i was reading the scripture Uninstructed Assutavā Sutta (SN 12:61):

“Monks, an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person might grow disenchanted with this body composed of the four great elements, might grow dispassionate toward it, might gain release from it. Why is that? Because the growth & decline, the taking up & putting down of this body composed of the four great elements are apparent.

“But as for what’s called ‘mind,’ ‘intellect,’ or ‘consciousness,’ the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is unable to grow disenchanted with it, unable to grow dispassionate toward it, unable to gain release from it. Why is that? For a long time this has been relished, appropriated, and grasped by the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person as, ‘This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.’ Thus the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is unable to grow disenchanted with it, unable to grow dispassionate toward it, unable to gain release from it.

this is difficult to apprehend. i am not capable of willing myself to stop using intoxicants, so how does this dhamma make sense? i will have to wait until i die to be released? that's my interpretation...

what exactly grows dispassionate towards the body anyway?


  • 1
    When you say, "i am not capable of willing myself to stop..." that's a declaration of intent. Action (karma) will follow. The etymology of the word "addict" is "to declare". It's from Latin, another useful dead language. Oct 7, 2022 at 16:40
  • That’s not intent...I’m commenting on my self situation
    – blue_ego
    Oct 7, 2022 at 16:45
  • it is more like “why can’t I stop this?”
    – blue_ego
    Oct 7, 2022 at 16:47
  • If I say, “I will stop this illicit behavior...” that would be a lie
    – blue_ego
    Oct 7, 2022 at 16:50
  • Nobody can save me, not even the supreme Mara
    – blue_ego
    Oct 7, 2022 at 16:52

4 Answers 4


i was reading the scripture

This answer mentioned:

I personally use ... Dharmafarer for in-depth analysis

There's an analysis there of many though not all suttas, including SN 12.61.

I'll quote here what it says about the bit you cited in the OP, but it's also worth reading it all -- it's not long, there are footnotes, and I find the careful formatting makes it easier to read, without missing details, but also seeing the structure:

The three graspings

The Assutava Sutta says that the uninstructed worldling may be able to regard the body with disgust as its change and decay are clearly apparent, but not so in the case of the mind. He clings to the mind, thinking, “This is mine (etam mama); this I am (eso’ham asmi); this is my self (eso me attā).”

The Saṁyutta Commentary calls them the three graspings (gāha) and explains them in terms of craving, conceit and views. The self is held to (ajjhosita) by being swallowed up by craving; it is owned (mamāyita) by being owned by craving; and it is grasped (parāmaṭṭha) by being grasped through views.

“This is mine” (etam mama) is the grasp of craving (taṇhā,gāha);
“This I am” (eso’ham asmi) is the grasp of conceit (māna,gāha); and
“This is my self” (eso me attā) is the grasp of views (diṭṭhi,gāha).

“The grasp of craving” here includes the 108 thoughts of craving, (etc.)

I don't know how well you know all these terms and their contexts? What the Dhamma says about them?

In summary I think it's related to doctrines about anatta and "identity-view".

this is difficult to apprehend

Is it?

There are nearly two hundred topics tagged on this site, maybe it is hard to pin down, or something.

i am not capable of willing myself to stop using intoxicants, so how does this dhamma make sense?

I'm not sure how that ("I am not capable of willing etc.") relates to the quote -- except that that topic is presumably a preoccupation, like a lens through which you see things. Like when I lost a loved one, that was my immediate experience of dukkha and the lens or context through which I read and applied the dhamma.

Re. the phrase in the title, i.e. "self using intoxicants", I think that the anatta doctrine explains that what a person might consider "self" is in fact a conditioned set of aggregates -- which may arise from conditions/causes/components, and ceases when those cease.

In fact I think the same is true of a habit of using intoxicants -- the habit is conditioned, temporary, and ceases sooner or later (often but not always before the end of someone's life), e.g. in a different environment or when something else changes or arises or ceases.

And I suspect that this kind of habit is related to -- causes and is caused by -- self-views: "I have a habit", "I cannot will", "I like the intoxicant", "I don't like something else", "they can't tell me what to do", and so on.

You (and the sutta) may be right, when you say that it doesn't seem like something "I" can do.

Doing way with "identity view" is, according to Theravada, a significant first step towards enlightenment, not trivial:

I suspect that major addiction may be overcome, not just from some "internal" change like "will power", but when something in the "external" environment changes -- new knowledge or responsibility or incentive, new (and better) friends, losing a former antagonist, changing location so as to make the intoxicant unavailable, maybe something like that.

With respect to ruben2020's answer, which seems to suggest being mindful about the arising, I think another method may be "learning from experience" and "seeing the disadvantage" of an action. For example if the result of an action is feeling that "I am in hell", then isn't that an action to avoid repeating?

