Kāmaccandha and Icca – Being Blinded by Cravings

November 29, 2018

1. Kāmaccandha is a Pāli word which has roots in the key word “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 has the meaning of 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 on how these words are pronounced:

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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”.  Mind can lose any control over what is sensible and what is not sensible (or immoral). Kāmaccandha means “blinded by cravings for sense pleasures”.
  • Anyone who has not started comprehending Tilakkhana (for which removal of the 10 types of micchā ditthi 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 sense input comes, one could be blinded about the possible consequences 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-know 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 Sotapanna stage of NibbānaKāmaccandha will be reduced to kāma rāga for a Sōtapanna.

  • Having kāma rāga means one still has cravings for sense pleasures, but WILL NOT do anything immoral to get such sense pleasures.
  • For example, a Sōtapanna could 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 a bit 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 vinayanti chandanti.”

  • Kāma is defined assankappa rāga about sense pleasing material things (citrāni loke)”. And “sankappa” means “generating conscious thoughts”.
  • For example, Samma Sankappa in the Noble Eightfold Path is about “contemplating on fruitful Dhamma concepts with the Nibbāna as the goal”.
  • Vaci sankhāra include BOTH sankappa (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 10 types of micchā ditthi.

  • 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 engages in generating conscious thoughts about sense pleasures, one’s kāmaccandha will increase. By cutting down on such “day dreaming”, 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, for example, on breath or a kasina object.

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

9. This is why in 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 sankappa (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 get an idea about that by considering the fact that 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 kama lōka like tasting food, smelling nice aroma, or engage in sex. Brahmās are unisex. However, even a human female who cultivated jhānās and is born as a brahma is said to be have “purisa gati” as a brahma: Bahdhātuka Sutta (MN 115).  That term “purisa” is not used in the sense of “male” (Atthapurisa puggalā include women who have comprehended the Four Noble Truths, i.e., belong to the Sangha).
  • Kāmaccandha involves only those sense pleasures that are available only in kāma lōka.

11. Jhānic pleasures are cultivated by at least 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 will power, and becomes possible normally 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 stressful we feel a “fire”  in the heart. When it gets really bad, people say, “I could feel my heart burn” when they hear an extremely poignant news.

  • In the case of 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 sankappa (“day dreaming about sense 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 is meant by the verse, “ātāpī sampajānō, satimā vineyya lōke abhijjhā dōmanassam” in the Mahā Satipatthāna Sutta.

  • It basically means: “get rid of the fire or heat in the 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 in detail later, but here is the summary: When one gets angry, that is dōmanassa.  When one has strong sense desires 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 will power.

  • One needs to learn pure Dhamma and understand the basic principles of WHY a mind gets heated, excited, and becomes vulnerable to doing more akusala kamma.
  • First thing to realize is that one’s actions (kamma) are going to 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.