The Ten Fetters
Fetter usually refers to something that binds the body such as handcuffs or ropes. This is one way to think about the fetters of Buddhism. Fetters are things that bind us to the cycle of samsara (the cycle of endless suffering). Being aware of these fetters can help you overcome them and find enlightenment. Some teachers may refer to these also as the 10 Hindrances to Enlightenment.
The ten fetters according to the Pali cannon are:
1. Belief in permanent self
2. Doubt of the teachings or Dharma of the Buddha
3. Attachment to rites and rituals – Religious rites and rituals should not be taken as a guarantee to spiritual progress. In other words, just because you go through the actions of a purification ritual doesn’t mean it helped along your path.
4. Sensual desire
5. Ill will or hatred
6. Craving for the world of archetypal forms
7. Lust for immaterial existence
8. Pride in self, conceit, arrogance
9. Restlessness, distraction
It is said that if one can break the first three fetters achieves a state of Stream Entry. This person enters a stream, which is to carry him to Nirvana. A person who is able to break all 10 achieves enlightenment.
The Pali canon traditionally describes cutting through the fetters in four stages:
· one cuts the first three fetters to be a "stream enterer";
· one cuts the first three fetters and significantly weakens the next two fetters to be a "once returner";
· one cuts the first five fetters to be a "non-returner";
· one cuts all ten fetters to be an arahant.
Cutting through the fetters can take a short time of days, months or a few years. It can also take decades possibly a few lifetimes to achieve this and reach the stage of Nirvana.