Considering the 12 nidanas

  1. Ignorance
  2. Mental Volitions
  3. Consciousness
  4. "Name" and "Form"
  5. The six senses
  6. Contact
  7. Feelings
  8. Craving
  9. Clinging
  10. Becoming
  11. Birth
  12. Suffering and Death

What is the difference between craving and clinging? They seem very similar to me. It would be helpful if someone could reference the original Pali and draw out the nuances of these terms.

Many Thanks

  • 4
    To give a quick example, If you see a pretty actress on tv, you might start to like her. That is craving. Compare that to the feeling you have towards your girlfriend or wife. Some people mistake clinging as a stronger version of craving but it is not. You might even enjoy seeing the actress in a love scene with an actor. But you will be shocked to see your wife or gf making love to another man. That is because of clinging :) Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 9:30
  • @SankhaKulathantille it sounds like a summary could be: Craving is useless and Clinging is actually self-defeating. This reminds me of the distinction between Envy (wanting what you do not have) and Jealousy fear of losing what you do have), which so many people get entirely mixed up. Some people want to see their wife with another man. Perversity? Testing their attachments?
    – user2341
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 17:27
  • @nocomprende both craving and clinging are useless and detrimental. Wanting to see your wife with another is probably a result of a more perverse clinging to the lustful sensation itself which causes one to see the wife merely as a tool to derive sexual pleasure. Not as a human being. Commented May 27, 2017 at 4:09

2 Answers 2


Craving is when the baby reaches with desire for the pacifier and clinging is when the baby has the pacifier and won't let it go.

To distinguish craving from clinging, Buddhaghosa uses the following metaphor in this source:

"Craving is the aspiring to an object that one has not yet reached, like a thief's stretching out his hand in the dark; clinging is the grasping of an object that one has reached, like the thief's grasping his objective.... They are the roots of the suffering due to seeking and guarding."

  • 2
    +1 for the metaphor by Buddhaghosa.
    – user2424
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 9:39

Repeated craving becomes clinging. Another name for clinging is attachment.


3 Types of craving:

  1. Sensual craving
  2. Craving to be
  3. Craving not to be


Once attachment forms it's painful to sever.

  1. We protect our object of attachment.
  2. We like to be with our object of attachment.
  3. We pine when we are apart from our object of attachment.

There are 4 types of attachments:

  1. Sensual attachment
  2. Attachment to views
  3. Attachment to our idea of self
  4. Attachment to rites & rituals
  • Of all of these, Attachment to Views is probably the hardest to uproot, maybe harder than drug addiction (a form of Sensual Craving).
    – user2341
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 17:29

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