Is craving for ideas craving to sensual pleasures?

The types of craving exposed in SN 56:11 encompass all types of craving, right?

Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.

But I’m struggling to understand where craving for ideas would be included since they aren’t necessarily related to sensual pleasures. For example, sometimes we crave for knowing something.

We can take the case of the Buddha when he non-stopped searching for the Deathless.

Did that lead to the rebirth of the Buddha-to-be from the heaven realm to the human realm? Yes. So, even the noble craving for the Deathless still leads to “renewed existence”.

Did that lead to the suffering during the search?
Yes. So, we can concluded that it’s among the origin of suffering.

The difference between the “Deathless” and any other “something” is: there will no longer any suffering after finishing the quest.

To categorize it, we have to categorize the idea itself. It can be only one category, but it can also be a mixture of the categories presented in your quote.

That’s correct. It is a critical distinction made by observing whether feelings are of the flesh or not of the flesh because every thought has a feeling accompanying it. This not jhana was one of the main discoveries the Buddha made when attaining awakening:

“So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?’ I thought: 'I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities,”

—Majhima Nikaya 36

But wouldn’t craving for the deathless before the Buddha’s awakening be either craving for existence or extermination since he hadn’t seen not-self yet?

Sometimes we crave for ideas. For example, we may crave for a piece of information. This doesn’t sound like craving for existence or craving for extermination to me, let alone craving for sensual pleasures.

what if the thing isn’t wholesome? I mean, sometimes people crave for information about other people’s lives, and this can be unwholesome, but it isn’t clear what type of craving it is.

Sila is a necessary foundation. Then the practice of noting, “this is a (type of) thought”:

“This can be achieved in particular through the cultivation of mindfulness. Whatever is seen can be received with mindfulness of simply that which is seen. The presence of such receptive mindfulness prevents the tendency of the mind to throw in biased evaluations and then proliferate them.
As a result of being well established in mindfulness in this way, a subtle form of happiness arises”


No. Craving for release is necessary and legitimate:

“Then he eventually abandons craving, having relied on craving. ‘This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.’ Thus was it said.”

—Anguttara Nikaya 4.159

Important to recognize this is said by Ananda according to the sutta protocol where the Buddha wouldn’t say such things, and speaks mostly from the unconditioned perspective. For this reason the suttas delivered by or addressed to nuns, junior monks and laypeople contain vital information on the conditioned path relevant to the level of western lay practitioners.

1 Like

That’s why I said it my post:

How about looking at that piece of information itself? You got an example to show such a piece of information does not bring any delight if you manage to find it? Or an example to show it can’t bring to “renewed existence”?

Are you implying that “craving for existence” means “craving that leads to renewed existence”? I don’t think that’s the case. Craving for extermination, for example, doesn’t lead to extermination; it leads to renewed existence instead. The craving for sensual pleasures doesn’t need to bring any delight in order to fall in this category. For instance, one may crave for them and not manage to achieve them, which will lead to suffering only.

Edit: I’m sorry if that wasn’t what you meant. It indeed would make a lot of sense if the category of craving for ideas depended on what the idea is about. For example, craving for jhanas would be under “craving for existence”. Craving for information about somebody else’s life can be related to sensual pleasures most of the time, like craving for knowing whether or not somebody else is rich; basically it would include any of the things that celebrity magazines show. It’s unclear, though, that any idea would included under these three categories.

Craving for ideas is not sensual. I believe however that ideas could fall under craving for bhava (translated here as existence)

Here is how Ajahn Thanissaro has described bhava:

The Buddha had a word for this experience of an identity inhabiting a world defined around a specific desire. He called it bhava, which is related to the verb bhavati, to “be,” or to “become.” He was especially interested in bhava as process—how it comes about, and how it can be ended. So “becoming” is probably a better English rendering for the term than “being” or “existence,” especially as it follows on doing, rather than existing as a prior metaphysical absolute or ground. In other words, it’s not the source from which we come; it’s something produced by the activity of our minds.

