How does craving (taṇhā) manifest with respect to neutral feelings?

In Dependent Origination (or dependent co-arising, however you'd like to call it), it is said that Craving (taṇhā) follows on the heels of Feeling (vedanā). Feeling, in general, is of 3 main types: pleasant, unpleasant, neutral.

I do see how craving/aversion manifests with respect to both pleasant and unpleasant feeling. But how does it relate to neutral feeling? How is it that I either lust after or try to avoid something that is truly neutral?

4 Answers 4


There is more subtlety to the mind's relationship to feelings than only craving or aversion. The Vedanās and the underlying tendencies that arise are described in the Pahana Sutta (SN 36.3) like this:

In the case of pleasant feelings, O monks, the underlying tendency to lust should be given up; in the case of painful feelings, the underlying tendency to resistance (aversion) should be given up; in the case of neither-painful-nor-pleasant feelings, the underlying tendency to ignorance should be given up. Pahana Sutta: Giving Up

Neutral feeling can give rise to boredom, restlessness and confusion which are clearly obstacles to insight and equanimity.


Taṇhā doesn't automatically have to relate to neutral feelings. Remember, the twelve links of dependent origination are talking about nessisary causation, not sufficient causation, so when the Buddha says

[W]ith feeling as condition, craving [comes to be]

the meaning is that feeling is necessary for craving to arise, and without feeling, craving can never arise. But it does not mean that if there is feeling, craving will always arise.

  • 1
    That's a very good point. The source texts continually surprise me with how explicitly logical and complete they are. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 21:37

Neutral feeling can be course in two ways. for normally it course to ignorance (creates Ego). for Buddhas(pure minds) it is not course to ignorance .
For eg. Normal person feels Neutral feeling as i feel.(something). but for Buddhas its only feeling.


Craving can arise in respect to any type of feeling.

There there three types of craving (tanha), namely, craving for sensual pleasures (kama-tanha), craving to be (bhava-tanha) and craving not to be (vibhava-tanha) - SN 56.11.

The word 'craving' is not the opposite of the word 'aversion'. To the contrary, 'aversion' is a type of craving, namely, craving not to be.

Thus, MN 148 says there can be 'gratification' or 'lust' towards neutral feeling.

When one is touched by a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, if one does not understand as it actually is the origination, the disappearance, the gratification (assāda), the danger and the escape in regard to that feeling, then the underlying tendency to ignorance lies within one.

MN 148

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