What is the difference and relation between chanda and cetana?

In this website, it’s stated that:

intention, desire, will.

  1. As an ethically neutral psychological term, in the sense of ‘intention’, it is one of those general mental factors (cetasika, q.v. Tab. II) taught in the Abhidhamma, the moral quality of which is determined by the character of the volition (cetanā) associated therewith.

However, I’ve seen in a lot of discussions and sutta translations that the word cetana is usually translated as intention, which also happens to be the word chosen as the rendering for chanda.

At first glance, I kind of understand this situation, mainly because how intertwined and related these two phenomena (chanda and cetana) seem to be. Sadly, I’m almost a complete ignorant in regard to pali issues (and dhamma matters in general, by the way), and so, I cannot comprehend the nuances that may differenciate these two processes.

What is the difference between chanda and cetana?

How do these two relate to each other?

If they are related, which one comes first, and which after?

Is one a condition for the other?

Thanks a lot, in advance, for your time and patience.

Kind regards!


When it comes to Nibbedhikasutta, (AN 6.63) cetanā means intention or purpose.
cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi
It is intention that I call deeds.

vadhaka cetanā - wilful murder
maraṇacetanā - intention of death.
Cetasika is a different thing from cetanā.
āhārāsā cetanā - intention consisting in desire for food.
Sañcetanā - thought, cogitation, perception

To get an idea about Cetanā read Cetanāsutta. Since Cetanā is the kamma (deed) it belongs to the aggregate of mental coefficients.

Chanda - impulse, excitement, resolution, will; desire for, wish for, delight, enthusiasm
kattukāmatāy adhivacanaṁ - disire to do something

There are four iddhipādas; chanda, citta, viriya, vīmaṁsā to be achieved or completed to attain nibbana. Here citta represents samādhi.

kusalānaṁ dhammānaṁ uppādāya chandaṁ janeti vāyamati -so on- > generates a will
Read the sutta to get an idea about chanda.

kāmachanda - sensual desire
bhavachanda - delight in existence
When it says chandâgati, it means the wrong way of excitement/ will.

According to above suttas cetanā accounts for an intention which belongs to the present moment where chanda is simply a will to achieve something. Cetanā can be meritful or sinful where chanda causes cetanā to be a sinful or meritful. when there is kusalachanda (enthusiasm for merits), it give rise to meritfulthoughts (kusala cetanā).

Cetanā does not arise in Arahants. Arahants do not collect sins or merits at all. But when we consider chanda, it may be present in Arahants.


@Amatabhani, can you explain how these two words relate to sankhāra please?

1 Like

According to Nibbedhikasutta, (AN 6.63) cetanā is considered as the kamma. As explained in Cetanā sutta cetanā is the intention that give rise to craving (tanhā). Further, it explains; what one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards: this becomes a basis for the maintenance of consciousness.
Therefore intention planing which is conducted again and again can be identified as cetanā. That is why it relates to sankhāra. However, as long as it does not belong to any of the other aggregates it should be catogorized under sankhāra. On the other hand sins and merits are considered as sankhāra. (Ex: Puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra ānenjabhi…)
I am not going to discuss about chanda, as long as it is considered as a cetasika in abhidhamma.


Thank you for your answer. :pray:



I’ve heard that the difference between cetana and chanda is based on the root. Cetana can be wholesome (kusala) and unwholesome (akusala) roots can be = lobha, dosa, moha and alobha, adosa, amoha. Chanda is always wholesome (kusala) based on three roots: alobha, adosa, amoha.

Is this right according to the suttas?

1 Like

Chanda can be either wholesome or unwholesome. There are many suttas in which it’s unwholesome. Here are just a few examples:

AN 3.112

Desire comes up for things that stimulate desire and greed in the past, future, or present.

Atīte, bhikkhave, chandarāgaṭṭhāniye dhamme ārabbha chando jāyati;
anāgate, bhikkhave, chandarāgaṭṭhāniye dhamme ārabbha chando jāyati;
paccuppanne, bhikkhave, chandarāgaṭṭhāniye dhamme ārabbha chando jāyati.

And how does desire come up for things that stimulate desire and greed in the past, future, or present?
Kathañca, bhikkhave, atīte chandarāgaṭṭhāniye dhamme ārabbha chando jāyati?

In your heart you think about and consider things that stimulate desire and greed in the past, future, or present.
Atīte, bhikkhave, chandarāgaṭṭhāniye dhamme ārabbha cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti.

When you do this, desire comes up,
Tassa atīte chandarāgaṭṭhāniye dhamme ārabbha cetasā anuvitakkayato anuvicārayato chando jāyati.

and you get attached to those things.
Chandajāto tehi dhammehi saṃyutto hoti.

This lust in the heart is what I call a fetter.
Etamahaṃ, bhikkhave, saṃyojanaṃ vadāmi yo cetaso sārāgo.

SN 35.163

Koṭṭhita, you should give up desire for what is suffering.
Yaṃ kho, koṭṭhika, dukkhaṃ tatra te chando pahātabbo.

And what is suffering?
Kiñca, koṭṭhika, dukkhaṃ?

The eye,
Cakkhu kho, koṭṭhika, dukkhaṃ; tatra te chando pahātabbo.

Rūpā dukkhā; tatra te chando pahātabbo.

eye consciousness,
Cakkhuviññāṇaṃ dukkhaṃ; tatra te chando pahātabbo.

and eye contact are suffering: you should give up desire for them.
Cakkhusamphasso dukkho; tatra te chando pahātabbo.

SN 47.37

It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.

As they do so they give up desire for the body.
Tassa kāye kāyānupassino viharato yo kāyasmiṃ chando so pahīyati.

When desire is given up they realize the deathless.
Chandassa pahānā amataṃ sacchikataṃ hoti.