What does craving feel like as a set of sensations (body and mind)? I'm interested the recognition of craving as it occurs in that moment and how other people's lived experience accords with my own. Also, if there are very different forms of craving that present in entirely different ways.

Many Thanks

6 Answers 6


For me, craving is obsessive imagination and cyclical replay of a momentary situation in which a key sign of the desirable object is reconstructed by the mind and the sanna (perception or recognition) of the object by the sign occurs.

This sanna is then extended through a chain of associations into a sequence of memories, both good and bad, associated with the object. Some of these memories bring somatic components, both pleasant and painful.

The basic configuration, for me, of craving is: I am here and the object is there. I can partially recreate the object momentarily in my imagination, but the contact is brief and fleeting, and so not satisfying. This helplessness, or lack of power to bring the object fully and permanently into the now, brings about a sense of frustration. This feeling of mismatch or conflict between imagined object (with its nice associations) and the present absence of it, along with helpless frustration and hopelessness - is dukkha.

Anyway, the key component of craving, for me, is involuntarily mentally being in a different place than the here and now.


To give my simple way of thinking about this: Imagine being completely at peace and in the moment. Any thought, feeling, action that has the form "that is more important that what is here now" is craving in my book.

In terms of my mind I am distracted, sometimes I feel fuzzy-minded. Certainly there is no contentment; I'm displeased - wanting something that isn't here.

In terms of my body sensations, the breath is the biggest tell. I either stop breathing or breathe faster than normal. Sitting, exercise, sex, reading, watching TV, when the breath is away from its normal state, the mind is unbalanced and craving.


I think my take is like as in Andrei's answer, i.e.:

  • I remember something, a form -- usually a person or a place, but maybe an activity or a state
  • There's then some feeling[s] associated with that -- e.g. "I like[d] that", "that was nice", "that was me"
  • Then I think, "Yes I could miss that, feel nostalgia, if I didn't know better than to now (i.e. craving that could quickly lead to suffering). Also, that seems to be an example of I-making."

I think of that as "craving for the past". Less easy to describe concisely are "craving for the future" (possibly a.k.a. "becoming-craving"); and, whatever the mind was doing which allowed the potentially-nostalgic image to even arise (possibly a.k.a. "anusaya and asava") -- I guess that's like, if you're physically thirsty, then you're presumably continuously thirsty whether or not you're momentarily actually thinking of water.

So that's "past", "future", and "underlying tendency".

That doesn't quite match the traditional classifications -- i.e. kāma-taṇhā, bhava-taṇhā and vibhava-taṇhā (i.e. "sensuality", "becoming", and however you translate vibhava in that context -- I think either "craving for the cessation of becoming" or "craving for the becoming of cessation").

"Wanting something to stop" is probably easy to understand or to have understood, though: e.g. discomfort, personal or sympathetic.


In Theravāda-Buddhism, we understand a thing by its conditions and effects, so in Dī.A. (sumaṅgala.2) Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttavaṇṇanā Satipaṭṭhāna-Udesavaṇṇanā:

The practitioner have to comprehend a mind by 1. its object, governer-object, governer-mental-factors, co-nascence-conditions, state, Kramma, resultants, Kiriya, etc., 2. impermanent, etc., and 3. in citta-anupassanā-satipaṭṭhāna "mind has passion", etc.

According to above explanation, the practitioner should have understood 8 Lobha-Mind-Arising, lobha-cittuppāda, with their conditions and effects in the dependent origination cycle to catch arising caving.

The example resource:

The path of purification, aggregate chapter, consciousness (90) (91) (92):

Tattha lobhamūlaṃ somanassupekkhādiṭṭhigatasaṅkhārabhedato aṭṭhavidhaṃ.

Ñ(XIV,90): II. (a) Herein, (22)-(29) that rooted in greed is of eight kinds, being classed according to joy, equanimity, [false] view, and prompting,

Seyyathidaṃ, somanassasahagataṃ diṭṭhigatasampayuttaṃ asaṅkhāraṃ sasaṅkhārañca, tathā diṭṭhigatavippayuttaṃ.

Ñ: that is to say: (22) when accompanied by joy it is either associated-with-[false-] view and unprompted, or (23) prompted; or (24) it is dissociated-from-[false-] view and likewise [unprompted or (25) prompted];

Upekkhāsahagataṃ diṭṭhigatasampayuttaṃ asaṅkhāraṃ sasaṅkhārañca, tathā diṭṭhigatavippayuttaṃ.

