What does "chandaraga" mean and how to best translate it?

I suppose, it is an alternative expression for “tanha” maybe?

in a bad sense: desire, appetite (for, loc.); affection; partiality
in a good sense or neutral sense: will; intention; appetite for; eagerness

Assuming you are interested on the practical relevance of the term I trust you will find useful this further explanation of chanda “in a good sense”:

“Sometimes taṇhā is translated as “desire,” but that gives rise to some crucial misinterpretations with reference to the way of Liberation.
As we shall see, some form of desire is essential in order to aspire to, and persist in, cultivating the path out of dukkha.
Desire as an eagerness to offer, to commit, to apply oneself to meditation, is called chanda.
It’s a psychological “yes,” a choice, not a pathology. In fact, you could summarize Dhamma training as the transformation of taṇhā into chanda.

Source: Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha’s First Teaching
By Ajahn Sucitto

This Dhamma talk may be helpful as well.

Tan Ajahn Sucitto - The Second Noble Truth, Chanda (Motivation) and Tools for Practise

I’ve usually heard chanda more as “the will”. As such it can be positive/liberative or negative. So the will to be liberated or the desire for awakening is an example of a positive desire. This might be more of an abhidhamma take, but I think it makes sense.

Rāga is usually translated as passion, so chandarāga might be close to kāmataṇhā. There is also the cravings for existence and non-existence, bhāvataṇhā and vibhāvataṇhā.

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Thank you so much for your quick response!
If I get it right, in the suttas chandaraga ist used for something to overcome, mostly as a cause for upadana/clinging, like in MN44 Cūḷavedalla Sutta :slight_smile:

‘‘Na kho, āvuso visākha, taññeva upādānaṃ te pañcupādānakkhandhā, nāpi aññatra pañcahupādānakkhandhehi upādānaṃ. Yo kho, āvuso visākha, pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu chandarāgo taṃ tattha upādāna’’nti.

Or like here: Saṃyuttanikāyo
6. Kilesasaṃyuttaṃ

  1. Cakkhusuttaṃ: 322. Sāvatthinidānaṃ . ‘‘Yo, bhikkhave, cakkhusmiṃ chandarāgo, cittasseso upakkileso. Yo sotasmiṃ chandarāgo, cittasseso upakkileso. Yo ghānasmiṃ chandarāgo, cittasseso upakkileso. Yo jivhāya chandarāgo, cittasseso upakkileso. Yo kāyasmiṃ chandarāgo, cittasseso upakkileso. Yo manasmiṃ chandarāgo, cittasseso upakkileso. Yato kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno imesu chasu ṭhānesu cetaso upakkileso pahīno hoti, nekkhammaninnañcassa cittaṃ hoti. Nekkhammaparibhāvitaṃ cittaṃ kammaniyaṃ khāyati, abhiññā sacchikaraṇīyesu dhammesū’’ti.

Or here: Chandarāgasuttaṃ

  1. Sāvatthinidānaṃ. ‘‘Yo, bhikkhave, rūpasmiṃ chandarāgo taṃ pajahatha. Evaṃ taṃ rūpaṃ pahīnaṃ bhavissati ucchinnamūlaṃ tālāvatthukataṃ anabhāvaṃkataṃ āyatiṃ anuppādadhammaṃ.

I think chanda is something like whishing, longing to (which can be of course usefull on the path), but combined with raga as the primary noun in the compound is like the energy behind grasping/feeding.


It appears so. In the 2nd noble truth, ‘raga’ (‘lust’) is included as a constituent of craving (tanha).

duk­kha­sa­muda­yaṃ ariyasaccaṃ—yāyaṃ taṇhā ponobbhavikā nandi­rāga­saha­gatā tatra­tat­rā­bhinan­dinī, seyyathidaṃ—kāmataṇhā, bhavataṇhā, vibhavataṇhā

Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to new becoming, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving to be, craving not-to-be.

SN 56.11

‘Raga’ appears to be a term used more broadly than for only sexual lust. For example, the 6th and 7th fetters are ‘lust’ (‘raga’) for various jhanas:

Katamāni pañ­cuddham­bhāgi­yāni saṃyojanāni? Rūparāgo, arūparāgo, māno, uddhaccaṃ, avijjā

And what are the five higher fetters? Lust for form, lust for the formless, conceit, restlessness and ignorance.

AN 10.13


‘Chanda’ is a very difficult term because it is used so broadly. I prefer to regard it as ‘love’, ‘fervour’ or ‘devotion’ and, when a wholesome dhamma (such as one of the Four Iddhipada), I prefer the old-fashioned translation of ‘zeal’ (as opposed to ‘desire’ or ‘will’).

As for the two words ‘chanda’ & ‘raga’, a little searching shows they are not always used as a compound, for example:

Yo, bhikkhave, anattā, tatra vo chando pahātabbo, rāgo pahātabbo, chandarāgo pahātabbo

Abandon chando for whatever is not-self; abandon rago for whatever is not-self; abandon chando & rago for whatever is not-self.

