Re: [DhammaStudyGroup] Tanha

Sarah Procter Abbott <sarahdhhk@...>

Dear Wyn & Rob,

I agree that this is a very interesting topic and I am
somewhat perplexed by the Netthi passage below. I'm
really thinking out loud, rather than suggesting I
have all the answers here (or any of them!). I
aplogise in advance for what is likely to be a rather
lengthy post.

--- Robert Kirkpatrick
<robertkirkpatrick@...> wrote: > Dear Wyn,
Tanha(akusala desire) can be upanissaya paccaya for
kusala and
thus even for the path. We have a ton of tanha - for
pretty well
everthing. It is possibly(and possibly is the
operative word)
preferable to have tanha towards things related to
because this can be upanissaya for later alobha. For
instance, I
am now thinking(quite often) about going to India or
Thailand to
listen to Dhamma. Much of this thinking is with
tanha ( some is
conditioned by wisdom). If I go and hear dhamma and
conditions some detachment and understanding(no
tanha at those
moments) then the tanha was upanissaya paccaya for
I'm not at all sure we can say that tanha for dhamma
is possibly preferable to tanha for other
Reminds me of a discussion in Bkk last week when one
of jon's former colleagues was saying that she knows
there is tanha when she is meditating but she feels
that tanha to the peace and quiet and dhamma at that
time is better than tanha to sensuous objects now....I
would just suggest tanha is tanha, of whatever degree,
irrespective of the object and never conducive to
well-being...interesting and good for further
discussion, though.

--- wynn <wewynal@...> wrote:
Is all tanha unskilful?
I've certainly never heard anything before to suggest
it isn't. 'Tangle is a term for the network of
craving.' (Vis 1,2) Indeed the Visuddhimagga and
Vibhanga enumerate the 108 kinds of tanha without any
suggestion to the contrary.

One cause for confusion MAYBE as Rob, suggests, that
tanha can be upanissaya paccaya for kusala:
'Another thinks, 'I shall enjoy the delights of the
Brahma-world', and with sense-desire clinging as
condition he develops lovingkindness, compassion,
gladness and equanimity. Owing to the fulfilment of
the meditative development he is reborn in the
Brahma-world'. (Vis V11,18)

Still, the tanha is akusala.

Another misunderstanding could be because as we know,
unless one has become an arahant, the anusaya (latent
tendency) of tanha is present even at moments of

Someone wrote:

"Tannhaa gets a bad press in Buddhist literature,
but if one
looks at
bhava-ta.nhaa, one of the three ta.nhaas, then one
cannot but
oneself in contradiction if bhava-ta.nhaa is
understood in an
essentially pejorative sense. For example, if
essentially akusala, then making merit for a
better rebirth
would be
essentially akusala. And where would the Buddhist
life begin!"
I would agree that at moments of bhava-ta.nhaa, the
citta is akusala. There are bound to be so many
skilful and unskilful cittas involved that only the
development of awareness will be aware of which are
which. There can still be moments of generosity or
reflection on wholesome qualities or metta at these
times which are kusala.

In the suttas we do have the phrase 'he abandons
ta.nhaa by
means of
ta.nhaa' [ta.nhaa nissaaya ta.nhaa.m pajahati;
I think (and I'm no Pali scholar) that this can be
translated as 'though dependent on craving, he
abandons craving'.

It is clear to me, in the following (PTS translation,
same ref.), that it is wisdom and not craving that

'Sister, as to the saying: "This body has come into
being through craving, is dependent on craving;
craving must be abandoned,"- it was said in this

Herein, sister, a monk hears it said: "They say that
such and such a monk, by destroying the asavas,
himself in this very life thoroughly comprehending it,
realizes the heart's release, the release by wisdom,
that is free from the asavas, and having attained it
abides therein." then some time later, though
dependent on craving, he abandons craving. As to the
saying, sister, that body has come into being through
craving, is dependent on craving, craving must be
abandoned, - whatever was said thus was said in this

Then in the, we have:

'There are two kinds of ta.nhaa: skilful [kusala]
[akusala]. Unskilful ta.nhaa leads to sa.msaara,
ta.nhaa is for
abandoning, which leads to diminishing [of
activities].' [87]
Yes, this is a little puzzling and I've been following
other links (DN & Vibhanga) which also list and
describe tanha in detail as akusala. I can only think
that the meaning is similar to that in AN above: tanha
is for abandoning by skilful states.

Jim mentioned to me that in the Sangiti Sutta (DN
XXX111) there is mentioned a 'nirodha-ta.nhaa' which
at first he thought was kusala "but the commentary (in
Pali) implies a definite 'no' by connecting it with

The point I suppose I'm trying to make is that
sometimes we can read a few lines in the Tipitaka
which don't seem to 'fit', but often there is a
problem with the translation or lack of commentary
notes. I could be wrong here!

Wyn, I appreciate this area for consideration. I
haven't had a chance to follow your other link so far,
but will do so when I have time. Pls let us know what
you think.

Best rgds,

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