Given that awakening is accomplished by the destruction of the āsava, understanding what precisely the āsava are (and what they are not) is a key to unraveling the mystery of the Buddha's teaching.

At the 13:29 mark of this talk, 2016-11-16: Ajahn Sucitto: Asava and Careful Attention

Ajahn Sucitto made the following claim:

The āsava are the saṅkhāra that are encoded with ignorance [avijjā]

IMHO, this simple statement is profound. It places the āsava here:

1: avijjā
2: saṅkhāra <-- āsava
3: viññana
4: nama-rupa
5: salayatana
6: phassa
7: vedana
8: tanha
9: upadana
10: bhava
11: jati
12: jarāmaraṇa

By contrast, the destruction of the āsava is accomplished thusly ...

1: dukkha
2: saddha
3: pamojja
4: pīti
5: passaddhi
6: sukha
7: samadhi
8: yathabhutañanadassana
9: nibbida
10: viraga
11: vimutti
12: asavakkhaye ñana <-- āsava destruction => knowledge

I am 99% convinced that this interpretation is correct. It just fits.

However, if possible, I would like some evidence from the suttas to corroborate this interpretation. Does such evidence exist?

Ajahn Sucitto kindly responded to my request for information on this matter, thusly:

“'Avjijja paccaya sankhāra’ is the frequently reiterated beginning of the paticcasamuppada (dependent origination) sequence. If you google this you’ll find many sutta references. This means: ‘with ignorance as a condition, formative energies arise’. These sankhara formulate consciousness - the outward-looking intelligence that formulates data in terms of labels and forms (nāma-rupa). The motivation behind this formulating is to generate a substantial and enduring reality out of them. This is the asava of ‘existence/becoming’ (bhava). There is also the motivation towards stimulation; this is ‘sensuality’ (kāma). Ignorance as the other of the three asava is the motivation to ignore the others and just keep adding more proliferation to the mix. This conclusion has arisen through prolonged study and practice."

  • Done. Please forgive my roughness and feel free to identify errors in my understanding directly (without subtlety). I do not suffer from self-absorption in the narrative and I do not cling to views, so there is no need to be subtle with me. ;)
    – Alex Ryan
    Jan 2, 2023 at 1:34
  • Well said. Thanks. Jan 2, 2023 at 2:28
  • 1
    I am interested in any answer you get. If I had the time, this is how I'd go looking for an answer (offered in case you or anyone else wants to do the work). 1. Load up the Digital Pali Reader. 2. Do a search for saṅkhār (no final letter, to allow for variations in grammar and compounds) -- this got me over 1.7k hits. 3. Save that out to a file and then do a search for āsava within that file (got 378 hits). Result: You are now easily able to find every occurrence of the two words in the same paragraph. Go look 'em up! Sep 8, 2023 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


The concept of āsava is borrowed from Jainism. And we need to understand what it means in that context before we can understand it in Buddhism.

In Jainism, all actions create karma. This takes the form of an influx (āsava) of material (dravya) that sticks to the soul (jīva). Weighed down by this influx of material, the soul is forced to reincarnate over and over. Liberation in the Jain sense means stopping the influx and burning off one's existing karma through voluntary suffering.

Buddhists, by contrast, believed that only consciously willed (cetanā) actions were karmic and led to rebirth. They also rejected the idea of a soul (jīva). So the term āsava is only a loose fit for Buddhism.

When Buddhists talk about "cutting off the influxes" (āsava-kkhāya) as a synonym of awakening or liberation, they mean that one's sense of self has ceased or become submerged and as a result one has stopped acting on conscious will.

This is tantamount to saying that one who is awakened does not produce any karma. One who no longer makes karma, must eventually stop being reborn. It's often assumed that only one with little karma could be reborn in circumstances fortunate enough to achieve this: ergo, once one has cut off the influxes, one is unlikely to be reborn again.

  • Hi @Jayarava welcome back to the site, and thank you for answering. If a user posts too many (e.g. more than one) comments, you can "flag" that for a moderator to intervene, as you did, and so I have asked them to stop. If you have any other questions about this site (which you needn't) you are also welcome to ask on the Meta site.
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