Namo Buddhaya.

According to the Mahayana Pratityasamutpadavibhanganirdesa Sutra, there are three cravings: craving for the sense-realm, craving for the form-realm, and craving for the formless-realm. But I couldn't find any definition of craving itself in the scriptures.

I am trying to understand what is craving by reading or finding the examples of craving.If you give examples of craving then you will find that craving can not be defined without mentioning self or I. For example I want ice cream , I am good , I am bad, I am good because of this, I am bad because of this, I love music, I want to watch movies, I want to travel etc...

Therefore it seems to me that non-understanding of anatta is at the root of craving. In other words if I declare the aggregates as worthless then then there will be revulsion and dispassion which is nothing but the end of craving. Further I can say that practice of anatta directly leads to cessation of craving.

I have two questions in this regard:

  1. Can we define craving without mentioning self?

  2. Is it true that practice of anatta directly leads to cessation of craving?

  • Your questions are often mixed up based on what you are studying. The causes difficulty in answering your questions. In Pali, there are three becomings: sensual-becoming, form-becoming and formless-becoming. As for the three cravings, in Pali, they are generally craving for sensual, craving to be & craving not to be. You should provide a link to what you are referencing to make answering your question easier. Its seems like you are posting Mahayana sutras yet want a Theravada answer. Apr 20, 2018 at 20:21
  • @Dhammadhatu ok. I will surely posts more links in question. I am not looking at Buddhism as Thervada or Mahayana as of now. Apr 20, 2018 at 22:22

2 Answers 2


When the thought arises: "I want ice cream", the "want" is fueled by craving (tanha) but the arising of the idea of "I" is attachment (upadana) and becoming (bhava) rather than craving (tanha). The Mahayana sutra you are studying says:

There are four attachments: attachment to sense pleasures, attachment to views, attachment to virtue and practice, attachment to self-theories.

The Pali suttas distinguish between craving and becoming, as follows:

The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving to be, craving not to be: This, friend Visakha, is the origination of self-identification described by the Blessed One.

MN 44

For self-identification or suffering to arise, craving alone is not enough. As described in MN 44, above, for self-identification or suffering to arise, the craving must lead to new becoming (bhava). The idea of 'I' or 'I exist' is becoming.

Here, suttas such as SN 12.12 and MN 148 clearly explain the idea of "I" arises after the arising of craving and that there can be craving without the idea of "I". Therefore, craving can be defined without mentioning self, as follows:

Venerable sir, who craves?

“Not a valid question,” the Blessed One replied. “I do not say, ‘One craves.’ Since I do not speak thus, if one should ask me, ‘Venerable sir, with what as condition does craving come to be?’ this would be a valid question. To this the valid answer is: ‘With feeling as condition, craving comes to be; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, becoming…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.’

SN 12.12

It follows the non-understanding of anatta is not at the root of craving; even though the realisation of anatta, together with the realisation of impermanence (anicca) & unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), will end craving.

If the mind realises the aggregates as 'worthless' (as described in SN 22.95) there will certainly be revulsion and dispassion which is nothing but the end of craving. However the realisation of the aggregates as "worthless" is not 'anatta'. It is 'unsatisfactoriness' ('dukkha'). In other words, ideas of "I" could still possibly arise even though the aggregates are declared as worthless (asāra).


An example is there in the paticca-samuppada itself.

Vedana Paccaya Tanha

Feeling gives rise to craving. So in reality there's no "I like icecream".

It should be

  • liking arises due to taste
  • liking arises due to sight
  • liking arises due to sound etc.

There's no practicing Anatta. You practice mindfulness and the Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta natures are revealed. Practicing the noble eightfold path leads to the cutting off of craving and cessation of suffering. Mindfulness is a part of the noble eightfold path.

  • You have explained what gives rise to craving but you have not defined what is craving? Give me examples of craving. Apr 20, 2018 at 15:47
  • craving is the liking itself. Liking for sights, sounds, smells, tastes etc. are examples Apr 20, 2018 at 15:49
  • Ok. You are saying liking arises.No self is involved.It is a fact that liking can not be separated from what is liked.I like a girl. You say I do not exist. Based on that it is obvious that the girl also doesn't exist. Now you are saying that only liking arises and no self arises. That is impossible because you are separating girl from the liking of the girl. That can not happen. You are making arising causeless. Apr 20, 2018 at 16:12
  • Girl is not real. What you call a 'girl' is just sights, sounds, tactile sensations etc. Liking is different from what is liked. Ex: sound(physical) is different from the liking(mental) that arises due to sound. Apr 20, 2018 at 16:16
  • 1
    I referred to SN 12.12 in my answer, which explains what Sankha Kulathantille sought to explain. Craving arises before the idea of "I". Also, the idea of "a girl" is "birth" ("jati"), i.e., the production (abhinibbatti) of ideas of "beings" (sattānaṃ) from the superficial appearance of the aggregates (khandhānaṃ pātubhāvo). Dependent origination is something very subtle. There are twelve conditions. The idea of: "I like & want a girl" spans the five conditions of feeling, craving, attachment, becoming & birth. It is not merely the one condition of craving. Apr 20, 2018 at 20:55

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