What is the difference between Tanha and Upadana?

Why Buddha did not say Tanha Paccaya Bhava (instead of Upadana Paccaya Bhava)?

And there are three kinds of Tanha in Sutta (Kama, Bhava, Vibhava): please explain how these three link to Upadana?

I read the topic Why do the Noble Truths talk about 'craving', instead of about 'attachment'? but that does not answer my question -- I want answers which specifically discuss this in line with three categories of Tanha with Upadana in Dependent Origination.

Please give me a practical answer than a technical answer which are found in many places.


4 Answers 4


Here is an answer that is based on my study and meditation. It is not citing any official sources and trying to stay away from technical explanation in favor of real-life examples.

-- What is the difference between Tanha and Upadana?

To use a traditional example. Say you met a very nice person. Let's say that person had a beautiful smile and sweet soft voice. Next day, you suddenly get a flash of that person's smile in your mind, and you "hear" the sound of voice playing in your head, all this accompanied with a desire to see that person again. That's tanha. You also feel a somewhat painful sensation in your chest because you're missing that person. That's dukkha.

Then, on the basis of that flash, you start obsessively thinking about the smile, the voice, the hair, the body, the manner of walking - you begin inwardly attending to as many features of the person as you can remember. You also start thinking about the place you met the person yesterday, hoping that if you go there again, there is a chance you will see him or her again. That's upadana.

-- Upadana Paccaya Bhava

The way it works, in my understanding, is like this: the moment you start thinking about going to that location to meet that person, you start thinking about future. In that imaginary future, there is you ("I") that you imagine will experience the pleasant moment of seeing the pretty person again. When you do that you create a sense of identity that spans a period of time from a point in the past to a point in the future. It's like you subconsciously say to yourself: "First I was here, without that person", "Then I will do A,B,C according to my plan", "Then I will be there - with that person", "Then I will enjoy". This personal ego-centric goal-making, projecting, and planning (in my opinion) is what causes Bhava - "becoming" or "individuating" or "identifying".

-- there are three kinds of Tanha in Sutta (Kama, Bhava, Vibhava): please explain how these three link to Upadana?

Same way as in the above. In case of kama-upadana you keep thinking about pleasant sensations, your thinking and action is permeated by craving to a pleasant sensation - that's kama-upadana. For example you keep getting a flash of kissing the person (tanha) and you start fantasizing about the circumstances under which you two would be kissing (upadana).

In case of bhava-upadana you keep obsessing about being in a certain position, living in a certain way, having something in your possession. Your thinking and action is permeated by craving to attain something. For example, you keep fantasizing about having married the person and how you two would be living together, what that would look like.

In case of vibhava-upadana you keep obsessing about something in your life now that you want to get rid of. Your thinking and action is permeated by craving to get rid of something. For example, you keep thinking about your extra weight, how bad it makes you look, and how much nicer it would be to get rid of it.

  • Based on this answer can I ask a question about how we can go about a relationship with a person without falling pray to Upadana and Tanha? Or there will be none is these two things are considered?
    – user13135
    May 24, 2018 at 10:30
  • True love is full acceptance and metta/mudita; it is equivalent to Bodhicitta - the mind of Enlightenment. True love gives to its object the freedom to be him/her-self. It does not have elements of obsession or craving, those are sicknesses of mind.
    – Andriy Volkov
    May 24, 2018 at 12:08

After understanding this answer, you will realize there are a lot of sutta, which explaining 3 Taṇhā with 4 Upādāna. You can use this explanation in everywhere of Tipiṭaka, i.e. brahmajālasutta because the sutta I linked below is just the example.

What is the difference between Tanha and Upadana?

Taṇhā is beginning-lobha, Upādāna is often-arising-lobha after that Taṇhā. Taṇhā is like a slightly touching-hand; Upādāna is like that hand which becomes a tight grip hand.

Taṇhā condition Upādāna, Upādāna condition Bhava, so everything, between Taṇhā until Bhava, is Upādāna and Bhava, such as in Sutta. Dī. Ma. Mahānidānasutta, which I will quote below.

Why Buddha did not say Tanha Paccaya Bhava (instead of Upadana Paccaya Bhava)?

