Underlying Dispositions

Ajahn Thiradhammo

Underlying Dispositions

The Buddha recognized various obstructions to the realization of truth.

One of the most primal ones is referred to as the ‘underlying dispositions’ (anusaya), sometimes translated as ‘underlying tendencies’ or ‘latent tendencies’. Although various qualities are referred to as underlying dispositions, the standard list comprises seven: sensual lust (kāmarāgā), aversion/repugnance (paṭigha), views (diṭṭhi), doubt (vicikicchā), conceit (māna), lust for existence (bhavarāgā) and ignorance (avijjā) (D.III,254).

In one place in the Pali Canon (M.I,433) the Buddha, referring to the five lower fetters: identity view, doubt, clinging to rites, sensual lust and ill-will, said that even a young infant (without a self-consciousness) has these underlying dispositions within it.

Three of the Hindrances are also underlying dispositions.

Thus we are ‘impersonally predisposed’ to these unskilful qualities, and the frightening aspect is that if we do not do something about them they will tend to increase, particularly under the influence of inappropriate attention.

This reflection by Ajahn Thiradhammo is from the book, Working with the Five Hindrances, (pdf) p. 54.