Ñ: and (26) when accompanied-by-equanimity it is either associated-with-[false-] view and unprompted, or (27) prompted; or (28) it is dissociated-from-[false-] view and likewise [unprompted, or (29) prompted].

Yadā hi ‘‘natthi kāmesu ādīnavo’’ti (ma. ni. 1.469) ādinā nayena micchādiṭṭhiṃ purakkhatvā haṭṭhatuṭṭho kāme vā paribhuñjati, diṭṭhamaṅgalādīni vā sārato pacceti sabhāvatikkheneva anussāhitena cittena, tadā paṭhamaṃ akusalacittaṃ uppajjati.

Ñ(XIV,91): (22) When a man is happy and content in placing wrong view foremost of the sort beginning 'There is no danger in sense desires' (M.i,307), and either enjoys sense desires with consciousness that in its own individual essence is eager without being urged, or believes auspicious sights, etc., have a [real substantial] core, then the first kind of unprofitable consciousness arises;

Yadā mandena samussāhitena cittena, tadā dutiyaṃ.

Ñ: (23) when it is with consciousness that is sluggish and urged on, then it is the second kind.

Yadā micchādiṭṭhiṃ apurakkhatvā kevalaṃ haṭṭhatuṭṭho methunaṃ vā sevati, parasampattiṃ vā abhijjhāyati, parabhaṇḍaṃ vā harati sabhāvatikkheneva anussāhitena cittena, tadā tatiyaṃ.

Ñ: (24) But when & man is happy and content only, without placing wrong view foremost, and indulges in sexual intercourse, or covets others' good fortune, or steals others' goods, with consciousness that in its own individual essence is eager without being urged, then it is the third kind.

Yadā mandena samussāhitena cittena, tadā catutthaṃ.

Ñ: (25) When it is with the consciousness that is sluggish and urged on, then it is the fourth kind.

Yadā pana kāmānaṃ vā asampattiṃ āgamma aññesaṃ vā somanassahetūnaṃ abhāvena catūsupi vikappesu somanassarahitā honti, tadā sesāni cattāri upekkhāsahagatāni uppajjantīti

Ñ: (26)-(29) But when the consciousnesses are devoid of joy in these four instances through encountering no excellence in the sense desires, or through want of any such cause for joy, then the remaining four, which are accompanied by equanimity, arise.

evaṃ somanassupekkhādiṭṭhigatasaṅkhārabhedato aṭṭhavidhaṃ lobhamūlaṃ veditabbaṃ.

Ñ: So that rooted in greed should be understood as of eight kinds, being classed according to joy, equanimity, [false] view and prompting.

The Co-nascence of lobha-minds are 22 mental factors: (Universals-7) 1. Contact*, 2. Feeling, 3. Perception, 4. Volition, 5. One-Pointedness, 6. Psychic life, 7. Attention, (Particulars-6) 1. Initial Application, 2. Sustained Application, 3. Decision, 4. Effort, 5. Joy, 6. Conation (Immorals-9) 1. Delusion, 2. Shamelessness, 3. Fearlessness (of consequences, or to commit wrong), 4. Restlessness, 5. Attachment, 6. Misbelief, 7. Conceit, 8. Sloth, 9. Torpor. See: Abhidhmmatthasaṅgaha Chapter 2 for a brief explanation, and see the path of purification for the explanation in detail.

The pre-nascence matters of lobha-minds are Hadayavatthu and Hadayavatthu has its own Co-nascence as well.

The practitioner also has to know the dependent origination as well.

It's almost impossible to understand all of that knowledge with no mistaking by one's self without Jhāna meditation and the professional master's taking care. When I ask the teacher of Pa-Auk about mental factors, he answered me whether I have to meditate Jhāna to get the answer. That's why I often recommend Pa-Auk.


I'll add in my own response to this one. As a (mostly) adult most of my cravings can be addressed immediately. I feel like a coffee I go get a coffee. I want to step outside then I step outside. I'm subject to many many mild cravings that I just address, respond to and thus temporarily cancel out. For me these kind of cravings feel like a slight absence that is almost too slight to miss - almost like a gap. Just what I experience.


What does craving feel like?

There "are" three kinds of craving: craving after sensuality (objects of the six senses: world) after becoming (existing) and after not-becoming (non-existence). These "are" the three kinds of craving (tanha, thist).

One can split them also into 108, dividing it per past, present, future, senses, in-, outwardly

Watch out of which arises when touched by the answer.

What does craving feel like now?

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