Kāma Guna, Kāma, Kāma Rāga, Kāmaccanda

November 9, 2017

1. It is very important to understand the meaning of each term. The “defilement level” increases in the given order from kāma guna to kāmaccanda.

2. In kāma lōka, we experience five types of physical sense inputs: pictures (rūpa rūpa), sounds, smells, tastes, and body touches. There are inherent “qualities” for each of these called “kāma guna“, and those are common to all of us in kāma lōka (actually they also depend on “bhava” and thus differ from humans to each type of animal, as we will discuss below).

  • For example, all of us experience the sourness of lemon or sweetness of sugar (there may be defects in some people due to kamma vipāka).
  • We all experience the unpleasantness of thunder or the pleasantness of music.
  • While there could be minor differences, all humans experience the same basic “qualities” or ‘kāma guna” through the five physical senses. Even when one becomes an Arahant that will not change.

3. The 31 realms naturally exist to provide different levels of kamma vipāka according to the (abhi)sankhāra done in previous lives (mainly in the human realm; this is another topic that needs more background).

  • The lowest four realms in kāma lōka (apāyas) have conditions that induce excessive suffering. Higher two realms in kāma lōka have  rūpa rūpa, sadda, gandha, rasa, and pottabba that provide increasingly higher levels of “pleasures”.
  • The rūpavācara brahma realms have rūpavācara jhānic pleasures; those brahmas had given up kāma rāga and had cultivated rūpavācara jhānas in previous human lives.
  • Those in arūpavācara brahma realms had given up both kāma rāga and rūpa rāga, and had cultivated arūpavācara jhāna in previous human lives.
  • This is why kāma guna are absent in both rūpavācara and arūpavācara brahma realms. Those who are born in those realms had given up sense pleasures for jhānic pleasures.

4. Therefore, there are pleasing things in our kāma lōka (human realm) that naturally arise to provide sense pleasures according to abhisankhāra that led to births there; we all had craved sense pleasures in our previous lives, but had only cultivated punna abhisankhāra; those who cultivated apunna abhisankhāra (i.e., did immoral deeds to get such sense pleasures) are now in the apāyas.

  • Thus, as humans, we are naturally exposed to those “kāma guna“. We are naturally “exposed to” sense objects that are “pleasing” to the five physical senses.
  • Thus, if one has not comprehended the Tilakkhana — that things in this world, including those things with kāma guna — cannot provide long-term happiness, but actually lead to suffering — then it is natural for one to get attached to such “pleasurable things”.

5. Now, if a person gets attached to those sense inputs with kāma guna, and starts thinking about them in one’s mind (generating vaci sankhārathat is “kāma“; this is also called sankalpita rāga (generating sankalpanā that lead to samsāric journey).

  • When one engages in sankalpita rāga (i.e., thinking about it, generating vaci sankhāra), one is likely to initiate kāya sankhāra (start engaging in related physical activities) too.
  • This is possible for any normal human, including a Sōtapanna. This next step of intentionally engaging in those sense experience to generate pleasure is done with kāma rāga.

6. On the other hand, if one has kāma rāga intensified to the point that one is capable of committing immoral deeds (hurting others or oneself), then kāma rāga is elevated to kāmaccanda level, the highest.

  • This can happen to anyone below the Sōtapanna stage, i.e., one can be “blinded” by kāma and be elevated to kāmaccanda (“kāma” + “icca” + “anda“, where icca is liking and anda is blind, and thus “blinded by the craving for kāma“).
  • Whether a normal human will generate kāma, kāma rāga, or kāmaccanda depends on the strength of the sense 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 kāmaccanda.

7. An Anāgami has removed kāma rāga, but still has kāma, i.e., likes them somewhat.

  • However, kāma of an Anāgāmi is not strong enough to lead to rebirth in the kāma lōka, i.e, an Anāgāmi will not generate abhisankhāra (strong sankhāra) for things with kāma guna (for example would have no desire to engage in sex).
  • In the Abhidhammic language, an Anāgāmi has removed four greed-based cittas associated with wrong views. Even in the “four greed-based cittas dissociated with wrong views” that are still left, have lost much of the potency to bring down from the kāma rāga to kāma level; see #3 of, “Akusala Citta and Akusala Vipāka Citta“.
  • Even that trace of kāma is removed only at the Arahant stage.