It may also be to do with developing "wholesome" or "skillful" desires. You may discover from experience that "using intoxicants" makes it more difficult to do what you want to do -- both, while intoxicated and afterward -- and therefore change your preference, towards avoiding intoxicants.

what exactly grows dispassionate towards the body anyway?

Grammatical English requires a subject for every verb: e.g. there's no such thing as "running" (action) without there being a "runner" (agent).

I think that Buddhism accepts that as a "convention" -- footnote 43 on page 59 of The Debate of King Milinda The Debate of King Milinda:

There are two levels of truth; conventional truth and ultimate truth. In the conventional sense it would be wrong to say that a person does not exist; but in the ultimate sense it is right. In reality there is only a continuously changing stream of mind and matter, which we mistake for a person.

I think I find it more useful to think in terms of "dispassion exists" or "passion is ceasing, the passion that was has ceased" -- instead of as "I (I, I!) am dispassionate". Part of the point of it is to become less ego-centric in view, less conceit, less grasping.

And the very question, "Ah, dispassion ... but who is feeling it, eh?" is an example of manufacturing, reinforcing, creating, perpetuating a self-view where maybe it's not needed nor beneficial.

  • thanks for your post...my question is not formulated well. i am not sure what self concept has to do with addiction anyway. it's just craving, attachment, etc....yes, hell, but no longer effective as an idea.
    – blue_ego
    Oct 8, 2022 at 12:10
  • not learning, just forgetting..:(
    – blue_ego
    Oct 8, 2022 at 12:14
  • i'm still not sure about view(s). i don't even consider this an addiction, just really bad habit. self-destructive too. i don't adhere to self-view, or not-self view...i suppose i view the self as aggregate(s), a combination and flux therein
    – blue_ego
    Oct 8, 2022 at 12:23
  • There's an old joke, "The patient says, 'Doctor, it hurts when I do this.' The doctor says, 'Then don't do that!'" One of the stories about self-view is SN 5.10, "But it’s only suffering that comes to be, lasts a while, then disappears." If you see or remember than "what arises" is only dukkha then maybe it's clearer that what you want is to prevent, let go of, avoid, do without its arising.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 10, 2022 at 16:27
  • Another foundational sutta is AN 11.1 -- a principle is to avoid "remorse" and to avoid repeating actions which experience tells you cause the arising of remorse. Then, whatever else, you can live without remorse.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 10, 2022 at 16:35

Working from memory here, but the Buddha says you need to take a step back and do 5 things in order to get control back.

  1. See it's origination
  2. See it's cessation
  3. See the allure
  4. See the drawbacks
  5. Become disenchanted, dispassionate (the escape)

You don't will letting go, it happens. But then of course you have to do Right Effort after the insight into the process to sustain the new intention... maybe by developing the Five Strengths.

Try this Google search.

  • but isn't will the same thing as volition? that's how i understand it...not the best phrasing, but i am not thinking too well these days...even though my behavior is my choice, i always regret in hindsight. that's why i said, "not capable of willing"
    – blue_ego
    Oct 8, 2022 at 10:33

We can't exactly give up breathing, so let's look at that:

SN54.8:1.1: “Mendicants, when immersion due to mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated it’s very fruitful and beneficial.

The instruction here is that mindfulness is crucial. And how does mindfulness develop? The Buddha teaches many fine points here. And notably we have:

SN54.8:2.4: They practice like this: ‘I’ll breathe in observing letting go.’ They practice like this: ‘I’ll breathe out observing letting go.’

With any intake, there is letting go. And as we observe this cycle, we understand in our bodies what is happening. The urge to breath arises, then passes away into exhalation.

SN54.8:3.3: And my mind was freed from defilements by not grasping.

The "not grasping" is key here. Perhaps being mindful of intoxicants might lead to considering the question, "how much does one really 'need' here?". In other words, be mindful of the grasping and explore the not grasping.

Buddhist monks are celibate and eat once a day. The have taken a hard look at grasping. And they have let go for their own happiness and end of suffering.

  • 1
    No way man I am a sick bastard in hell
    – blue_ego
    Oct 7, 2022 at 17:46
  • 2
    Venerable Mahāmoggallāna roasted in hell for a long long time. He didn't turn out so badly after that: > MN50:23.1: I roasted for many years, many centuries, many millennia in that Great Hell. Take heart! Even he let go of hell.
    – OyaMist
    Oct 7, 2022 at 18:47
  • 1
    That's a serious bit of roasting!
    – user17652
    Oct 8, 2022 at 20:32

Please see this answer about a video by Ven. Yuttadhammo on addiction to pornography and addiction in general. That answer also states:

The other technique he proposes is to watch your mind for triggers and observe how lust arises in the mind and recognize it (basically insight meditation). You can find more info on this in his chapter entitled "Daily Life" of his booklet "How To Meditate".

I would say that the same technique could be applied to intoxicants addiction as well.

Please watch the video.


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