Sunday, August 15, 2010

Defilement through Desire

There are five defilements: defilements of desire, of thought, of the people, of life itself and of the age.
T'ien-t'ai, a Buddhist philosopher active in China in the sixth century, described the five defilements in the following manner:
“The most fundamental of these five are the defilements of thought and of desire, which result in the defilements of the people and of life. These in turn give rise to the defilement of the age.”

A moment of reflection will reveal that there are two types of desire. The first is the desire for an intuitive journey to discover the absolute or our true state of being and the more common desire of humans is an initiatory process for possessing. I call these the subjective desire and the objective desire.

Objective desire is always an ego affirmation process. The ego cannot exist in isolation and needs to attach itself to an objective projection of the mind to which it assigns certain attributes that are appealing and conducive for its own inflated identity.
When I say 'attachment' it is not from an emotional perspective rather a better word would be 'clinging'. Through clinging, the ego finds expression of Identity. Identification comes from a Latin root 'idem' and 'facere' which means 'make same'.

To understand the root cause of
dukkha (suffering), the Buddha analyzed the causality of experience in a manner that broke from the dominant world view of his time. Unlike Aristotle or the dominant Samkhya view of causality, which was rooted in a primal cause, his perspective as recorded in the Pali Nikayas is that every phenomenon has a sustaining cause. Since the cause itself is another phenomenon it should also have something else for its sustenance. This regressive process of chasing an unattainable phantom cause is the root cause of suffering. According to him the causality of experience such as dissatisfaction, fear, and insubstantial happiness, is the sufferings that we experience.
This defilement of desire leads to the defilement of the self as well as all with whom the self is associated.

Knowing the depth of impact the cause and effect can have on the human spiritual condition, the Buddha set forth a presentation of dependent-arising in connection with the cause and effect of actions in the process of life in cyclic existence so that penetrating understanding of the process of cause and effect could be gained.

There are the twelve branches, or links, of dependent-arising of life in cyclic existence: ignorance, action consciousness, name and form, the six sense spheres, contact, feeling, attachment, grasping, existence, birth, and aging and death. Gaining an understanding of these links removes the ignorance from our consciousness.

The process is well defined in the
‘Rice Seedling Sutra’:

Due to the existence of this, that arises.
Due to the production of this, that is produced.
It is thus: due to ignorance there is compositional action;
Due to compositional action there is consciousness;
Due to consciousness there is name and form;
Due to name and form there are the six sense spheres;
Due to the six sense spheres there is contact;
Due to contact there is feeling;
Due to feeling there is attachment;
Due to attachment there is grasping;
Due to grasping there is the potentialized level of karma called "existence";
Due to existence there is birth; and due to birth there is aging and death.

With this knowledge, may you realize your true nature?

Love to you all


  1. Defilement through desire, your blog is very convincing. Yes,the subjective desire to grow in the inner -self is highly desirable. In this desire there is no "I want"= desire. When God created light,He never saaid" I want light" but "let there be light".(speaking tree). Perhaps even in the subjective desire, should there not be a humble detachment, knowing well, the desired effect i already happning through a fertile intercourse of the divine with a open soul.

  2. You are spot on when dealing with the subject of 'subjective desire'. It is only to provide a classification that we have divided the modes of desire into subjective and objective. In the path of subjective desire there is nothing to cling to or attach yourself when the very consciousness which is both the subject and object of desire.
    Therefore as the subject who is trying to achieve this goal the only act is to continuously remove all impediments or masks through various spiritual exercises.

  3. Nice article!! Defilement of thought could be only controlled and cannot be completely erased unless we are going to raise ourselves to a different level

  4. EMPTY, thanks for your appreciation. Yes spiritual practices should be aimed at elevating our consciousness and unless this happens all practices are useless.