Kāma Rāga Dominates Rupa Rāga and Arupa Rāga

Kāma rāga is one of three types of rāga. The other two types are rupa rāga and arupa rāga, manifesting only in the Brahma realms. Most akusala kamma are done with kāma rāga.

November 9, 2017; rewritten with new title February 13, 2024

Rāga – A Keyword

1. Rāga refers to the tendency of any living being to value any type of existence in this world highly. “Sarāga” (“sa” + “rāga“) means one with rāga. Elimination of rāga is “virāga.”

  • As long as one has rāga for something in this world, one is bound to this world. Elimination of rāga leads to Nibbāna: rāgakkhayo nibbānaṁ.” 
  • The strength of rāga decreases from “kāma rāga” to “rupa rāga” to “arupa rāga” and is completely removed at the Arahant stage or Nibbāna.
Three Types of Rāga: Kāma Rāga, Rupa Rāga and Arupa Rāga

2. The 31 realms in the world can be divided into three categories. The strength of rāga decreases from kāma rāga (in the 11 realms of kāma loka) to rūpa rāga (in the 16 realms of rupa loka) to arūpa rāga (in the four realms of arupa loka). That is because the number of sense faculties goes down in that order. The sixth sense faculty of mano (sensing dhammā) is common to all three. Thus, we can differentiate the three categories by looking at the availability of the five physical sense faculties.

  • The 11 realms in kāma loka have all five physical senses. In particular, the ability to sense “close contacts” of gandha (smell), rasa (taste), and poṭṭhabba (touch/sex) is possible only in kāma loka. But all five physical senses are deployed to experience them. They are “pañca kāma,” meaning attachment to all five physical senses is possible.
  • In the 16 rūpavācara Brahma realms, only two physical senses are present: rupa and sadda, i.e., they can only see and hear.  
  • The four arūpavācara Brahma realms don’t have any physical senses; only the mind is present.

3. Therefore, sensual pleasures with “close contacts” of smell, taste, and bodily contacts (touch, especially sex) are available only in the realms of kāma loka.

  • Most living beings are trapped in the realms of kāma loka because of their preference for “close contacts.” 
  • Therefore, “kāma rāga” is usually reserved to indicate ” strong rāga” displayed by those in kāma loka.
  • Rūpavācara Brahmās in “rupa loka” experience only two of the five physical senses (sight and sound), and they have “rupa rāga” based on only those two.
  • Arūpavācara Brahmās in “arupa loka” do not experience any of the five physical senses. They only have the mind or mano (sensing dhammā) and have only “arupa rāga.
No Sensual Pleasures in Rupa and Arupa Lokās

4. The mental states of Brahmās in rupa loka (in the 16 rūpavācara Brahma realms) correspond to the jhānic states. To cultivate jhāna, one must give up sensual pleasures or “kāma rāga.”

  • Those “rupāvacara Brahmās” NEVER use the sight and hearing faculties for sensual pleasures; they have no idea about kāma rāga because they cannot experience taste, smell, or physical touch.

5. The mental states of Brahmās in arupa loka (in the four arūpavācara Brahma realms) correspond to arupāvacara samāpatti states.

  • They do not experience sights and sounds; they can only think. Thus, they also have no idea about kāma rāga.
  • In fact, they don’t even think about various things. Their minds are mostly latched onto a “samāpatti state,” just like a yogi‘s mind is latched onto the corresponding “samāpatti.” For example, the mind of a yogi in “ākāsānancāyatana samāpatti” is focused on “infinite space.”

6. As we have discussed, a mind gets increasingly purified (and calmer) as it goes from the lowest realm in the kāma loka to the highest realm in the arupa loka.

