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Looking for sutta: sexual desire as the strongest desire

I’m trying to find I sutta I’ve heard referenced a few times before regarding lust. The gist is that the Buddha says sexual desire is the strongest desire….so strong that, if there were a desire greater than lust, enlightenment wouldn’t be possible. Or something like that.

Does anyone know what sutta this is referring to? Or is it even found in the suttas?

Thanks!

The sutta below might be what you’re thinking of:

Compared to the sight of a woman, I do not see a single sight that is so arousing, sensuous, intoxicating, captivating, and infatuating, and such an obstacle to reaching the supreme sanctuary.

Sentient beings are lustful, greedy, tied, infatuated, and attached to the sight of a woman.

They sorrow for a long time under the sway of a woman’s sight.

Compared to the sound … smell … taste … touch of a woman, I do not see a single touch that is so arousing, sensuous, intoxicating, captivating, and infatuating, and such an obstacle to reaching the supreme sanctuary.

Sentient beings are lustful, greedy, tied, infatuated, and attached to the touch of a woman.

They sorrow for a long time under the sway of a woman’s touch.

SuttaCentral

Also,

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, I do not see a single sight that occupies a man’s mind like the sight of a woman. The sight of a woman occupies a man’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single sound that occupies a man’s mind like the sound of a woman. The sound of a woman occupies a man’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single smell that occupies a man’s mind like the smell of a woman. The smell of a woman occupies a man’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single taste that occupies a man’s mind like the taste of a woman. The taste of a woman occupies a man’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single touch that occupies a man’s mind like the touch of a woman. The touch of a woman occupies a man’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single sight that occupies a woman’s mind like the sight of a man. The sight of a man occupies a woman’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single sound that occupies a woman’s mind like the sound of a man. The sound of a man occupies a woman’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single smell that occupies a woman’s mind like the smell of a man. The smell of a man occupies a woman’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single taste that occupies a woman’s mind like the taste of a man. The taste of a man occupies a woman’s mind.”

“Mendicants, I do not see a single touch that occupies a woman’s mind like the touch of a man. The touch of a man occupies a woman’s mind.” - SuttaCentral

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There’s no saying exactly like it in the Pali suttas and most of the modern writers who quote it don’t state from whence it came. The few who give a citation say that it’s section XXIV of the Sūtra in Forty-two Sections.

However, whether this is what the original Chinese says, I’ve no idea. Of the translations I’ve looked at, six are supportive of the attribution and three are not.

The supportive ones are Ricius’s Latin rendering:

Evigilatus ait: Speciei nulla major est appetentia nullum enim magis appetendum quam species usquam datur. Feliciter haec una est, quodsi duae essent, nemo terrigenarum viae se exercere valeret.

And the English ones by Heng-Ching Shih:

The Buddha said, “Of all desires, there is none worse than lust. Of desires, lust has no equal. Fortunately, it is one of a kind. If there were another desire so strong, no one in the world could follow the Way.”

Matsutaro Matsuyama:

Buddha said: Of all the sensual passion [sic] there is none so powerful as sexual inclination. It is so strong that there is no other worth comparing to it. But most happy [sic], there is but one passion of this description; for, if there were two, not one man in the whole world would be able to follow the precepts of truth.

Samuel Beal:

Buddha said: Of all the passions (lit., lusts and desires) the greatest is love of women. Besides this, - so great is it, - there is no other. Were there two of the same sort, no mortal would be able to attain supreme reason.

Chung Tai Translation Committee:

The Buddha said, “There is no desire more powerful than sex; sex as a desire has no equal. Fortunately, there is no other like it. If there were, no one in the world would be able to cultivate the Way.”

Master Hsuan Hua and disciples:

The Buddha said, of all longings and desires, there is none as strong as sex. Sexual desire has no equal. Fortunately, it is one of a kind. If there were something else like it, no one in the entire world would be able to cultivate the Way. "

The unsupportive ones are those of Soyen Shaku and D.T. Suzuki:

The Buddha said: “There is nothing like lust. Lust may be said to be the most powerful passion. Fortunately, we have but one thing which is more powerful. If the thirst for truth were weaker than passion, how many of us in the world would be able to follow the way of righteous?”

John Blofeld:

The Buddha said: "Of all longings and desires, there is none stronger than sex. Sex as a desire has no equal. Rely on the (universal) Oneness. No one under heaven is able to become a follower of the Way if he accepts dualism.

And Karl Seidenstücker:

Der Buddha sprach: “Es gibt nichts, was der Lust gleich wäre. Die Lust kann als die mächtigste Leidenschaft betrachtet werden. Glücklicherweise besitzen wir noch eine Eigenschaft, welche mächtiger ist. Wäre der Durst nach Wahrheit schwächer als die Leidenschaft, - wie viele von uns in der Welt würden fähig sein, dem Pfad der Gerechtigheit zu folgen?”

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There are both attractive and repulsive experiences, treated equally:

"[Then if they ask,] ‘But what, friends, is the reason, what the cause, why unarisen passion arises, or arisen passion tends to growth & abundance?’ ‘The theme of the attractive,’ it should be said. ‘For one who attends inappropriately to the theme of the attractive, unarisen passion arises and arisen passion tends to growth & abundance…’

"[Then if they ask,] ‘But what, friends, is the reason, what the cause, why unarisen aversion arises, or arisen aversion tends to growth & abundance?’ ‘The theme of irritation,’ it should be said. ‘For one who attends inappropriately to the theme of irritation, unarisen aversion arises and arisen aversion tends to growth & abundance…’—AN 3.68

“putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.”—MN 118, Anapanasati sutta Part 2

@Dhammanando thanks for those references/thoughts. What surprises me is that I once heard this saying from a teacher who is normally a stickler for only quoting from the EBTs.

@Polarbear I did think of those AN references. But they aren’t quite the same as what I’m thinking of, which involves affirming that enlightenment would be impossible with a stronger desire. Perhaps those AN suttas were the seeds that gave rise to this more precise saying.

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