In the Buddha's teachings we learn how to see things as a product of our own mind, for example, if you "fall in love" everything happens in your own mind, the other person is nothing but an external stimulus, so in theory if we tam our mind we can live in this world without suffering wordly consequences of attachments and desires.

Even with this deep knowledge, in Buddhism we are encouraged to abandon desires, wealth and go to homeless life (for monks!). So the question is: Is it impossible to tame the mind completely? Is that an utopia? Because if one could tame his mind completely, there would be no need to abandon things as the way he relates to them would be completely free and deattached.

If material things have the potential to create problems, does it mean a full tamed mind is impossible?

  • There are various levels of Buddhist teachings and they are sometimes contradictory. Abandoning desires is central in so-called Hinayana level, whereas on Mahayana level it is not required. See this question
    – Rabbit
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 15:52
  • good point, but my main doubt here is: If one can truly tame his mind, why the need to abandon things?
    – konrad01
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 15:58
  • Because we are beginners. It is for our own safety that we first train in controlled conditions before we are thrown into a real mayhem. Before we learn to ride the tiger it is safer to first avoid the tiger :)
    – Rabbit
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 16:02

7 Answers 7


In Zen we are not taught to abandon things. Instead we are taught to let go of our attachment to things. The key here is that it is not the things themselves that make us suffer, but it is our attachment to these things that make us suffer. Eliminating the things themselves is different than learning to liberate yourself from your own attachment to these things.

Three men sit in a lions den waiting to be eaten by a hungry lion. The first man hides in the corner trembling in fear of the lion. The second man stands strong ready to face the lion and kill it. The third man is liberated from attachments and is not in fear of the lion, nor does he want to kill the lion. In the present moment the third man is filled with joy and happiness for he is alive.

Abandoning things, is like the man trying to get rid of the lion. At first it may seem like the best choice, but there is a middle way between the first two men.

  • Good point for Zen, I would like to hear other schools as well, but I really like your answer
    – konrad01
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 16:23

The lay life is not conducive to the practice. Imagine you are studying for an exam and you have 2 places to go to. 1. A quiet library. 2. A stripper club with loud music. In which environment will you be able to study more effectively? One can still study in the stripper club, but it's going to be much difficult and not as effective compared to studying in the library.

If what you are really asking is why someone who becomes an Arahath in lay life gets ordained within seven days, it is because the holy life is what is most natural for a being without defilements. There's nothing in his mind that keeps him tied to the lay life. It's like if you hold down an air bubble underwater using a cup and then when you turn it over, the air bubble will go up and enter the atmosphere. There's nothing that holds it down underwater.


Can you tame the mind? Yes. Completely? Probably.

All you need to do is stay away from the 'hindrances' (stuff that makes it hard to focus), notice something, notice you noticing the thing, stay with the feeling of you noticing the thing (not the thing tself) and when distractions come up, make them disappear and go back to the thing.


Is it impossible to tame the mind completely?

Yes. Nibbana is when the mind is completely tamed. Then,

  • all unwholesome roots, defilements are uprooted,
  • all fetters are broken
  • you do not provide nutrients for future existence
  • etc.

Is that an utopia? Because if one could tame his mind completely, there would be no need to abandon things as the way he relates to them would be completely free and detached.

The mind gets generates 3 unwholesome roots, fetters, etc. based on materiality. E.g. you have a beautiful new car. You get attached to this. This creates negativity which means getting totally tamed is moving a bit further away.

If material things have the potential to create problems, does it mean a full tamed mind is impossible?

As long as you have attachment to materiality a fully tamed mind is not possible. Once you mentally get detached is only taming your mind is possible. Being meing attached to something translates to physically possessing what your are attached to. Physically letting go also helps being some what, but not totally, mentally detached. Practicing meditation and understanding now craving dependently arises from feelings and how feeling arises due to contact and how Ignorance of the 4 Noble Truths. This is what tames your mind fully.


I believe the placement of the 3 scopes is not arbitrary. Graded steps to enlightenment. Wisdom and proper practice are key to personal growth so that one may then attend to the other wing - compassion for others.

I believe it is our nature to assist one another. The most efficient way to do that is to cut our own needs and desires completely (to the bare bones at least). In my former version of this life I was devastated to lose my family, my career, and my health all at once. As a Buddhist it was an actual advantage. Attachments were gone. But that's not how everyone could or should do it and it's not what the Buddha was implying. It is merely the absolute we could achieve. And as the acorn should be viewed as the oak ... we should be viewed as our most efficient selves.


Complete taming of mind is possible. Buddhism teaches to detach one's mind from earthly desires so as to become free. In most literature and teachings, it shows that there were many instances where people living ordinary lives with families tamed their minds completely and opened doors to nibbhana.

This is called 'Sovahan'. It is one of the early stages of the path to nirvana (also, nibbhana). It is not easy for someone living a 'gihi' (an ordinary civil life;not a monk) to completely detach themselves from the world because of responsibilities they hold in regards to their families and the society. If your kid falls ill, a completely detached person would not worry or panic. I don't see how that would work in the context of a social being. Either it becomes hard to tame the mind in such a case or the person will leave behind that ordinary life to live an ordained life (doesn't necessarily have to be a monk).

Most people who were able to tame their minds even when living a normal life were special people during Lord Buddha's time who understood the teachings really easily once taught.

In the contemporary world, it would be hard for a person to understand and detach themselves completely due to all the stimuli from the surrounding environment. Too many distractions. This is why monks live away from their families after renouncing all their belongings.

It is a first step that forces them to live a detached life because now they do not have to care for any loved ones or worry about possessions. Now they are free to focus on meditation and taming their mind.

It is simply a fast track to detachment by reconditioning the environment to remove distractions.


A full tamed mind would mean a full tamed body, as they are both one and a part of each other.

Impossible? Absolutely not. There is always the possibility an individual has achieved such an incredible feat at some point in time or space. Who knows, there could be many. Impossible is an absolute word, once you believe in impossibility then you limit yourself from potential of the reality. We have breached many things widely considered impossible. If something is within reason, then it is worth striving for.

On another note, mastering is another word for 'taming'; which expressly implies learning and/or discipline is the path to taming the mind.

If you are interested in cultivating yourself in that manner, then a good start is understanding desires, why you get them and act upon them when the little voice reminds you shouldn't. Like getting fast food from a monopolised company when there is a small business that does food way better.

Cultivate in harmony

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