  • A human can experience existence in the Brahma realms by cultivating rupāvacara jhāna and arupāvacara samāpatti. Even anariya yogis did that before the Buddha. 
  • However, to reach Nibbāna, the “ultimate purification of the mind,” and attain “permanent release from any of the 31 realms,” one must cultivate the Eightfold Noble Path and transcend even the arupāvacara states or “arupa loka.”
  • For a simple description of that with an analogy of a “four-story house,” see “Each Citta Starts with Distorted Saññā.”
“Kāma Guṇa” and “Pañca Kāma Guṇa”

7. The above discussion clarifies why “pañca kāma guṇa is absent in both rūpavācara and arūpavācara Brahma realms. Those who are born in those realms have given up sensory pleasures for jhānic/samāpatti pleasures.

  • Here, it is helpful to see that “pañca kāma guṇarefers to “guṇa(or properties/characteristics) of “pañca kāma” (the five types of sensual pleasures.)
  • May be it would be better to write pañca kāma guṇaas “pañcakāma guṇato emphasize that it does not mean “five types of guṇa.There are five types of kāma (sensual pleasures with five physical senses) available in kāma loka, and they have six types of guṇa.

8. In fact, all six sense faculties (including the mind) have the six types of guṇa.” 

  • In the “Yogakkhemi Sutta (SN 35.104)” the Buddha says: “Santi, bhikkhave, cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṁhitā rajanīyā” OR “There are sights that are promising (iṭṭhā), desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing craving (rajanīyā).” 
  • Then that verse is repeated for sounds, tastes, smells, and touches (skipped as indicated by ” …pe…”) and ends at marker 1.8 with “santi, bhikkhave, manoviññeyyā dhammā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṁhitā rajanīyā” OR “There are dhammā that are promising (iṭṭhā), desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing craving (rajanīyā).”
  • Thus, instead of “pañca kāma guṇa” (for only the five physical senses), it is more accurate to say that the six types of “kāma guṇa(iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṁhitā rajanīyā) are associated with ALL SIX sensory inputs including the mind.
  • However, in many suttās, the emphasis is placed on the five “physical” sense faculties because that is where we mostly get attached to in the kāma loka.
What Are Kāma Guṇa?

9. The six types of “kāma guṇaare: iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṁhitā rajanīyā. Let us briefly discuss the six types. 

  • The first one, iṭṭhā, means “promise of fulfillment,” which goes with our perceived “nicca nature of this world.” However, the world is of anicca nature, and thus, this “iṭṭhā characteristic” is based on the ignorance of the real nature.
  • The three characteristics kantā, manāpā, and piyarūpā express similar meanings: desirable, agreeable, and pleasant (and emphasize the iṭṭhā characteristic.) The fifth, “kāmūpasaṁhitā,” means “induce sensuality.” The last one, “rajanīyā,” means “generating defilements” and thus can make one do immoral things to fulfill one’s desires. 
  • The last two clarify that “kāma guṇarefers mainly to the kama loka.
  • The influence of kāma guṇa on the mind is discussed further in “Kāma Guṇa – Origin of Attachment (Tanhā).” 

10. Kāma guṇa are NOT inherent properties of external sense objects. They are six qualities that our minds assign to external sense objects based on our “initial nicca saññā” that arise automatically when a sensory input comes in (or based on initial sukha/dukkha vedanā in the case of “bodily contacts” as discussed in #8 above.)

  • Kāma guṇa for pañca kāma is eliminated at the Anāgāmi stage, and any type of kāma is eliminated from the mind at the Arahant stage. 
  • If the mind attaches to those “initial saññā” (‘sweetness of sugar” or “the foul smell of feces,” for example), somanassa or domanassa vedanā can arise, and attachment becomes complete with those “mind-made vedanā” or “samphassa-jā-vedanā.” Even though the same “initial saññā” arise in Arahants, their minds don’t attach and don’t generate somanassa or domanassa vedanā.
  • Therefore, kāma guṇa (arising in the mind) induces kāma rāga and thus makes a mind attach further to sensory input.
  • Details in “Kāma Guṇa – Origin of Attachment (Tanhā).”
Some Examples for Clarification

11. We can clarify with some examples. Sugar has a “kāma guṇa” of sweetness for humans; Until Parinibbāna (death of the physical body), an Arahant will also get that “initial saññā.”