8. To clarify with another example, sugar has a “kāma guna” of sweetness; that holds for everyone from a normal person to an Arahant.

  • A beautiful woman will be seen as such by anyone from a normal person to an Arahant.
  • A normal person may generate kāma to kāmaccanda for that woman.
  • A Sōtapanna may generate kāma to kāma rāga.
  • An Anāgāmi may generate just kāma. But there is no “kāma rāga anusaya” left in him to go beyond that.
  • But an Arahant will not generate kāma either.

9. The sight of such a woman is a kamma vipāka; for anyone (a normal person to an Arahant) still living in the human realm will see that she is beautiful.

  • If one gets “interested” one generates kāma sankalpanā or vaci sankhāra; see, “Correct Meaning of Vacī Sankhāra“. Then it could lead to kāya sankhāra, i.e., turn one’s head to looks at her again with kāma rāga or kāmaccanda, that is a new kamma.
  • A Sōtapanna still has “kāma rāga anusaya” left in him, and that is why he is not released from the kāma lōka. He can be born as a human or dēva in the future.
  • A Sakadāgāmi is in between the Sōtapanna and Anāgāmi stages, and he/she will be reborn only in the dēva realms; of course, an Anāgāmi will not be reborn anywhere in the kāma lōka.

10. Immoral  actions done with kāmaccanda could lead to rebirth in the apāyas.

  • Only kāma rāga –not kāmaccanda — can be generated in a Sōtapanna. Thus he/she is released from the apāyas, but not from kāma lōka.  A Sōtapanna is incapable of committing an “apāyagāmi deed” in order to satisfy any kind of sense pleasure.
  • So, I hope you get the basic idea. This can be applied to any of the five physical sense inputs.

11. Anyone born in the human realm will have similar “kāma guna” because they had cultivated corresponding “human sankhāra“. We all basically like similar things, and any variations we do have are due the variations in those main sankhāra types.

  • However, when it comes to animals, “kāma guna” can be much more different compare to humans or compared to other types of animals.
  • Pigs eat very unpleasing things including feces. Tiger or lions like to eat raw meat. Cows don’t like meat but like grass. The variations are quite apparent. Again those can be tied to sankhāra that they had cultivated as humans, and each bhava (and jāti) correspond to such sankhāra via paticca samuppāda. Some of you may be able to see that, but we will discuss this later.
  • In brahma realms, beings are not exposed to things with kāma guna. They were born in those realms because they had preferred and cultivated jhānic pleasures, instead of craving for sensual pleasures.

12. In that regard, we just keep in mind for now that (abhi)sankhāra generated by humans have high javana power, and thus lead to various “bhava” and jāti. Animals cannot generate such citta with high javana power, and that is what is needed to clarified. Animals just pay for such past kamma until that kammic power is exhausted; see, “Javana of a Citta – The Root of Mental Power“.

  • Even dēvas or brahmas (just “go with the flow”), i.e., enjoy their kāma or jhānic pleasures that come with their birth, just as animals go through the suffering.
  • It is only those dēvas/brahmas that had become at least Sōtapanna Anugāmi would be motivated to strive for magga phala, since they are not exposed to any significant suffering until the very end.

13. Therefore, it is mostly humans who can cultivate abhisankhāra (of both types) and thus make conditions for future “good births or bad births”. This is key point in the Agganna Sutta.

  • All animals that we see, were humans in the beginning. Those with “bad gathi” that had been generated via “bad abhisankhāra” in their deep past, were reborn as various types of animals as the Earth evolved and conditions for animal life appeared.
  • But it is still not the right time to be able to discuss that beginning. I know that  many of you have instantly generated doubts about this idea, which is complete opposite of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
  • However, I remind you that only 500 years ago, “modern science” believed that the Earth was at the center of not only our planetary system, but the whole universe! See, “Dhamma and Science“.
  • In any case, do not worry too much about those “academic” things, since those are not relevant to “cooling down” or Nibbāna. Things will gradually become clear as we get into deeper aspects.

