Fetters – Chains That Binds To Cycle of Samsara
Fetters are the mental or intrapsychic phenomenon that binds all sentient beings to cycle of Samsara, life of suffering and pain.
Fetters in Buddhism are defined as the mental chain or bond that binds all sentient beings to the cycle of life of pain and suffering, Samsara. It is believed that fetters bind people and sentient beings from attaining Enlightenment and trap them in the cycle of Samsara . According to Buddha teachings, one can attain Enlightenment only by cutting through all the fetters that are mentioned by Lord Buddha. According to history of Buddhism, Lord Buddha, before leaving the royal palace, called Rahula a fetter since the existence of Rahula could bind him to his wife Yasodhara and Rahula too. In Pali Canon of Buddhism , the word “ fetters ” has been used to describe the mental phenomenon that binds sentient beings to sufferings in the life as well as after rebirth too.
In particular Sutta of Pali Canon, Lord Buddha himself states on the factor of fetters:
"Monks, I don't envision even one other fetter — fettered by which beings conjoined go wandering & transmigrating on for a long, long time — like the fetter of craving. Fettered with the fetter of craving, beings conjoined go wandering & transmigrating on for a long, long time."
The fetters in Buddhism in Buddhism are categorized differently in accordance with Sutta Pitaka and Abhidharma Pitaka of Pali Canon.
According to Sutta Pitaka
Sutta Pitaka in Pali Canon enlisted 10 different fetters that bind to cycle of Samsara. They are:
The first fetter in Sutta Pitaka is self-illusion which is also known as Sakkaya-ditthi. The view in unchanging soul or self, as well as the view of no self, is considered as wrong view in Buddhism.
• Doubt on the teachings
The second fetter is one’s doubt on the teachings of Buddha or about the Dharma. The second fetter is also known as vicikiccha which literally means doubt. It is a psychological phenomenon where no answer, no advice could satisfy your doubt on the teachings of Buddha or Dharma.
• Mere Rule and Ritual attachment
The third fetter is also known as sīlabbata-parāmāsa and the fetter refers the attachment of people to rule, rituals, norms as well as values. People believe and follow rules, rituals, norms and values thoroughly without truly understanding the meaning behind such practices and rituals. The first three must be abandoned so that one could become stream enterers and once-returners.
• Sensual Lust or Desire
The fourth fetter is sensual desire and is also known as kamacchando . The sensual desire refers to the attachment and desire for the objects of six organs – sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and mind.
• Ill Will towards others
The ill will such hatred and hostility towards others is the fifth fetters that could bind one to the cycle of Samsara. The fifth fetter is also known as vyapado. The first five fetters are also known as lower fetters and the one who can abandon these five fetters will enter the stage of non-returner.
• Lust for Material – Rebirth
The lust or desire to get reborn in the realm of desire or material existence is the sixth fetter in accordance to Sutta Pitaka . The sixth fetter is also known as ruparago.
• Lust for Immaterial – Rebirth
The lust or desire to get reborn in the realm of immaterial or get reborn in a formless realm and is the seventh fetter. This fetter is also known as aruparago.
• Conceit or Arrogance
Conceit is the psychological state of mind that refers to the pride or arrogance that is formed from the rich or more knowledge. The Buddhist term for conceit is mana.
Restlessness also known as Auddhatya is identified as the mental factor that causes the mind to recollect something else due to more excitement.
The last fetter according to Sutta Pitaka is Ignorance. The original meaning of ignorance is “ not knowing ”. Not knowing the true meaning of the four noble truths is the ignorance. This is the last fetter and when one abandons all the ten fetters then one can attain Enlightenment. The last five fetters are also known as higher fetter.
According to Abhidharma Sutta
The Abhidharma Sutta provides ten other alternate fetters that could bind all sentient beings in the cycle of Samsara. These ten fetters are:
1. Sensual Lust of Desire
3. Conceit or Arrogance
5. Doubt of Buddha’s Teachings
6. Mere Rules and Rituals attachment
7. Lust or Desire for Existence