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Kāma, Kāmāsava


[DN 33]
Digha Nikaya #33: Sangiti Sutta 3s#20
PTS: pp209, 288
WP, Walshe, trans, The Long Discourses of the Buddha, #33, pp484
Puremind, M. Punnaji, Awakening Meditation, pp8-56
[MN 2]
All The Asavas Outline of Majjhima I:#2: Sabbasavasutta
AIT: All the Fermentations, MN I:2, Thanissaro, trans.
WP: The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, All the Taints, pp 91
PTS: The Collection of The Middle Length Sayings, Translated by I.B. Horner, Discourse on All the Cankers, pp8
[AN 5.75]
PTS: The Book of the Gradual Sayings, III, v (75): The Warrior, Hare, trans., pp76
[SN 5.45.163]
PTS: The Book of the Kindred Sayings, V, The Great Chapter, Kindred Sayings on the Way, iii: Asava, Woodward, trans., pp45
BD: SN 5.45.163: Issues, Olds., trans.
The 10th Lesson: The Destruction of the Asavas

Pali MO Hare Horner Punnaji Bodhi Nanamoli Rhys Davids (Mrs)Rhys Davids Thanissaro Walshe Woodward
kāmā Sense-Pleasurs or Sense-Pleasure Seeking lust sense pleasure sense pleasure craving for sense pleasure, sensual desire craving for sense pleasure, sensual desire sensuality sensuality sensuality sense desire sensual delight


Pali Text Society
Pali English Dictionary
Edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede


