Kama Tanha, Bhava Tanha, Vibhava Tanha

1. As we discussed in a previous post, tanha (“thán” + “”, where “thán” rhymes like in “thatch” and means “a place; “hä” means getting attached or fused) is “getting attached to things in this world” via greed, hate, and ignorance; see, “Tanha – How we Attach via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance“. Note that “tan” in tanha  is pronounced like in “thunder”.

2. We attach to things because of the ignorance that they can provide lasting happiness; this attachment first manifests in greed. But when someone or something gets in the way, we generate hate; now we attach to another thing via hate.

  • For example, a teenager wants to get a car and generates greed; he is bound to that idea of getting a car. If a parent refuses, then he may generate anger and even hate towards the parent. Now he is bound in two places.

3. In kama loka, where all five physical sense faculties are present. Getting attach to anything that is contacted via the five senses is kama tanha. However, attachment arising from the desire to enjoy taste, smell, and body touch are exclusively restricted to the kama loka.

  • In the rupa lokas, kama tanha arise only due to eye and ear. Thus an Anagami, who will be born in a rupa loka has some rupa tanha and sadda tanha because he/she may like to see a Buddha statue or listen to a discourse.

4. Bhava tanha arises from attachment to “any existence”. Thus bhava tanha is present in kama loka, rupa loka, and arupa loka, i.e., all 31 realms.

  • Even in the kama loka there may be people who do not enjoy the “käma” or sense pleasures; but they still want to live a quiet, peaceful life. They mostly have bhava tanha. They may like to be in a secluded place cultivating jhana; that is their desired “bhava”. If they develop jhanas, they will be born in rupa loka or arupa loka due to their new “gathi”.
  • There are other subtle forms of “bhava” too. Some like to become famous, earn a title, to hold a certain office or a responsibility, etc. These are not associated with sensual pleasures and are also due to bhava tanha.

5. Vibhava tanha arises from the wrong view of materialism (ucceda ditthi in the time of the Buddha; ucceda pronounced “uchchêda”). One believes that at death one ceases to exist, i.e., one believes that the mind is a byproduct of the body (brain), and thus when the body dies, that is the end of story. Thus one believes that one needs to just enjoy the pleasures of this life before dying. They obviously have kama tanha as well.

  • It is easy to have vibhava tanha, especially when one has not heard about the Buddha’s message about a wider and more complex world with 31 realms and a rebirth process. Since our normal human senses cannot access such “hidden” aspects of this world, one just believes what one sees. It takes an effort to verify that indeed the wider world view is needed to EXPLAIN all that we can experience; see, “Vagaries of Life and the Way to Seek “Good Rebirths”“.
  • Many immoral acts are done with ucceda ditthi (or materialism or nihilism) because one believes that everything in this world is for one’s enjoyment. Even though it is obvious that animals cry with pain when being killed, that is not of any consequences in their minds. The logic is that If this birth is the one and the last, there is no possibility that one could face the same fate in the future.
  • The connection of ucceda (or uccheda) ditthi to vibhava tanha is made in Section 3.2.4 Ucchedavada in the the Brahmajala Sutta.
  • The fact that there is a difference between cutting vegetables and killing animals for food should be given some contemplation. Obviously, the animal is feeling the pain. Then how is an animal different from us? They are different only at the intellectual level; but we have a higher intellectual level only because we have been fortunate to get this temporary human life of 100 years or so, because of a previous good deed.
  • In the next birth we could be born an animal; it depends on the types of kamma that we have accumulated. It takes time to go through such an analysis, and to convince oneself of the ability of the Buddha Dhamma to provide “good explanations”, and many just do not take the needed time to do such an investigation.

6. Let us see how each type of tanha is removed as one progresses on the Path.

  • When one just starts on the Path and makes an effort to understand the message of the Buddha, one starts losing all three types of tanha gradually. With time one can feel that change and the resulting niramisa sukha that comes from it. It may take a few days, months, or even a year to feel a significant change depending on the individual.
  • Vibhava tanha is removed at Sotapanna stage, since only someone with micca ditthi can have vibhava tanha. It is important to realize that one has vibhava tanha if one does not believe in the rebirth process.
  • Kama tanha leads to various levels of attachment that are removed step-by-step in the four stages of Nibbana. Kamachanda is removed at the Sotapanna stage; Kama raga is reduced at the Sakadagami stage and is removed at the Anagami stage. This process is discussed in the next post,  “Lobha, Raga and Kamachanda, Kamaraga“.
  • As long as one is reborn anywhere in the 31 realms, one has bhava tanha. Thus, bhava tanha is completely eliminated only at the Arahant stage.
  1. Finally, two relevant points:
  • Sometimes these are labeled as kamasava, bhavasava, and vibhavasava. Tanha and asava (cravings) are almost the same. One gets “attached” because one has craving.
  • Sometimes vibhavasava is split in to two: ditthasava (ditthi asava) and avijjasava (avijja asava). This is because vibhavasava arises due to wrong views and ignorance.

Next, “Lobha, Raga and Kamachanda, Kamaraga“, …….

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