Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part VI, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(84) Enmeshed in Tanha and drifting in the current of Tanha

“Tanha jalena otthato lokasannivasoti. Tanha sotena vuyhati lokasannivasoti passantanam buddhanam bhagavantanam sattesu mahakaruna okkamati.”

Lokasannivaso – All beings, tanha jalena otthato – are covered and caught in the net of tanha. Tanha sotena vuyhati – (and) are drifting along the mid-stream of tanha. Iti – As such, passantanam – in the hearts of the Buddhas, sattesu – towards beings, mahakaruna – Great Compassion with pity, okkamati – has arisen.

The term “tanha” conveys the meaning of thirst or lust. Being desirous of seeing and enjoying the pleasures of sight, and becoming pleasurable with attachment, without being contented, to all that have been seen and enjoyed, is merely thirst for a beautiful sight. No matter what one may have seen – good and pleasant sights of an unlimited scope, his thirst for it remains unquenched and discontented. In the same way, getting unsatisfied with what is heard in respect of any good and pleasant sound, as desired, is but a thirsty tanha. So also is thirsty tanha in respect of good smell and fragrance, good taste with great appetite, of good touch or contact, and of imagination. Tanha, in fact, occurs unceasingly in everything that is seen, heard and so on. It is arising all the time everywhere. ‘The moment one gets up from sleep, what is desirable is invariably thought of or imagined. One has found pleasure in oneself. He also finds pleasure in others as well as in all properties or goods or commodities for his own consumption. Because of this pleasurable attachment with the thirst of tanha, one has continuous rebirths, one existence after another. In every form of existence, one has to go through the process of old age or decay, disease and death. Having had to seek what is needed or desirable, suffering and misery take place. And then, for having his binding duty to manage and look after all that have been obtained or have come into his possession, one is to undergo misery or rather becomes miserable.

All these miseries are due to tanha which is always in thirst that grows like a creeper. One is unable to overcome this tanha from which he cannot get away. Hence, this tanha is similar to a big net that has spread over all beings. Animals which are caught in a net cannot escape. Death is hanging over their heads. Much in the same way, beings who are trapped in the net of tanha cannot take to flight elsewhere. In every existence, sufferings take place because everyone gets old, sick and meets with death. Having perceived and observed such miserable conditions in which beings are wallowing, it had moved the Buddha to pity and great compassion.

Moreover, a person who is drifting in mid-stream will be carried by the current of water. It is likely that he will soon be drowned. In like manner, beings are compelled to oblige and follow as induced by tanha. They are, therefore, landing in the four Apayas for having done immoral acts. Sometimes, for having done good deeds or good kamma, they reach the world of human beings and Devas. Even in these existences of human beings and Devas, they have to suffer the miseries of old age, sickness and death. The Buddha therefore had Great Compassion towards beings who have been suffering and drifting with the tide of tanha.