Taṇha Buddhism


Taṇhā (pāli; Sanskrit: tṛṣṇā; Chinese: tān 贪; Japanese: ton 貪; Tibetan: sred pa) means: thirst, greed, desire, lust, craving, attachment, fixation. This is, according to the second noble truth, the origin of dukkha. It is the fever of insatiable lust, as opposed to peace of mind (upekkhā).

Thirst is precisely the desire to possess again and again. Taṇhā covers the burning desires (concupiscence, lust), "but also the speculative pruritus of the insatiable mind that foments metaphysical aporias. "The thirst seizes the object, assumes it and attaches itself to it. It is thus succeeded by attachment or appropriation (upādāna).

Thirst is associated with pleasure (Sanskrit IAST: nāndī) and attachment (rāga). This thirst is thirst for pleasure, for existence, for nonexistence, but also thirst towards the worlds of form, formlessness (ecstasies), as well as the desire for the cessation (nirodha) of becoming.

Taṇhā is one of the Three Poisons. It is also a link in the conditioned coproduction. This craving is conditioned by sensation, vedana, and in turn conditions attachment, upadana.

Synonyms of taṇhā are rāga, lobha and abhijjhā.

Thirst in the long run

The Dhammapada (§203) makes thirst the constructor of duration: it is the origin of psychological time. In this sense, it is a force of temporal coordination consisting in the project of an organizing and foresighted thought that draws up its plans, by projection (tension towards the future) or concern (projection, preoccupation with the past).

This is how thirst constructs duration: from the elaboration of a certain choice, a decision and an organization proceeds the intention to do (an act of merit or demerit);

assuming it, the consciousness tends towards merit, then completes the act, which amounts to taking an object under the impulse of thirst: thus it appropriates it, i.e. takes it as a point of support, and settles there as in a residence, subsists there, and develops itself.

There is thus no interruption of the series, the duration of thought consisting in thirst: consciousness, conditioned by mental activities, produces the impression of a permanent self, and hence a tension, a progression towards a coming and going, from which result becoming and dukkha (in pāli; Sanskrit: duḥkha).

Different thirsts

Three types of thirsts are distinguished according to their object :

the thirst for sense desires (pāli: kāmataṇhā), the "wanting-to-desire", which concerns the five senses and the mind (which is the sixth sense) ;
the thirst for existence, the "will-to-live" (pāli: bhavataṇhā)
the thirst for non-existence, the "want-not-to-live" (pāli: vibhavataṇhā)
Three thirsts according to the worlds (loka) :

Thirst for sensual existence, pāli: kāmataṇhā ;
Thirst for pure physical existence, pāli: rūpataṇhā ;
Thirst for immaterial existence, pāli: arūpataṇhā.
Six thirsts according to the six sense bases, sadayatana :

Thirst for visible object, pāli: rūpataṇhā ;
Thirst for sounds, pāli: saddataṇhā ;
Thirst for smell, pāli: gandhataṇhā ;
Thirst for flavor, pāli: rasataṇhā ;
Thirst for touch, phoṭṭhabbataṇhā ;
Thirst for thoughts, pāli: dhammataṇhā.

Back to blog