Because just a beginning attachment (Taṇhā) is not enough to build Bhava, actually, often and various attachments are required to build Bhava. Such as in Sutta. Dī. Ma. Mahānidānasutta, Dependent on Craving Section (which is explained as Sutta. Ma. Mul. Mahādukkhakkhandhasutta):

(There are many explanations in those 2 links which I made above, please see inside them for the information between Taṇhā until Bhava.)

"Now, craving [Taṇhā] is dependent on feeling, seeking [Upādāna] is dependent on craving, acquisition [Upādāna] is dependent on seeking, ascertainment [Upādāna] is dependent on acquisition, desire and passion [Upādāna] is dependent on ascertainment, attachment [Upādāna] is dependent on desire and passion, possessiveness [Upādāna] is dependent on attachment, stinginess [dosa-typed mind factor] is dependent on possessiveness, defensiveness [Sīlabbata-Upādāna & kamma-Bhava] is dependent on stinginess, (the example of defensiveness:) and because of defensiveness, dependent on defensiveness, various evil, unskillful phenomena come into play: the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies.

Note: This is the reason why sotāpanna cannot birth in apāya anymore because sotāpanna doesn't have Sīlabbata-Upādāna which causes of breaking precept like in the end effect of above quote.

If you can not understand Upādāna from above quote and it's the explanation in Mahānidānasutta, Dependent on Craving Section, please see Mahādukkhakkhandhasutta, which fully explaining about Upādāna until karma-Bhava.

And there are three kinds of Tanha in Sutta (Kama, Bhava, Vibhava): please explain how these three link to Upadana?

In Mahādukkhakkhandhasutta kāma-Taṇhā, which caving "five strands of sensuality", conditions Bhava/Vibhava-Taṇhā, then these 3 Taṇhās condition Upādāna-until-Jāti:

Sights known by the eye that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing.

Cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā (samudaya-saccaniddesa in saccapabba of mahāsatipaṭṭhānasutta) kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā

After above quote, whole left Mahādukkhakkhandhasutta's content are Bhava/Vibhava-Taṇhā which condition Upādāna-until-Jāti.

Bhava-taṅhā&Vibhava-Taṇhā are connect to Diṭṭhi/Sīlabbata/Attavāda-Upādāna directly in Sutta. Ma. Mū. Cūlasīhanādasutta:

  1. "Bhikkhus, there are these two views: the view of being (bhava-Diṭṭhi) and the view of non-being (Vibhava-Diṭṭhi). Any recluses or brahmans who rely on the view of being, adopt the view of being, accept the view of being, are opposed to the view of non-being. Any recluses or brahmans who rely on the view of non-being, adopt the view of non-being, accept the view of non-being, are opposed to the view of being.5

  2. "Any recluses or brahmans who do not understand as they actually are the origin, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger (the same as in Mahādukkhakkhandhasutta because they are connect to each other) and the escape6 in the case of these two views are affected by lust, affected by hate, affected by delusion, affected by craving, affected by clinging, without vision, given to favoring and opposing, and they delight in and enjoy proliferation. They are not freed from birth, aging and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair; they are not freed from suffering, I say.


  1. "Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of clinging (Upādāna). What four? Clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rules and observances, and clinging to a doctrine of self.

Actually, 3 Taṇhā come together: you want to feel good (kāma), so you want to born as a feel-good-able person (bhava); And you don't want to born as a feel-bad-able person (Vibhava), because you don't want to feel bad.

Then kāma-Taṇhā condition kāma-Upādāna; Bhava/Vibhava-Taṇhā condition uccheda/sassata-Diṭṭhi-Upādāna & Sīlabbata-Upādāna, which depending on Attavāda-Upādāna. Please see the whole Sutta. Ma. Mū. Cūlasīhanādasutta, it is very clear inside that sutta.

Atthakathā/abhidhamma-teacher just connected sutta together. The reader will misunderstand of Tipiṭaka and Atthakathā, when they still think "these sutta are conflicting those sutta". In fact, they are studying Tipiṭaka by the inefficient study system, reading, so they feel like Tipiṭaka is conflicting each other.


After this I will let you see "you can use this explanation in everywhere of Tipiṭaka".