Kāma: (paraphrase by "icchāyaṃ," cp. Vedic kāma, kam=Idg. *qā) to desire, cp. Lat. carus, Goth. hors, E whore. -- 1. Objective: pleasantness, pleasure-giving, an object of sensual enjoyment; -- 2. subjective: (a) enjoyment, pleasure on occasion of sense, (b) sense-desire.... 2. Kāma as sense-desire and enjoyment plus objects of the same is a collective name for all but the very higher or refined conditions of life. The kāma-bhava or -loka (worlds of sense desire) includes 4 of the 5 modes (ga' ti.) of existence and part of the fifth or deva-loka. See Bhava. The term is not found analyzed till the later books of the Canon are consulted, thus, Nd1 1 distinguishes (1) vatthukāmā: desires relating to a base, i. e. physical organ or external object, and (2) kilesakāmā: desire considered subjectively....A more logical definition is given by Dhammapāla on Vv 11 (VvA 11). He classifies as follows: 1. manāpiyā rūpādi-visayā. -- 2. chandarāga. -- 3. sabbasmiṃ lobha. -- 4. gāmadhamma. -- 5. hitacchanda. -- 6. serībhāva, i. e. k. concerned with (1) pleasant objects, (2) impulsive desire, (3) greed for anything, (4) sexual lust, (5) effort to do good, (6) self-determination.
In all enumerations of obstacles to perfection, or of general divisions and definitions of mental conditions, kāma occupies the leading position. It is the first of the five obstacles (nīvaraṇāni), the three esanās (longings), the four upādānas (attachments), the four oghas (floods of worldly turbulence), the four āsavas (intoxicants of mind), the three taṇhās, the four yogas; and k. stands first on the list of the six factors of existence: kāmā, vedanā, saññā, āsavā, kamma, dukkha, which are discussed at A III.410 sq. as regards their origin, difference, consequences, destruction and remedy. Kāma is most frequently connected with rāga (passion), with chanda (impulse) and gedha (greed), all expressing the active, clinging, and impulsive character of desire. The foll. is the list of synonyms given at various places for kāma-cchanda: (1) chanda, impulse; (2) rāga, excitement; (3) nandī, enjoyment; (4) taṇhā, thirst; (5) sineha, love; (6) pipāsā, thirst; (7) pari'āha, consuming passion; (8) gedha, greed; (9) mucchā, swoon, or confused state of mind; (10) ajjhosāna, hanging on, or attachment.... Similarly at D III.238: kāme avigata-rāga, -chanda, -pema, -pipāsa, -pari'āha, -taṇha. See also kāma-chanda below under cpds. In connection with synonyms it may be noticed that most of the verbs used in a kāma-context are verbs the primary meaning of which is "adhering to" or "grasping," hence, attachment; viz. esanā (is. to Lat ira), upādāna (upa + ā + dā taking up), taṇhā (tr.s., Lat. torreo=thirst) pipāsā (the wish to drink), sineha (snih, Lat. nix=melting), etc. -- On the other hand, the reaction of the passions on the subject is expressed by khajjati "to be eaten up"...Under this aspect kāma is essentially an evil, but to the popular view it is one of the indispensable attributes of bliss and happiness to be enjoyed as a reward of virtue in this well as in the next ... -- Kāma as sensual pleasure finds its most marked application in the sphere of the sexual...transgressing in lusts, sinning in the lusts of the flesh, or violating the third rule of conduct...inchastity...
Redemption from kāma is to be effected by self-control (saṅyama) and meditation (jhāna), by knowledge, right effort and renunciation....vivicc' eva kāmehi, aloof from sensuous joys is the prescription for all Jhāna-exercise.
Character of Kāmā. The pleasures of the senses are evanescent, transient (sabbe kāmā aniccā, etc. A II.177), and of no real taste (appāsādā); they do not give permanent satisfaction; the happiness which they yield is only a deception, or a dream, from which the dreamer awakens with sorrow and regret....S I.9, 117;...S I.22;...-- na kahāpaṇavassena titti kāmesu vijjati appasādā dukkhā kāmā iti viññāya paṇḍito "not for showers of coins is satisfaction to be found in pleasures...The misery of such pleasures is painted in vivid colours in the Buddha's discourse on pains of pleasures M I.85 and parallel passages..., how kāma is the cause of egoism, avarice, quarrels between kings, nations, families, how it leads to warfare, murder, lasciviousness, torture and madness...
Similes.... the pleasures of the senses are likened to: (1) aṭṭhi-kankhala, a chain of bones; (2) maṃsapesi, a piece of (decaying) flesh; -- (3) tiṇ'ukkā, a torch of grass; (4) angāra-kāsu, a pit of glowing cinders; - (5) supina, a dream; (6) yācita, beggings; -- (7) rukkha-phala, the fruit of a tree; -- (8) asisūna, a slaughter-house; -- (9) satti-sūla, a sharp stake; -- (10) sappa-sira, a snake's head, i. e. the bite of a snake at Vin II.25; M I.130; A III.97...
-loka the plane or world of kāma
-āsava the intoxication of passion, sensuality, lusts...
-upādāna clinging to sensuality, arising from taṇhā...D III.230; M I.51
-ūpapatti existence or rebirth in the sensuous universe. These are three: (1) Paccupaṭṭhita-kāmā (including mankind, four lowest devalokas, Asuras, Petas and animals), (2) Nimmāna-ratino devā, (3) Paranimmita-vasavattino devā D III.218
-ogha the flood of sensual desires A III.69; D III.230, 276
-guṇā always as pañca: the five strands of sensual pleasures, viz., the pleasures which are to be enjoyed by means of the five senses; collectively all sensual pleasures
-citta impure thought J II.214
-chanda excitement of sensual pleasure, grouped as the first of the series of five obstacles (pañca nīvaraṇāni) D I.156, 246; III.234, 278; A I.231; IV.457; A I.134=Sn 1106; S I.99; V.64... Also as the first in the series of ten fetters (saṅyojanāni)
-taṇhā thirst after sensual pleasures; the first of the three taṇhās, viz. kāma-, bhava-, vibhava- D III.216, 275
-dukkha the pain of sensual pleasures J IV.118
-bhava a state of existence dominated by pleasures. It is the second kind of existence, the first being caused by kamma...Emancipation from this existence is the first condition to the attainment of Arahantship
-rāga sensual passion, lust
-loka the world of pleasures
-vaṇṇin assuming any form at will
-vitakka a thought concerning some sensuous pleasure, one of the three evil thoughts (kāma- vyāpāda- vihiṃsā-) D III.215, 226; M I.114; A I.68; J I.63; III.18, 375; IV.490; VI.29
-saññojana the obstacle or hindrance formed by pleasures
-sukha happiness or welfare arising from (sensual) pleasure, worldly happiness


The Similies

When trying to determine what is meant by the Buddha when using the term kāmā one should picture not a single state or class of states, but a spectrum of classes of states from the own-making (sankhara-ing) born of the yearning of the deluded Pajapati for the companionship of other beings, to common experience of [caring about] enjoyment of the sensations produced at the senses, to sexual intercourse. Visualize these images as superimposed over one-another. (A = B = C) It's not Freud's 'everything is just sex' and it's not 'ultimately everything is Pajapati's problem'. It depends on where your mind is at present. Start there. It's from there that detachment is possible. To help cultivate the mind to detachment from wherever it is focused, the Master has concocted (cooked up; sankhara'd) a number of similes: Pleasures of the Senses are:

Like A Bone thrown to a Dog

Imagine a dog,
overcome with hunger and thirst
who chances upon a slaughter-house
and the cattle-butcher,
or his skillful apprentice,
tosses him a bone,
devoid of meat,
but with a shmere of blood.

