SENSE DESIRE - 1st Mental Hindrance & Its Cure

Sense-Desire is the foremost and deepest mental hindrance (Nivarana).

The texts given below aim at illustrating how this obsessive and addictive 
urge for sensing only pleasure in the form of sights, sounds, smells, tastes 
and touches arises, ceases, and is finally cured. The present-day dominance 
of the porno and entertainment industry speaks -in itself- clearly of this 
problem's all too common abundance among human beings today...

The Buddha once said: 
On this occasion the Blessed One was staying at Gaya's Head, together 
with a thousand Bhikkhus. There the Blessed One told these Bhikkhus this:
"Bhikkhus, all this is burning! And what, Bhikkhus, is that All that is burning? 
The eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and the mind is burning. All forms, sounds, 
smells, flavours, touches, and mental states are also burning! Whatever kind 
of conscious sensation that is also burning! Any feeling arisen caused by that
contact, whether pleasant, painful or neutral, that too is also burning... 
Burning with what? I tell you: Burning with the fire of lust, hate & ignorance, 
birth, ageing, death, sadness, disappointment, frustration, and Suffering!"
The Fire Sermon Samyutta Nikāya. Book IV 19-20

 First priority: Noticing Sense-Desire (kāma-chanda) makes it fade away:

Herein, Bhikkhus, when sense-desire is present in him the Bhikkhu notes:
"There is sense-desire in me," and when sense-desire is absent, he notes:
"There is no sense-desire in me." He also understands how any yet unarisen 
sense-desire arises. He understands how to leave behind any already arisen 
sensual desire, and he understands how left sense-desire will not ever arise 
again in the future. MN 10

What is the feeding cause that makes Sense-Desire arise?

There are attractive and alluring features and aspects of any object...
Frequently giving irrational and unwise attention to them, this is the feeding 
cause of the arising of unarisen sense-desire, and also the feeding cause 
of the increase and expansion of any sense-desire, that already has arisen. 
SN 46:51

What is the starving cause that makes Sense-Desire cease?

There are disgusting and repulsive features and aspects of any sense-object...
Frequently giving rational and wise attention to them, this is the starving cause 
of the non-arising of yet unarisen sense-desire, and the starving cause of the 
decrease and shrinking of any sense-desire that already has arisen. SN 46:51



Which medicine cures Sense-Desire, so that it does not re-arise?

These six things lead to the gradual elimination of sense-desire:
1. Learning how to meditate on ugly and disgusting objects.
2. Frequent and intense meditation on disgusting objects.
3. Guarding the sense doors.
4. Moderation in eating.
5. Noble friendship with one who knows how to quell sense-desire.
6. Suitable conversation on the disadvantages of all out hedonism.
Commentary to the Satipatthāna Sutta



1. Learning how to meditate on disgusting objects.
Meditation on disgusting objects produces a repulsion towards attractive 
objects as a result. This reduces the lust & greed for these objects. AN 5:36



The 32 inner organs of the body; A skin-sac of bones with 9 oozing holes: 
Herein, Bhikkhus, a Bhikkhu reflects on just this body, confined within the 
skin and full of manifold ugly impurities from the soles upward and from the 
top of the hair downwards in this way: "There is in this body: head and body
hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, 
pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, bowels, stomach, excrement, bile, pus, 
blood, sweat, fat, tears, lymph, spit, slime, snot, joint-fluid, urine and 
the brain in the skull..."



The 9 Corpse Contemplations:
The Bhikkhu goes to a cemetery to see a corpse one day, 2 or 3 days dead:
Bloated, livid, putrid, rotting, stinking & festering, he applies this experience 
to his own body in this way: "This body, too: Such is its nature and its future, 
such its unavoidable destiny'... He meditates as if he were seeing a corpse 
cast away in a cemetery, picked at by crows, vultures, and hawks, by dogs, 
hyenas, and various other animals ... a skeleton covered partly with flesh and 
blood, connected with sinews ... a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood,
connected with tendons ... a skeleton without flesh just as a chain of bones 
connected with tendons... as white bones all detached from their tendons, 
scattered in all directions; here a hand bone, there a foot bone, a shinbone, 
there a thigh bone, here a hip bone, there a back bone, here a rib, there a 
chest bone, here a shoulder bone, there a neck bone, here a jaw bone, 
there a tooth, here a skull... He contemplates his body as bones whitened, 
as bones somewhat like the colour of sea-shells ... as bones piled up in a heap
more than a year old ... as bones rotting and crumbling into black powder...
This is Awareness focused on the body merely as a putrid and rotting form! 
MN 10


Such memorized images of disgust are then remembered whenever lust re-arises.
If the memorized image is vivid, then this urge of desire instantly vanishes,
since disgust and feverish desire cannot co-exist in the mind at the same time. 
Even just noting the desire can cure it, since such advantageous Awareness 
cannot occur simultaneously in combination with detrimental thoughts of lust. 
Therefore, at the exact time of knowing the sense desire, that arose in the 
preceding moment, that sense desire no longer exists, but only the event of 
Awareness looking at this desire, knowing and noticing it just as it is...



