Fortress Press

Obstacles to Stillness: Thoughts, Hindrances, and Self-Surrender in Evagrius and the Buddha

Obstacles to Stillness

Thoughts, Hindrances, and Self-Surrender in Evagrius and the Buddha

Shodhin K. Geiman (Author)


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In the fourth century, the Christian monk Evagrius of Pontus identified a group of "obstructive thoughts" that hindered individuals from stilling their minds in communion with God. Ranging from sadness and anger to gluttony and lust, Evagrius' list would later form the basis for the Church's "seven deadly sins." Notably, early Buddhist scriptures described a similar set of mental "hindrances" to liberating insight, which included problems such as sloth and sensory desire. Christian and Buddhist traditions thus pinpointed similar obstacles for the practitioner who is pursuing contemplative practice.

In Obstacles to Stillness, Shodhin Geiman provides a comparison of these Christian and Buddhist approaches to identifying, and overcoming, hindrances to religious contemplation. Offering a fresh approach to Buddhist-Christian dialogue, this book allows readers to find common ground by pointing to the shared difficulties they face on their respective spiritual paths.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506481265
  • eBook ISBN 9781506481272
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 219
  • Publication Date December 12, 2023


Our spiritual trajectories toward salvation or awakening are journeys marked by breakthroughs and great insight but can also be punctuated by setbacks and moments of discouragement. Shodhin Geiman's work brings Evagrius's taxonomy of the passions into conversation with the early Buddhist discourse on "hindrances" to liberation and shows how both traditions engage these inner obstacles and turn them into resources for our spiritual growth. This volume is a great resource for scholars of Buddhist-Christian dialogue, but also for anyone seeking greater understanding of their path to integration and inner freedom.

Thomas Cattoi, associate professor of Christology and Cultures, Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and coeditor of Buddhist-Christian Studies

Shodhin K. Geiman offers a carefully nuanced, judicious comparison of the paths of renunciant-contemplative life described by Evagrius of Pontus and Shakyamuni Buddha, emphasizing each figure's recommendations for handling obstacles through practices of self-surrender. By sharply distinguishing between the renunciant-contemplative life and service to the world, Geiman offers a thoughtful challenge to socially engaged Buddhists and Christians. Even those who will disagree with his conclusion will find much to ponder in his discussion.

Leo D. Lefebure, Matteo Ricci Professor of Theology, Georgetown University

Evagrius's description of the eight great "sins" that hinder a Christian's centered, prayerful life with God receives a fresh interpretation with a comparison to analogous concepts in early Indian Buddhism. This deep dive offers a rich vein of analysis for both traditions, and sheds light on what is needed for a contemplative spiritual life that will lead to the attainment of the respective soteriological aims of each religious tradition.

Kristin Johnston Largen, president, Wartburg Theological Seminary

Anyone embarking upon a spiritual path--whether Buddhist, Christian, or other--will soon come across the difficulties strewn across such a way, tempting the aspirant to give up on the good intentions they initially had. Shodhin Geiman is to be congratulated on writing a unique and original book that guides the aspirant through the eight obstacles to the contemplative life as presented by the early Christian "desert father" Evagrius of Pontus. Showing great erudition and experience, he draws upon Buddhist and Christian sources to unlock the wisdom of the ancients for today's spiritual seekers. The book is readable, practical, and learned. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone seriously pursuing a spiritual path, regardless of their years of experience.

Peter Tyler, professor of pastoral theology and spirituality, St. Mary's University, Twickenham, London