Sharon Salzberg, from the fourth talk, “The Five Hindrances: Doubt,” of her Tricycle Retreat:
Doubt, in Buddhist teaching, is a very interesting quality because there are many ways in which doubt is highly prized. We need to question, we need to wonder, we need to investigate. We need to insist on seeing the truth for ourselves. These things, which are all elements of doubt, are very positive.
There’s also a quality of doubt that is considered a hindrance. This is more like what we sometimes call “speculative doubt.” It’s doubt about our capacity to learn. It’s a doubt that is a form of cynicism, where instead of diving deep into a process to let it speak to us so that we can understand it for ourselves, we step aside and are frozen and disdainful, which is often a kind of mask for fear. When we secretly think, “I can’t do it,” “It couldn’t work for me,” or “I could never accomplish this,” then instead of admitting our vulnerability, we say “it’s not worth doing.” When we do this we are impeded from actually investigating and exploring the matter for ourselves.
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