Sutta. Saṃ. Ma. Dhammacakkappavattanasutta:

Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkhaṃ ariya·saccaṃ: Jāti·pi dukkhā, jarā·pi dukkhā (byādhi·pi dukkho) maraṇam·pi dukkhaṃ, a·p·piyehi sampayogo dukkho, piyehi vippayogo dukkho, yampicchaṃ na labhati tam·pi dukkhaṃ; saṃkhittena pañc·Upādāna·k·khandhā dukkhā.

Furthermore, bhikkhus, this is the dukkha ariya·sacca(2): Jāti is dukkha(6), jarā is dukkha(6) (sickness is dukkha) maraṇa is dukkha(6), association with what is disliked is dukkha, dissociation from what is liked is dukkha, not to get what one wants is dukkha; in short, the five Upādāna(4)'k'khandhas are dukkha(3).

Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkha·samudayaṃ ariya·saccaṃ: Y·āyaṃ Taṇhā ponobbhavikā nandi·rāga·sahagatā tatra·tatr·ābhinandinī, seyyathidaṃ: kāma·Taṇhā, Bhava·Taṇhā, Vibhava·Taṇhā.

Furthermore, bhikkhus, this is the dukkha·samudaya ariya·sacca(1): this Taṇhā leading to rebirth(7), (because Taṇhā) connected with desire and enjoyment (8) (this is Upādāna; see Upādāna description in Mahānidānasutta, which I quoted above), (by Taṇhā) finding delight here or there(=idiom:indefinite=Upādāna)(5), that is to say: kāma-Taṇhā, Bhava-Taṇhā and Vibhava-Taṇhā.

Above, buddha taught dukkha·samudayaṃ ariya·saccaṃ Taṇhā condition dukkha·ariya·saccaṃ(2) pañc·Upādāna·k·khandhā dukkhā by Upādāna(4) [often attaching/Taṇhā finding delight here or there(5)] in khandhā dukkhā(3); therefore Jāti·pi dukkhā/jarā·pi dukkhā/maraṇam·pi dukkhaṃ(6) [new upatti-Bhava], which are the last effects in paṭiccasamuppāda, are included in dukkha·ariya·saccaṃ(2) and they are explained as new upatti-Bhava in this statement "Taṇhā leading to rebirth(new upatti-Bhava)"(7), which are the same Taṇhā's descriptions as it's follow statements "Taṇhā connected with desire and enjoyment(8)" and "Taṇhā finding delight here or there(5)".

Summary: (6)=(3) which depend on (4); and (4) is explained by (5), so when say (5) condition (7), it is the same as say (4) condition (7). Therefore buddha taught Upādāna-khandha, instead of Taṇhā-khandha.

  • @SarathW Please help me to know, which part of this answer that you can not understand. I have to quote a very short text, because of the easier to read. But, actually, you need to understand the whole of each sutta I linked above, to understand my explanation.
    – Bonn
    May 23, 2018 at 15:16
  • Thanks. Both of your answers are helpful except way Buddha said Tanha lead to Bhava.SN 56.11 the Buddha did say Tanha Pacaya Bhava.dhammawheel.com/…
    – SarathW
    May 23, 2018 at 21:49

Tanha is liking sense-pleasures, liking for becoming and liking for non-becoming. Upadana is clinging for sense-pleasures, wrong views, rites-and-rituals and self-doctrine.

Upadana is at the level of clinging whereas Tanha is mere liking of the above mentioned.

Ex: you see an expensive watch in a shop and you start to like it. That is Tanha. That liking leads to wanting it for yourself. That is Upadana. That wanting leads to trying to buy it, buying it or trying to steal it, stealing it. That is Bhava(Karma).


What is the difference between Tanha and Upadana?

Tanha is the craving of once mind towards worldly things,due to that craving a bond's born towards those worldly things,that bond's called ''upadana''..

Why Buddha did not say Tanha Paccaya Bhava (instead of Upadana Paccaya Bhava)?

As i said above due to Tanha it makes upadana or bonds,When it has bonds being go life to life continuously that calls Bhava, being get birth life to life due to Bhava..

And there are three kinds of Tanha in Sutta (Kama, Bhava, Vibhava): please explain how these three link to Upadana?

  • Kama tanha - this makes due to craving on five senses
  • Bhawa tanha -this is the craving to go life by life through ''sansara'' and get confort
  • Vibhawa tanha - craving to get confort thinking ''there is no life or birth after this life''

Bonds make in mind due to these thrice are the upadana make by them as described above

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .