How does one control one's thoughts? ESPECIALLY the uncontrollable desires related to sexual drive which are built deep into our conscience. Answers are DEEPLY appreciated.

  • IMO it's not clear whether this question is about controlling thoughts, controlling desires, or controlling actions?
    – ChrisW
    Jul 8, 2015 at 11:26
  • I deleted some comments which could perhaps be posted as answers instead. Note that the comments under a question are ideally for asking about the question or for suggesting improvements to the question; but answers to the question should preferably be posted as an answer instead. See also When my answer is short, shall I post it as a comment instead?
    – ChrisW
    Jul 10, 2015 at 21:09
  • I had asked a similar question earlier...you might go through it for more resources...buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/5472/… Aug 21, 2015 at 21:44

6 Answers 6

Part 1

The nature of the mind is to produce thoughts. Your question about controlling thoughts seems to imply an act of force.

Very well then, my friend, I will give you an analogy; for there are cases where it is through the use of an analogy that intelligent people can understand the meaning of what is being said.

MN 24

It is similar to asking how does one make a cobra non-poisonous? Sure, one can remove its fangs temporarily until they grow back, but then is it still a real Cobra? If we forget to remove the fangs as and when they grow back, the Cobra will suddenly become dangerous when we least expect it to be, and it will remember the cruelty we inflicted upon it and will have cause to bite.

Taking drugs, or alcohol, or indulging in pleasures and entertainment or even staying busy with a career and family often allows people to temporarily ignore their thoughts, but it always ends in getting bitten by the thoughts when they least expect it, and thus misery endures.

Far better to learn how to not get bitten by the Cobra.

The Buddhist path to not getting bitten by the Cobra is divided into prajna (wisdom), sila (ethics), and samadhi (concentration). It has eight parts, which are also called the Noble eightfold path.

  1. Know that the Cobra always remains poisonous, and how it gets its poison

    • i.e. understand reality as it is, and whence it gets its fangs from (wisdom)
  2. Don't give the Cobra reason to bite

    • i.e. don't commit acts that produce poisonous thoughts (ethics)
  3. Learn to leave the Cobra alone

    • i.e. practice meditation and mindfulness. (concentration)

Part 2

Buddhism or meditation is not a pill one takes and immediately becomes free of thoughts. Learning to not get bitten by thoughts also takes lots of time and patient and wise effort.

The lotus cannot flower without the mud, so it certainly does not help the lotus if it hates the mud. Don't hate the mind that produces sexual thoughts, or develop aversion towards yourself for having them. Nirvana is not obtained by hating Samsara.

Instead, learn that this is natural, but you can slowly learn to handle it. Develop a desire for Nirvana, and practice with a teacher.

Monks often battle sexual thoughts after decades of being celibate, and this isn't because they are ignorant or stupid. It is a tough challenge, but one worth pursuing and succeeding at.

A lot depends on why you want to control those thoughts, and your time line to achieve it in. Some people decide that it's too much to attempt at one go, and remain lay Buddhists who don't take vows of celibacy.

Sexual thoughts that result in a breaking of the precepts on sexual misconduct are more dangerous, and can be treated more easily.

Seeing the suffering of the person who is the victim of the misconduct and developing compassion for them is a very effective way to control this.

For example, if one is cheating on one's spouse, reading an internet forum where partners who get cheated on express their suicidal emotions, can for example be very sobering and shake one up to resolve to never do it.

Watching a hard hitting documentary on sex workers, and their conditions, and listening to them speak of their psychological issues, again often leading them to commit suicide can make one resolve never to visit one, and so on.

I recall a Dharma talk by Ajahn Chah who uses the same Cobra analogy.

  • Amazing answer! Props!!! :) Jul 10, 2015 at 15:42
  • Glad it was of help :-)
    – Buddho
    Jul 10, 2015 at 16:02

We don't control the thoughts that arise in our minds. But we can look mindfully at everything. Look at that which you crave but without any fantasy, romance, or delusion involved. Look at the physical process exactly as it realistically is, step by step and moment by moment.

If you can truly strip away the fantasy (delusion), reality is simply not as appealing without it. This is applicable to any sense desire.