  • When seeing a beautiful woman, an average person may generate kāma (just an attraction.) That may elevate to kāma rāga (stronger level) and may lead to a close relationship. On rare occasions, kāma rāga may elevate to the highest level of kāmaccandha (deep lust) for that woman. A man who rapes a woman has kāmaccandha.
  • A Sōtapanna may generate kāma or kāma rāga. But kāmaccandha would not arise in a Sōtapanna.
  • An Anāgāmi may generate just kāma (low-level sensual thoughts,) but there is no “kāma rāga anusaya” left. An Anāgāmi would not have any desire for sex or even to associate with the opposite sex.
  • An Arahant will not generate any kāma, i.e., not even the slightest attraction.
  • Details in “Kāma Rāga Arises Due to ‘Distorted Saññā’”
Kāmaccandha – Being Blinded by Kāma Rāga

12. If not willfully controlled, kāma rāga can intensify to a point where one can commit immoral deeds (hurting others and oneself.) One starts losing control when kāma rāga elevates to the highest level of kāmaccandha.

  • That can happen to anyone below the Sōtapanna stage, i.e., one can be “blinded” by kāma, resulting in kāmaccandha (“kāma” + “icca” + “andha,” where icca is liking, and andha is blind, and thus “blinded by the craving for kāma“).
  • Whether an average human will generate kāma, kāma rāga, or kāmaccandha depends on the strength of the sensory input and also on prevalent conditions. For example, if one’s mindset becomes degraded due to alcohol consumption and one sees an attractive woman in an isolated setting,  things could get out of control with kāmaccandha.
Kāmaccandha Leads to Rebirth in the Apāyās

13. Immoral actions done with kāmaccandha could lead to rebirth in the apāyās. On the other hand, kāma rāga that has not advanced to the kāmaccandha stage can only lead to rebirths in the human and the six Deva realms.

  • Only kāma rāga –not kāmaccandha — can arise in a Sōtapanna. Thus, he/she is released from the apāyās but not from kāma loka.  A Sōtapanna is incapable of committing an “apāyagāmi deed” to satisfy any sensory pleasure.
  • I hope you get the basic idea. The above reasoning applies to any of the five sensory inputs coming through the physical body in kāma loka.
Kāma Rāga Is the First of “Dasa Mārasenā”

14. In the  “Padhāna Sutta (Snp 3.2).” the Buddha provides an account of how he overcame the “dasa mārasenā” or the “ten defilements” during his Enlightenment and lists these ten defilements.

  • Kāma rāga is the first of those ten and is responsible for most of the others, too. Furthermore, most dasa akusala are done based on kāma rāga.
  • I will discuss that sutta in the next post.

15. This post initially had the title “Kāma Guna, Kāma, Kāma Rāga, Kāmaccandha.” It is essential to understand the meaning of each word there. The “defilement level” increases in the given order from kāma to kāmaccandha based on the strengths of kāma guṇa that arise at a given time.

  • Pronunciation of the terms:
  • In kāma loka, we experience five types of physical sensory inputs: pictures (rūpa rūpa), sounds (sadda rūpa), smells (gandha rūpa), tastes (rasa rūpa), and body touches (phottabba rūpa). These are collectively called “pañca kāma” because we tend to attach to all five types of rupa.
  • But let us first go through the terms rāga, kāma, kāma rāga, kāmaccandha.
New Series of Posts

16. I am starting a new series of posts, “Buddha Dhamma – Advanced,” to provide a systematic analysis of how pañca upādānakkhandha arises per Paṭicca Samuppāda (Note: pañcakkhandha never arises under most situations.) Some posts will be new, and others will be old posts rewritten to provide a cohesive picture.

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