SN 35.176


As I previously mentioned, ‘chanda’ is used in the Pali suttas for both wholesome & unwholesome mental states. Most notably, as a wholesome dhamma, ‘chanda’ is one of the Four Iddhipada, which are another set of factors for enlightenment, similar to the Four Right Efforts, Four Satipatthana, Noble Eightfold Path, etc. Please refer to SN 51.20

These four bases of power (Iddhipada), when developed & pursued, are of great fruit & great benefit. And how are the four bases of power developed & pursued so as to be of great fruit & great benefit? There is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on chanda & the fabrications of exertion, thinking, ‘This chanda of mine will be neither overly sluggish nor overly active, neither inwardly restricted nor outwardly scattered.’ SN 51.20

Therefore (according to the oldest known commentary), the sutta AN 10.58 states:

Chanda mūlakā sabbe dhamma

All (skillful) dhammas are rooted in chanda, all (skillful) dhammas are governed by mindfulness, all (skillful) dhammas have wisdom as their leader, all (skillful) dhammas have liberation as their heartwood and all (skillful) dhammas have Nibbana as their culmination.

AN 10.58

Since AN 10.58 is about wholesome dhammas (such as mindfulness, wisdom, liberation, the deathless, Nibbana, converging on feelings to avoid craving per MN 37, etc), chanda is described as that which provides the ‘root’ or ‘anchor’ for these other wholesome enlightenment dhammas.


here’s an example where “rāga” is used in a positive sense from AN 9.36, where one contemplates emptiness of 5 aggregates, explicitly WHILE in jhana i might add, and can attain arahantship or non-returner status:

So tattha ṭhito
He, right-there stays:
āsavānaṃ khayaṃ pāpuṇāti.
asinine-tendencies destroyed completely
No ce
. {if} not
āsavānaṃ khayaṃ pāpuṇāti,
asinine-tendencies destroyed completely
teneva dhamma-rāgena
, (then through) this-very dhamma-passion,
tāya dhamma-nandiyā
this-very dhamma-delight,
pañcannaṃ orambhāgiyānaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā
five lower fetters totally-waste-away -
opapātiko hoti
(he) {is} (due to be) reborn [in the Pure Abodes],
tattha pari-nibbāyī
there (to attain) final-Nirvana,
anāvatti-dhammo tasmā lokā.
One-who-does-not-return–****** ***** (from that) world.

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In Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of AN 9.36 ‘rāga’ isn’t used in a positive sense at all:

And the contemplation of the impermanence of the 5 aggregates is mentioned after every jhana, including the immaterial ones, so to me that says that the contemplation happens after emerging from jhana, not while in jhana.

The translation seems to state if destruction of the taints (arahantship) is not attained; then non-returning will be attained. Therefore, the ‘raga’ in AN 9.36 sounds wholesome to me.

It’s better than no attainment at all, sure. But the main point is that you don’t attain arahantship because of your lust for the Dhamma. So I wouldn’t classify it as positive or even wholesome in the context of the ultimate goal.

OK…maybe AN 9.36 is making this point. Based on this reading, the ‘raga’ referred to in AN 9.36 might be the 6th & 7th fetters.

I know the discussion so far has been about rāga and chanda but I find AN 4.159 interesting in how it talks about taṇhā

So aparena samayena taṇhaṃ nissāya taṇhaṃ pajahati. ‘Taṇhāsambhūto ayaṃ, bhagini, kāyo taṇhaṃ nissāya taṇhā pahātabbā’ti, iti yaṃ taṃ vuttaṃ idametaṃ paṭicca vuttaṃ.

Obvioulsy ultimately it has to be abandoned to reach full liberation, but
’craving’ for the Dhamma can also lead one onward: “In dependence on craving, craving is to be abandoned”

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Desire for the end of desire is definitely something good - it a solid basis for right effort! :relieved:

"When we lived with Ajahn Chah at Wat Pah Pong, he was able to create around him, within the hearts of his students, this sense of chanda.

One way that we can talk about chanda is by distinguishing it from the unwholesome kind of desire which is taṇhā. One of the most observable differences is that taṇhā is focused on the result of an action, while chanda is focused on the action itself. So taṇhā wants to get, wants to be, wants to become, wants to get rid of, wants to be separated from something. Chanda wants ‘to do’.

As I recall, in those days after evening chanting Ajahn Chah would often say, ‘Now is the time to go back to your kuṭis and put forth effort.’ He didn’t say, ‘Go back and meditate’.

So our practice was conceived in terms of effort and it was the putting forth of effort which was important, and the willingness and interest to do that came through chanda.

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This seems to be a rare contextual usage (regarding a nun that had sexual desire for Ananda) plus the sutta is by Ananda, who was not an arahant.


from the point of view of an arahant, lust or passion for dhamma is an obstruction preventing full liberation. from the point of view of everyone below a non-returner, lust for the dhamma brought you past so much dukkha already, so close to full liberation i can hardly see how that’s not considered a positive thing.

check what it says under the attainments #8 and #9. then compare to same attainments in MN 111. look for the smoking gun, it’s hard to miss.