  • I agree with the analysis of experience that you suggest, it is very effective. But I find that "reality" is far more appealing without fantasy getting in the way. Sex is better, without "me" wanting anything from it. Then I can fully give myself to the other person, which is what we both hoped for all along. I do not understand people who throw the baby out with the bathwater where anything sensual is concerned?
    – user2341
    Aug 23, 2015 at 14:25
  • @nocomprende, I think the question and answer are framed from the perspective of letting go of desire and attachment, which holds us in samsara, and how to do this from a practical standpoint.
    – Robin111
    Aug 23, 2015 at 14:33
  • Maybe having sex mindfully is the best approach. Sometimes, Doing is more effective than Abstaining. Seeing what sex really is, is the most practical thing I can imagine. Fantasizing that I can control my nature, is not very practical. Why do people think of sex differently than other things of the body? What is so deeply terrifying about it? I think it is an ego-fear of losing oneself, which is what happens during orgasm. The ego is what actually is disgusted by it. Strange.
    – user2341
    Aug 23, 2015 at 14:43
  • As you say above, "seeing what sex really is" is key. Once you see that, how to proceed? I think that is what this question is all about. Not avoiding an experience because it is scary and unknown; but because one sees what it really is. Just my opinion. :)
    – Robin111
    Aug 23, 2015 at 14:50
  • OK. Well, apparently people differ on what they see as being "what it really is". I see that it really is beautiful and necessary to share oneself with others in personal and intimate ways, but I am a Hetaira Archetype person, so I would say that. Staying trapped in oneself is not the way. "With my body, I thee worship" used to be in the Marriage Vows. I think the OP is married?
    – user2341
    Aug 23, 2015 at 14:53

Patikulamanasikara, and the nine types of cemetery contemplations, are the meditations practiced to subdue lust. Being a medical student, they should be easier for you to learn. You can train the mind to break through the Sanna 'woman' and see it instead as a collection of unattractive things.

Try to mentally analyze the body parts, or consider the body as a corpse, to see if the parts are still attractive; for example:

  • If you are attracted to a face, then consider the face without eyes, without hair, without skin, without veins and flesh attached to the skull.

  • Then examine each part separately (eyes, skin, hair, veins) to see if you still see something attractive.

  • Imagine what happens to them in a day or two, if you leave them in the open. They start to discolor, stink and rot. Imagine the brain matter rotting and pus coming out of the eye sockets of the skull. Imagine the eyes rotting and worms coming out of them.

Do the same for the other collections of body parts that you might be attracted to.


Sex is something that is deeply progrmamed inside of you and if it wasn't, our biologies wouldn't be called biology and we may have never made it past the Stone Age.

Our sexuality is something that is deeply ingrained and takes lifetimes to master, incarnating with certain proclivities, a monk in one life, a sex-fiend in another, learning new things, etc. until one is a more perfected balanced being, correcting the various facets of being.

Buddhism does have a "tranquilization" dart though that can help the rampaging elephant of sexuality from stomping on all your other good thoughts: jhana.

For all problems though, Buddhism encourages transformation at the root level (8th consciousness) along with one's volitional habits.

To fix this sexual problem--to fix any issue--it requires Enlightenment aka cutting off of afflictions aka samadhi.

THEN, and only then, will you be able to truly see what your issue is and what you need to do. Many Zen masters, after Awakening, frequented brothels, in order to master something or the other (I don't know why, only they do since they Awakened).

Anyway, we are not at that stage, we are at the stage of "tranquilizing" our problems just enough so that we can practice correectly and work towards Awakening/Immortality/Godhood.

Once you have that -- all problems will lose their sway over you and you will be able to transform them at their root.

So learn to tranquilize your problems for now by learning concentration practices, learning to calm your mind, anaerobic exercise, chakra tuning, or even using hypnosis methods to increase your satisfaction. A lot of times these frustrations can be due to a vacuum in other parts of your life (social for instance) and hanging out with your buddies or going clubbing can decrease your neediness. These are middle-ground paths that don't just tranquilize but might actually transform the sexual frustration closer to the root.

