Kāmaccandha and Icca – Being Blinded by Cravings

November 29, 2018; revised January 30, 2024

1. Kāmaccandha is a Pāli word that has roots in the keyword “icca” (pronounced “ichcha”),

2. Kāmaccandha (“kāma”+“icca”+ “andha”) means the POSSIBILITY to be blinded by sense desires. We will analyze it below. First let me explain the pronunciation of the key words “icca” and “anicca“.

  • The Pāli word that is spelled in English as “icca” is pronounced as “ichcha,” and means liking/craving.
  • Na” + “icca” is “anicca,” which basically means “(in the long term) it is not possible to get what one craves, likes, or wants”.
  • Na” + “icca” is “anicca“, just like “na” + “āgāmi” is “Anāgāmi“.

Such “combined words” are very common in Pāli. I will just show two examples from the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta:

  • yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃ” is “yam pi iccham na labhati tam pi dukkham“. Here, “strong craving” is expressed by adding an extra “h” to go from icca to iccha.

In the present case,  “Kāma”+“icca”+ “andha” becomes Kāmaccandha.

  • That is similar to “ayamantimā jāti” in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta coming from “ayam antima jāti”.

Here is an audio recording of how these words are pronounced:

3. Now, let us look at the meaning of the other components of the word kāmaccandha.

  • Here, “kāma” conventionally means indulging in sense pleasures that belong to the kāma lōka: eye, ear, nose, tongue, and the body;  “andha” means blind.
  • If the attraction for something becomes so strong that one’s mind may become “blind to rational thought”. The mind can lose any control over what is sensible and what is not sensible (or immoral). Kāmaccandha means “blinded by cravings for sensory pleasures.”
  • Anyone who has not started comprehending Tilakkhana (for which removal of the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi is a pre-condition) would have kāmaccandha.
  • However, one with kāmaccandha MAY not commit any immoral action, unless the temptation becomes “high”.

4. When a strong sensory input (ārammaṇa) comes in, one could be blinded by it and may do something immoral.

  • For example, if one gets an opportunity to rob or even kill someone without getting caught, that could become very tempting.
  • We have heard about situations where well-known people who are considered to be “highly moral” are charged with rape or taking large bribes.

5. This possibility of generating kāmaccandha is removed when one attains the Sotāpanna stage of NibbānaKāmaccandha will be reduced to kāma rāga for a Sōtapanna.

  • Having kāma rāga means one still craves sensory pleasures but WILL NOT do anything immoral to get such sense pleasures.
  • For example, a Sōtapanna could live a happily married person taking care of a family and engaging in sexual activities with the spouse. He/she may like to enjoy other sense pleasures too.
  • Kāma rāga is removed only at the Anāgāmi stage of Nibbāna.

6. Now, let us analyze the word “kāma” in more detail. The true meaning of “kāma” comes from the Nibbedhika Sutta (AN 6.63):

Saṅkapparāgo purisassa kāmo,
Netekāmā yāni citrāni loke;
Saṅkapparāgo purisassa kāmo,
Tiṭṭhanti citrāni tatheva loke;
Athettha dhīrā vinayaṃti chandanti.”

  • Kāma is defined assaṅkappa rāga about sense-pleasing material things (citrāni loke)”. And “saṅkappa” means “generating conscious thoughts”.
  • For example, Sammā Saṅkappa in the Noble Eightfold Path is about “contemplating fruitful Dhamma concepts with the Nibbāna as the goal.”
  • Vaci sankhāra includes both conscious thoughts and vācā (speech); they both depend on the cetasika (mental factors) of vitakka and vicāra that arise in the mind based on one’s mindset; see “Correct Meaning of Vacī Sankhāra. “

7. The above explanation provides us with a way to start reducing kāmaccandha even before one gets rid of the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi.

  • It is important to note that “kāma” is not just engaging in activities to fulfill sense pleasures; “kāmaincludes indulging in conscious thoughts about the five sense faculties that belong to the kāma lōka: eye, ear, nose, tongue, and the body.
  • Most times, people enjoy just thinking about sense pleasures, for example, sex or food.
  • Every time one generates conscious thoughts about sensory pleasures, one’s kāmaccandha increases. By cutting down on such “daydreaming”, one could reduce one’s kāmaccandha.
  • However, it will be permanently reduced to the kāma rāga level only at the Sōtapanna stage.