What do you think?

Could that dog,
gnawing that bone,
devoid of meat,
but with a smere of blood
find in that
the satisfaction of his hunger and thirst?

Of course not.

How come?

Because he would wear himself out
before ever he got satisfaction from that bone
devoid of meat,
but with a smere of blood.

Like Carrion

Imagin a Raptor
— a Condor or Eagle or Falcon or Hawk —
that has torn off a piece of carrion
and flown off
and that other Raptors
— Condors or Eagles or Falcons or Hawks —
are circling round diving at that piece of meat
trying to grab a piece for themselves.

What do you think?

If that Raptor
— that Condor or Eagle or Falcon or Hawk —
did not quickly let go of that piece of carrion,
would it not come to death,
or deady pain?

Like Carrying a Torch against the Wind

Imagine a man coming forth
carrying a flaming grass torch
against the wind.

What do you think?

If that man did not quickly let go of that flaming grass torch
would it not burn his hand,
or burn his arm,
or burn another part of his body
and because of that
would he not come to death,
or deady pain?

Like a Pit of Glowing Coals

Imagin a pit of glowing coals,
deeper than a man is high
— coals neither flaming up nor smoking —
and here a certain person comes along,
loving life, not wishing death
wanting happiness, averse to pain
and two strapping men,
taking his arms
were to drag him off to that pit of glowing coals,
deeper than a man is high
— coals neither flaming up nor smoking.

What do you think?

Would not that man
twist and turn his body
this way
and that thinking:

'If I fall in
that pit of glowing coals
I will come to death,
or deady pain!'

Like a Dream

Imagine seeing beautiful parks,
and beautiful forests,
and beautiful plains,
and beautiful mountain ranges,
and beautiful lakes,
in a dream,
and then waking up
to find they have vanished.


Like a Loan

Imagine a man who has taken out a loan,
got himself rigged up with a new car,
right snappy duds,
rings, earrings, buttons and studs
a glitter with diamonds and rubies
and other precious gems,
gold and silver chains and medallions,
pockets stuffed with cash,
delighting in the admiration of the crowd
that thinks this is the way
a wealthy man struts his stuff.

Then imagine that right there
the collector
or his skillful apprentice
comes along and repossesses the new car,
the new duds,
his jewels and his cash.

Strips 'im right down to 'es boxers
right there in front of everyone.

Then he has second thoughts ...
and takes the boxers too.

What do you think about that?

Would that man's embarassment
convince him
that he had had enough of pretending?

Like Being Up A Tree

Imagine a fruit tree
growing in the dense forest
laden with ripe fruit
but with no fruit yet fallen to the ground,
and here comes a certain person
hungry and thirsty for fruit
looking around for fruit,
with a wanna, needa gotta hafta hava
of fruit.

And he thinks:

Although this fruit tree is laden with fruit,
no fruit has yet fallen to the ground.

But I know how to climb a tree —
How about if I climb this tree
and eat as much as I want
and stuff my pockets for later?

And that is just what he does.

Then imagine that
a certain man with an axe
comes along
hungry and thirsty for fruit
looking around for fruit,
with a wanna, needa gotta hafta hava
of fruit.

And seeing that tree, thinks:

Although this fruit tree is laden with fruit,
no fruit has yet fallen to the ground
and I do not know how to climb a tree —
How about if I chop down this tree
and eat as much as I want
and stuff my pockets for later?

What do you think?

If that first man did not quickly climb down from that tree,
would he not come to death,
or deady pain?



In the same way as in these similes
Pleasures of the Senses
are of much grief and aggrivation at the time
and lead to real danger later.

Seeing the meaning of these similes
as they really are
with consumate wisdom —
you avoid
whatsoever is that which is diversity-situated diversity detachment —
whatsoever is that which is unity-situated unity detachment —
and develop that detachment
wherein all support for the world is completely desolved.



Diversity-situated diversity detachment is the detachment of an individual who is himself diverse in nature from that which is diverse in nature. What is diverse in nature is form, sensation, perception, own-making and individualized consciousness. Ordinary detachment: aka: Poise, equanimity, unflappability, detachment.

Unity-situated unity detachment is the detachment of an individual who is himself unified in nature from that which is unified in nature. What is unified in nature is the four formless realms and the state of ending perception of sense-experience. Temporary Release. Delivery from things of Time.

Detachment wherein all support for the world is completely desolved is Nibbana, the unseen consciousness, deathlessness, being outside Time. This is called "Release from things Not of Time," and is an unshakable, permanent freedom.


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