachment to sensuality (Pali: kāmarāga)
- anger (paṭigha)
- conceit (māna)
- views (diṭṭhi)
- doubt (vicikicchā)
- attachment to rites and rituals (śīlabbataparāmāsa)
- attachment to existence (bhavarāga)
- jealousy (issā)
- stinginess, greed (macchariya)
- ignorance (avijjā).
|Stage of path||Fetters purified|
Distiction from other types of kleshas
Other categories of kleshas are identified in traditional texts, such as the five hindrances. Comparatively speaking, the fetters span multiple lifetimes and are difficult to remove, while hindrances are transitory obstacles to meditation.
- Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2018b, s.v. Chapter 3: True Origins of Duḵha, "Fetters".
- Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Chapter 7: Compendium of Categories, "Fetters".
- Nyanatiloka Thera 2019, s.v. saṃyojana.
- Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. saṃyojana.
- Gethin 1998, Chapter 3.
- Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Chapter 9: Section 41, The Arahant.
- See Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Saṁyojana Sutta
- Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 656, "Saŋyojana" entry references Cula Niddesa 657, 1463, and Dhamma Sangani 1113. In fact, an entire chapter of the Dhamma Sangani is devoted to the fetters (book III, ch. V, Dhs. 1113-34), see also Rhys Davids (1900), pp. 297-303. (Rhys Davids, 1900, p. 297, provides the following English translations for these Pali terms: "sensuality, repulsion, conceit, speculative opinion, perplexity, the contagion of mere rule and ritual, the passion for renewed existence, envy, meanness, ignorance.")
- Soma (1998) The Way of Mindfulness; see section on Buddhaghosa's commentary to the Satipatthana Sutta.
- Gunaratana (2003), dhamma talk entitled "Dhamma [Satipatthana] - Ten Fetters."
- Bhikkhu Bodhi, ed. (2000), A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, Pariyatti Publishing
- Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University
- Dalai Lama; Thubten Chodron (2018b), Saṃsāra, Nirvāṇa, and Buddha Nature, The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, Volume 3, Wisdom Publications
- Gethin, Rupert (1998), Foundations of Buddhism (Kindle ed.), Oxford University Press
- Gunaratana, Henepola (2003). Satipatthana Sutta [Dharma talks (MP3 on CD)]. High View, WV: Bhavana Society.
- Rhys Davids, C.A.F. (, 2003). Buddhist Manual of Psychological Ethics, of the Fourth Century B.C., Being a Translation, now made for the First Time, from the Original Pāli, of the First Book of the Abhidhamma-Piṭaka, entitled Dhamma-Sangaṇi (Compendium of States or Phenomena). Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-4702-9.
- Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/.
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