8. Even when one has kāmaccandha, one may be able to SUPPRESS it temporarily by focusing the mind on a neutral object, such as breath or a kasina object.

  • That is how ancient yogis, and even some people today, cultivate jhānās by engaging in breath or kasina meditations.
  • Furthermore, one would need to be abstaining from akusala kamma.

9. This is why any sutta that describes jhāna has the following verse: “..bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalēhi dhammēhi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati..”

  • That means even to get to the first jhāna, one would need to be abstaining from akusala kamma (vivicca akusalēhi dhammēhi) and kāma saṅkappa (vivicceva kāmēhi).
  • Therefore, it is clear from the above discussion that even a Sōtapanna is not guaranteed to be able to attain jhānās.
  • Jhanas are different from magga phala. We all have cultivated jhānās in our deep past. It is easier to get to jhānās for those who have practiced jhānās in recent lives.
  • However, one needs to attain a magga phala just once.

10. One can understand that because such “sense-pleasing things” are not there in Brahma lōka.

  • A rupa lōka Brahma (i.e., a rupāvacara Brahma) has a very fine body and does not have a nose to smell, a tongue to taste, or a solid enough body to feel touch. It can only see and hear.
  • Since a Brahma cannot taste, smell, or touch, a Brahma does not engage in those sense pleasures that are available in the kāma lōka, like tasting food, smelling nice aromas, or engaging in sex. Brahmās are unisex. However, even a human female who cultivated jhānās and is born as a Brahma is said to have “purisa gati” as a Brahma: Bahdhātuka Sutta (MN 115).  That term, “purisa,” is not used in the sense of “male” (Atthapurisa puggalās include women who have comprehended the Four Noble Truths, i.e., belong to the Saṅgha).
  • Kāmaccandha involves only those sense pleasures that are available only in kāma lōka.

11. Jhānic pleasures are cultivated by suppressing kāma rāga; see “Three Kinds of Happiness – What is Nirāmisa Sukha?“.

  • That involves subsiding the “heating of the mind” due to kāma rāga. 
  • We don’t realize it, but our minds are heated and agitated by the desire for sense pleasures. However, the desire for sense pleasures cannot be removed by sheer willpower and becomes possible typically after the Sōtapanna stage; see, “Is It Necessary for a Buddhist to Eliminate Sensual Desires?“.

12. “Tāpa” (pronounced “thāpa”) means heat; when we get really stressed, we feel a “fire” in the heart. When it gets worse, people say, “I could feel my heartburn,” when they hear extremely bad news.

  • When getting angry, we can definitely feel this “fire” within; see “How to Taste Nibbāna.
  • Even though we do not realize it, even engaging in kāma saṅkappa (“daydreaming about sensory pleasures”) — let alone engaging in them — leads to a “highly perturbed state of mind”.
  • And “ātāpi” is to remove that “fire” from the heart and the stress from the mind and calm the mind. This is the “cooling down”, “niveema“, “nivana“ or early stages of Nibbāna.

13. This is actually what the verse “ātāpī sampajānō, satimā vineyya lōke abhijjhā dōmanassam” in the Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta means.

  • It basically means: “Get rid of the fire or heat in mind by being aware of kilesa or defilements and by removing extreme greed (abhijjhā) that leads to a depressed mind (dōmanassa) through discipline (vineyya).”
  • We will discuss this later, but here is the summary: When one gets angry, that is dōmanassa.  When one has strong cravings, that is abhijjhā.
  • When one can at least suppress abhijjhā and dōmanassa, one’s mind automatically gets to samādhi.

14. These are just basic principles. Furthermore, one cannot get rid of abhijjhā dōmanassa quickly just by sheer willpower.

  • One needs to learn pure Dhamma and understand WHY a mind gets heated and excited and becomes vulnerable to doing more akusala kamma.
  • The first thing to realize is that one’s actions (kamma) will have consequences (vipāka), if not in this life, in future lives.
  • And that is not possible without rebirth. This is why rebirth is a built-in foundation of Buddha Dhamma.
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