There must be a desire to even bring a glass of water to drink. Without desire, no movement is possible. First, there is a sensation of thirst; out of that thirst, there is the desire for drinking water.

So, when desire is the fuel to carry out normal daily activities, what does it mean that Buddha didn't have desires?

My guess is When there was a sensation of thirst, Buddha used to not identify himself with the sensation. In other words, there was an absence ego-identity with the thirst. But again, the desire to drink water, eat, move, etc. was arising. From where it was arising?

Generalizing it better, the question turns up, Can there be an action free from the taint of desire? Because desires seem to be driving force of any action. Doesn't it? If there can be, what is the nature of that action?

  • actions based on alobha, adosa, amoha. See also right action based on right effort.
    – user11235
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 8:40

3 Answers 3


Desire is a normal feeling thats why Buddha chose the middle way ,if you don't eat the desire to eat will definitely arise, its the identification with desire that poisons it as well as identification with any feeling or more accurately the attachment

Explained well here

Root of all things

.Thus effortless action is free from identification with desire .Its simple spontaneous and according to what the moment brings ,its not forced on oneself because with forcing the desire becomes identified with a person who wants to fulfill it, thus the attachment and suffering .When the desire arises and is simply known ,doing works on its own level.You can think of it in terms that desire is necessary just for action to take place and not as a possessive mental state.

Notion of skillful desire

Also check this answer

Attainment of enlightenment without desire


Desire, in itself, is a general type of phenomena. Any volitional action is fueled by desire of some kind. The Buddha tells us that certain kinds of desire are conditions for the arising of dukkha; what are those kinds? Kama Tanha, Bhava Tanha, and Vibhava Tanha.

The main feature of these three kinds of desire is that they are rooted in ignorance and cognitive distorsions; they are based on wrong expectations and interpretations about our subjective experience and reality. The interpretation behind those three kinds of desires makes us see conditioned phenomena as self, as completely satisfactory, as permanent, and as inherently beautiful.

As Arahants continue thinking, speaking and executing bodily actions, we can see that some kind of desire remains; namely, all of those that are not born out of ignorance.

In sum, desire is not a taint in itself; ignorant desire (tanha, in pali) is a taint and a condition for the continuation of dukkha.

Kind regards!


Wise desire vs ignorant desire.

The problem the Buddha identified is ignorance desire, called 'tanha'.

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