3. Guarding the sense doors:
"And how, Bhikkhus, does one guard the doors of the senses?
Seeing a form with the eye, one does neither get caught up by any of the 
general features, nor does one become obsessed with any particular detail 
of this captivating form...
Hearing a sound with the ear, one does neither get caught by any of the 
common aspects, nor does one become infatuated with any specific detail 
of this sweet sound...
Smelling a smell with the nose, one does neither get caught by any of the 
prevailing qualities, nor does one become as if possessed by any particular 
detail of this seducing smell...
Tasting a taste with the tongue, one does neither get caught by any of the 
prevalent hallmarks, nor does one become as if gripped by any peculiar detail 
of this dazzling taste...
Touching a thing with the body, one does neither get caught by any of the 
common attributes, nor does one become as if fixated by any distinct detail 
of this fascinating tactile touch...
Thinking a thought with the mind, one does neither get caught by any of the 
universal signs, nor does one become as if immersed in any particular detail 
of this entrancing mental state...
Since, if one leaves the sense ability of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and 
mind uncontrolled, then evil detrimental states of lust, greed and discontent 
will immediately invade and degrade the mind... Therefore does one practise 
and gain control of the senses, one guards the doors of the senses, one reins 
back the senses, one keeps the senses restrained, and in check..."SN 35:239



"Friends, there are these forms recognizable by the eye, sounds recognizable 
by the ear, smells recognizable by the nose, tastes recognizable by the tongue, 
touches recognizable by the body, mental states recognizable by the mind, 
which all are attractive and liked, wished, longed and urged for, desired and 
thus provocative of both lust and greed. If one welcomes them, enjoys them 
and thus remains clinging to them, delight arises. With the arising of delight, 
friends, I tell you, there is also the arising of craving. When craving arises, 
friends, be aware, then there is also the arising of Suffering… !
However, if one does neither welcome, enjoy, nor cling to any of these sense
objects, then delight ceases. With the ceasing of delight, friends, I tell you, 
there is also the ceasing of all longing, all craving, all attachment, all clinging, 
the ceasing of all addiction, of all bondage, and the ceasing of all Suffering…"
MN 145



4. Moderation in eating:
How is a Bhikkhu moderate in eating? In this, a Bhikkhu, reflecting rationally, 
eats food neither for the sake of entertainment, nor for infatuation, nor for
wanting bodily beauty, but exclusively for the support and maintenance of 
this body, for ending of discomfort, and for assisting this Noble life, simply 
considering: In this way I will now end this old feeling, yet without arousing 
any new feeling! Therefore will I remain healthy, blameless and in comfort... 
Exactly as one anoints an open wound, only for the purpose of making it heal, 
or just as one greases an axle only for the sake of easy transport of a heavy 
load, so does a Bhikkhu, who is moderated in eating, eat food, while always 
meticulously reflecting rationally in this very way ...
SN 35:239



5. Noble friendship with one who knows how to cure sense-desire.
The entire holy life, Ananda, is Noble friendship, Noble companionship, 
and Noble association.  Of any Bhikkhu, Ananda, who has a Noble friend, 
a Noble companion, a Noble associate, it is to be expected that he will 
cultivate, practice and complete this Noble 8-fold Way. SN 45:2



6. Suitable conversation on the disadvantages of hedonism.
Some examples spoken by the Blessed Buddha:

If the mortal, longing for sensual pleasure, gets it, yes, then he is happy!
But when the pleasures inevitably soon fade away, that person, longing, 
urging, desiring, is all shocked, as if shot with an arrow... Sutta Nipāta IV, 1

Death carries off the man while distracted by gathering flowers of sensual 
pleasures, exactly as a great tsunami carries away a sleeping village.   
Dhammapada 47

Sense objects give little satisfaction, but much urge, pain, panic and despair 
later. This danger inevitably inherent in all pleasures is bigger than their joys! 
MN 14

Disguised as joy, appearing as attractive, falsely promising only pleasures, 
but longing, frustration, and grief surprises and shocks the one not aware!  
Udana II - 8

With desire is the world tied and enchained. With the overcoming of desire 
is it freed. With the overcoming of sense-desire are all bonds cut through. 
SN 1:69



Sense-desire is like being in debt:
There is a man who has acquired a debt and has become ruined. Now, if his 
creditors, when telling him to pay back the debt, speak roughly to him or 
harass and beat him, he is unable to put up any resistance, but will have to 
accept it all meekly. It is his debt that causes this feeble leniency. Similarly 
with a man filled with sensual-desire for a certain person, full of craving for 
that object of his desire, he will be attached to it. Even if spoken to roughly 
by that person, or even harassed or beaten, he will tolerate it all meekly...! 
His sense-desire causes that shy and frail weakness!  It is in this way, that 
sense-desire is like being in debt...



Absence of sense-desire is like freedom from debt:
A man, having taken a loan, uses it for his business and comes to prosperity. 
He then thinks: "This debt is a cause of worry." He repays the loan together 
with the interest, and has the loan papers torn up. After that, then he needs 
neither send any letter to, nor bow to his creditors... And why? He is not any 
longer in debt to them or dependent on them in any way. Similarly a Bhikkhu 
thinks: "sense-desire is a cause of hindrance." He then cultivates the things 
above leading to its overcoming, and removes this hindrance of sense-desire. 
Just as one who has freed himself of debt no longer feels any fear or anxiety, 
when meeting his former creditors, so is one who has given up sense-desire 
no longer attached and bound to the object of his desire. Even seeing many 
divine forms, then neither passions, nor lust will ever assail or dominate him.
Therefore has the Blessed One compared the elimination of sense-desire to 
freedom from debt. Commentary on DN 2

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