14. Now let us briefly discuss a key sutta that is relevant. The “Nib­bedhi­ka Sutta (AN 6.63)” lists the five kāma guna:

“..Pañcime, bhikkhave, kāmaguṇā—cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā, sotaviññeyyā saddā … ghānaviññeyyā gandhā … jivhāviññeyyā rasā … kāyaviññeyyā phoṭṭhabbā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā. Api ca kho, bhikkhave, nete kāmā kāmaguṇā..”

Translated: “..Bhikkhus, there are five types with characteristics of sensuality (kāma guna). Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye—agreeable, pleasing, charming, likable, desire-inducing, enticing; sounds cognizable via the ear… aromas cognizable via the nose… flavors cognizable via the tongue… body sensations cognizable via the body—agreeable, pleasing, charming, likable, desire-inducing, enticing. But, Bhikkhus, these are not sensuality (kāma)..”.

  • I have translated “guna” as “characteristics”, but it could be taken as “qualities” too.

15. Then the next verse of the sutta says what kāma is: “Saṅkapparāgō purisassa kāmō,
Nete kāmā yāni citrāni lōkē..”.

Translated: “a person’s kāma is getting attached and thinking about (sankappa rāga) those pleasing things in this world (citrani lōkē).” It should be noted that “citra” (pronounced “chittra”) means a pleasing picture; “citrāni lōkē” here means “a world full of delightful things”.

To emphasize: There are many pleasing, delightful, enticing things in the kāma lōka. Just experiencing them is not kāma. One who has understood the real nature, does not get attached to them. But those who do not yet understand the real anicca nature of things in the kāma lōka, value them highly, crave them, and get a satisfaction (kāma assāda) by thinking about them (generating kāma sankalpanā or vaci sankhāra); that is kāma.

  • It is important to realize that conscious thinking or “talking to oneself” is vaci sankhāra; see, “Correct Meaning of Vacī Sankhāra“.
  • Of course such vaci sankhāra can then lead to kāya sankhāra, whereby one takes actions to fulfill such desires (if one has kāma rāga anusaya).
  • Some people go one step further and commit akusala kamma to fulfill such desires (then it becomes kāmaccanda).

16. Therefore, having the tendency to be attracted to sense inputs (i.e., the tendency to think about them and just getting a “good feeling”) is a natural outcome of being born in the kāma lōka; see, “Assāda, Ādīnava, Nissarana – Introduction“.

  • And giving up that craving comes only with understanding of the true nature (the anicca, dukkha, anatta nature), i.e., realize that they have bad consequences; see, “How Perceived Pleasures (Assāda) lead to Dukkha“.
  • Getting to the Sōtapanna stage means one has understood the dangers of kāma assāda. But one has not yet been “liberated” from them, because one still tends to like them. However, a Sōtapanna will never do an immoral act to gain those sense pleasures.
  • For a Sōtapanna to be released from those kāma assāda, he/she needs to contemplate the dangers (ādīnava) of kāma assāda as we discussed in the above two posts. This is what is called the “asubha bhāvanā“.

17. Many people misinterpret the asubha bhāvanā as to contemplate on disgusting things like rotting dead bodies. That is quite wrong; such meditations only lead to patigha or “friction of the mind”.

  • Instead, one needs to see that it is getting attached to those pleasing sensual things that actually leads to future suffering. Thus the real  asubha (detrimental) things are those eye-pleasing, ear-pleasing, …body-pleasing things in this kāma lōka. One needs to contemplate on the bad consequences/dangers of getting attached to them;  see, “How Perceived Pleasures (Assāda) lead to Dukkha“.
  • Therefore, it is not even possible to do the asubha bhāvanā correctly until one gets to the Sōtapanna stage, because it is only then one begins to see the dangers in craving for sense pleasures.
  • However, it is always good to cut down on sense pleasures, even while striving for the Sōtapanna stage. It makes one’s mind calm and susceptible to grasp deeper concepts.
  • Extreme sense pleasures are a burden to the mind, and this is that part of suffering which can be removed right now; see, “Satipattana Sutta – Relevance to Suffering in This Life“. Doing everything in moderation naturally leads to a simpler, healthier, and peaceful life.
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