Revised April 28, 2018; November 9, 2019; October 24, 2021; December 4, 2022
There are various names for greed in Pāli. Each has a different meaning, and the differences are significant. First, let us look at the terms “lōbha” and “rāga.”
What is Lōbha?
1. Lōbha is the stronger term of the two. The word lōbha comes from “lo” + “bha” where “lo” implies “strong attraction” (like that of an ant to honey), and “bha” is for “bhava” (existence). Another is “lo” + “abba,” where “lo” is “loka” and “abba” is to “take in.” One is firmly attached to this world with lōbha.
- Lōbha is an extreme form of greed. One can do highly-immoral deeds or “pāpa kamma” with lōbha. Such pāpa kamma could make one destined to the apāyā. See, “Kusala and Akusala Kamma, Punna and Pāpa Kamma.”)
- When someone has lōbha, it is exhibited in two ways:
- One wishes that all the “riches” should come to oneself and not to others (one may be already “rich” but wants more for oneself).
- One is unwilling to donate even a little bit to the needy and does not share with even the family. It is said that no matter how much one has, some people want more. However, even poor people can have lōbha, especially for the things others have.
2. It is hard to quantify these, but the idea is that “lōbha” manifests an overbearing attachment to worldly things.
- Lōbha is one of 52 cētasika (mental factors).
- Abhijjhā (extreme greed) is the same as lōbha. The word abhijjhā comes from “abhi” + “icchā” or “strong liking/craving.”
Rāga is a Weaker Form of Lōbha
3. Rāga also arises because one believes there are pleasures to be had in staying in Saṃsāra (rebirth process). But one would NOT do highly immoral things with just rāga. Specifically, kāma rāga needs to escalate to lobha for immoral actions.
- The correct “pada nirutti” (etymology) of “rāga” comes from “rā” + “agga” where “rā” means to “travel (in the saṁsaric journey)” and “agga” is to “give priority.” Thus, “rāga” means to “willingly engage (in the saṁsaric journey.)
- When one is born wealthy (or acquires wealth) and enjoys life with sensory pleasures, that is not lōbha; that is just rāga. Such a person is not harming others. However, that rāga COULD lead to lōbha too.
- With lōbha, one could do highly immoral deeds (even if one is rich). If one is willing to kill, steal, lie, etc., to gain something one desires, those are “apāyagāmi” kamma. One does not necessarily have to carry out these actions or speech. Just thinking about it and making abhisaṅkhāra (planning or even enjoying such thoughts) is lōbha. Thus even the poorest person can have lōbha.
What is Kāma and Kāma Rāga?
4. Pleasing things in this world are NOT kāma. Attaching to such things and generating conscious thoughts about them (saṅkappa) is kāma. In other words, kāma means attachment to the sensory pleasures in the kāma lōka, i.e., those available to gratify the five senses. The word kāma is closely related to taṇhā and icchā.
- Then giving priority to kāma is kāma rāga.
- When one has kāma rāga, one likes to enjoy sense pleasures, but not at others’ expense. Thus when husband and wife engage in sexual activity, that is due to kāma rāga.
- Even the dēvas in dēva loka have kāma rāga. They like to enjoy sensory pleasures, but they don’t crave what others have. Thus, they do not have lōbha.
- Also, see, “Kāma Guna, Kāma, Kāma Rāga, Kāmacchanda” for more details.
Blinded by Kāma Is Kāmacchanda
5. Then there is kāmacchanda which is more potent than kāma rāga. It is like lōbha but focused on kāma.
- Kāmacchanda is the highest level of that attachment. Here one is willing to do abhorrent acts (killing, raping, etc.) to satisfy one’s desires.
- When one has developed kāma to the kāmacchanda level, one becomes unaware of the harmful consequences of one’s actions. Kāmacchanda comes from kāma + iccha + anda, or “being blinded by sense attractions.” Here, “icchā” is liking, and “anda” is blind.
- It is said that “one loses one’s mind” when blinded by attachment to sense pleasures, i.e., one cannot reason when one has kāmacchanda.
- Thus, one needs to be mindful not to let one’s kāma rāga develop into kāmacchanda, which is one of the five hindrances that “cover the mind.”
- Inappropriate sexual activity (affairs outside marriage and rape) is done with kāmacchanda, i.e., when one becomes blind with kāma.
- Kāmacchanda is pronounced “kāmachchanda”.
Connection to Stages of Magga Phala
6. It is also helpful to see how these different levels of greed are removed at various stages of Nibbāna. This will give a better sense of differentiation.
- A Sōtapanna has permanently removed kāmacchanda and does not have the worst level of lōbha. Thus he/she will not engage in “apāyagāmi” acts to gain sensory pleasures. A Sōtapanna has not given up all three types of rāga: kāma rāga, rupa rāga, and arupa rāga.
- A Sakadāgāmi also has kāma rāga to a lesser extent; this is why he could be reborn in the kāma lōka for one more time.
- An Anāgami has removed kāma rāga; he will not return to any of the 11 kāma lōka realms, including the human and dēva realms, and will be reborn in a Suddhāvāsa realm in the rūpa loka, and will attain Nibbāna there.
- However, an Anāgami may still enjoy (but not attach to) sense pleasures, i.e., still has kāma; see #3 of “Akusala Citta and Akusala Vipāka Citta.” This is a subtle point, but the fact is that an Anāgami would still have the “four greed-based citta without wrong views,” and that is kāma. Those four akusala cittā are prevented from arising only for an Arahant.
7. Finally, some have given up the desire to enjoy pleasures in kāma lōka but like jhānic pleasures. They are born in rūpa loka and arūpa loka and have rūpa rāga and arūpa rāga.
- Rūpa rāga and arūpa rāga are removed only at the Arahant stage, as discussed in “Akusala Citta and Akusala Vipāka Citta.”
February 23, 2021: I have revised the following related post as well: “Lōbha, Dosa, Moha Versus Rāga, Patigha, Avijja“