Craving for ideas is always intimately connected to identity. I.e. A contradiction of the ideas feels like the identity has been challenged.

So I would say that although the verse doesn’t call it out specifically, it is part of the list because bhava covers it.

1 Like

Have you not heard about sensual writer (or sensual painting or sensual filming) that their product is very much sensual for the reader or viewer?

Or are you implying that those sensual ideas do not bring any sensual pleasure to the producer himself (but they still manage to work with their ideas to bring sensual pleasure to the readers or viewers)?

Craving for ideas can be very much sensual.

1 Like

Unfortunately, Ven. Thanissaro’s choice of translation of bhava is very shortsighted and the issue has been discussed at length in several discussions here at D&D.


IMO, ‘Ideas’ are related to ‘mental chatter’, aka thought and examination. And thought and examination are verbal activities as they are ‘inner speech’. (MN44).

Now, Speech can be wholesome or unwholesome depending on the topic (AN10.69).

If such inner speech /thoughts are connected to the lay life, sensual pleasures, desire for worldly gain, fame, renown etc. and leading to further entanglement with the World they are unwholesome. If they are related to the Dhamma - leading to renunciation, dispassion, letting go, cessation… they are wholesome and to be encouraged (MN19).

At the final stage, even desire for wholesome ideas is to be let go of, a process that happens naturally, having arrived at the destination (SN51.15).

:slightly_smiling_face: :rose:


What if they are of a third sort? Like craving for secular knowledge about the natural world. It sounds at least possible for someone to have such craving, but I’m unsure where it would fit in.

That’s one of the 4 things not worth thinking about (AN4.77) … there is no end to it and one who thinks in that direction will eventually ‘go mad or get frustrated’ … :rofl: :joy:

1 Like

Fantasising about sensual things is not craving for ideas. Rather, it is craving for sensual things. The word ideas is typically closer to the word views. The suttas make a distinction between views and sensuality.

It is because of certain views that sensuality arises. The view itself is not sensuality.

1 Like

Yes, I read that article. But it misses the point.

There is already a word in Pali for existence; atthi. The word bhava denotes a specific kind of existence ; one where an identity is formed.

It’s up to the OP @Mike_0123 to decide which meaning of the word “ideas” that he originally meant.

It’s also up to the OP to decide that what I said about writer, film maker, painter etc. are only fantasizing about sensual things or they actually craving non-stop for new ideas to produce more new “masterpieces”. And as I already said above, in that case, craving for ideas can be very much sensual.

That’s true.

The weird problem is when you proclaim “ideas ~ views”. It makes the whole topic about “craving for ideas” into “craving for views” which does not make any sense.

Do you recall any sutta that goes into “craving for views”?

Maybe craving for knowledge etc (not sensual thoughts) is craving for the formless.

I think it’s true that some thoughts about sensuality are actually craving for sensuality, not for ideas themselves. However, it’s theoretically possible for a person to crave for thoughts about sensuality, but this doesn’t seem to encompass all the possible types of craving for ideas, since sometimes we crave for knowledge about somebody’s life, which may or may not be connected with sensuality.

You bringing up the idea that craving for ideas may be under craving for existence makes sense even though I don’t think Venerable Thanissaro interpretation of bhava is right according to the early sutta, as Venerable Sunyo explained in the post quoted.

Maybe craving for ideas can be seen as craving for being the one who knows that idea. We don’t need to adopt Ven. Thanissaro reading of the word bhava. Craving for ideas may be seen just like craving for anything experienced in the mind, like the jhanas.

I feel there’s a difference between these two indeed. IMHO, ideas are what we have access by means other than the five senses while views is much more limited.

There is a sutta where the Buddha is asked why beings remain in samsara even though they have abandoned sensuality. He replies that it is because of grasping onto views. Grasping is a result of craving.