My advice to you though on this matter would be to not spend too much of your life-time fixing this leaking bag of a problem trying every single solution I listed above because the Buddhist goal is more worthy than the task of understanding sexuality and incrementally mastering your sexuality and various sexual methodologies.. especially when you can learn to just tranquilize it through jhana and thus be free of it anytime you wish by simply relaxing and tuning into your jhana meditation object.

So the overarching point of this is: master jhana because that is the Buddhist secret to tranquilizing any worldly problem. Tranquilizing is something you have to do until you have practiced vipassana enough to attain enough Wisdom/Insight/Prajna to work at the root-level. Don't dwell on your problems because the arrow stuck in your heart is the more important problem (google "arrow parable buddhism")..

Also, your chi power is connected to sexuality and sexual desire will increase when your chi power increases through the power of meditation.

Also, masturbation does help reduce this desire but if you are going for the Taoist attainments of physical immortality as well as the Buddhist spiritual immortality, then you need to reduce seminal loss and naturally become a celibate person. Hard to hear but here's an article.

  • 1
    Good answer. I do believe some Zen masters were frequenting brothels to spread the dharma to hell realms - their duty as Bodhisattvas. Some were also turning up their nose at fussy Zen tradition that obsessed with lineage and proper form. Some were also likely just confused while passing it off as crazy wisdom :-)
    – Buddho
    Jul 7, 2015 at 17:30

As some of the answers have already noted, you can't control which thoughts arise in the mind. However, to deal with your problem at hand, you must understand the process of thought and action and addiction.

Firstly, The process is a constant loop between thought then action... then a new thought- normally a stronger emotional thought- which was created by the previous- first thought and action. This new stronger emotional thought leads to a new stronger emotional action... and the loop continues until it becomes so power that you then give-in to the unwholesome act or addiction.

Secondly, how to end this loop and thus remove the power of the constant loop. The solution is mindfulness. It's awareness. I can only think of one way to increase such virtues, and that is through meditation.

With an ever-increasing state of mindfulness, you will become aware of the beginning of each and every loop in your waking life- whether it's anger, love, pain or sexual- the loop will always begin as a thought and proceed to an action, again becoming stronger and stronger.

And so, you need to focus on whatever part of the loop you are experiencing, either the thought or the action. By focusing fully on one or the other, the loop will become nomore!! The loop can not exist when you have mindfully focused on one thing- the loop can not continue. I personally would use a mantra- thinking thinking- feeling feeling. But, you need to increase you mindfulness. That is why correctly performed meditation is so important.

Good luck, my friend.



To control the sexual desire you must realize the disgusting nature of human body and temporary nature of the comfort we feel. You have to perform aversion meditation(Meditation method to realize disgusting nature of the body) .

In aversion meditation (Pilikul Bawana), we have to realize that our body is filled up with things that cannot even be bared by the person himself or herself. Load Buddha has described that our body is poring excrement form 9 different doors. eyes(2 doors), nose(2 doors), mouth(1 door), ears(2 doors), sexual organ(1 door) and anus(1 door).

Inside the body is filled with excrement, urine, unprocessed food mixed with saliva and other disgusting liquids, skeleton and muscle tissues covered with stinky cover called as skin.

Then there is another meditation method called as Asuba Meditation. In this the meditator looks at a dead body which is rotten. It is very powerful meditation method. But now we cannot see abandoned dead bodies in cemeteries now. (I think you are intelligent enough to realize that you must not kill anyone to do this meditation.)

With these meditation methods people can control their lust and sexual desire for short time period. Can be used to control until perform vipassana meditation and attain nibbana.

After attain anagami, Lust and sexual desire will completely destroyed and never arise.

  • I fail to see why doing further violence to one's nature is of any use. There is nothing whatever wrong with sex: it is how we all came to be here. It is as natural as breathing. If people could have the sex that they crave, the desire would naturally go down, just as if a person underwater too long gets to the surface, their breathing soon returns to normal. Some level of sexuality is normal and healthy. As far as I can see the OP is not a monk so he did not sign up for abstinence. (But then, I am a Hetaira Archetype person, so I would say that.)
    – user2341
    Aug 23, 2015 at 14:37

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