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Taṇhā — Craving

This is part 2 of a course going through the similes and metaphors of the Buddha.

Illustration by Ayya Vimalayani aka "Ven Yodha"

Literally “thirst,” taṇhā is our addiction to worldly, sensual pleasures: the primary mental disease we are trying to overcome.

Introducing Our Textbooks

The rest of this course will follow Bhikkhu Anālayo’s two “Excursions into the Thought World of the Pāli Discourses”—

—which will introduce us to two dozen key words in the Pāli Canon.

We will also read “Similes of the Buddha” by Hellmuth Hecker—

—which will illustrate and “flesh out” our doctrinal terms with additional images from the Early Buddhist Canon.

A note on Looking up Suttas

Please note that the Sutta references given throughout Bhikkhu Anālayo’s two books are to the volumes and page numbers of the PTS edition of the Pāli Canon, not to sutta numbers as you may be familiar with. Thankfully there is a converter tool online you can use to turn the PTS references into “normal” sutta numbers (and even links to SuttaCentral).

Note also that while a few suttas are “assigned reading” in this course, please don’t let that limit you! Feel free to explore Ven. Anālayo and H. Hecker’s many sutta references, even if they aren’t on the assigned reading list.

From Craving to Liberation

It’s a good idea to first:

  1. read the Introduction to Hecker
  2. read the Introduction to Analayo’s From Craving

They set up what we’ll be looking at for the remainder of the class.

Keep your notes and your favorite suttas separate.

As you go through the course, I encourage you to both take notes and to keep a notebook of which suttas are especially meaningful to you. This notebook can act later as a personal “medicine cabinet” of the Buddha’s wisdom which you can return to for inspiration and guidance when you need it.

While I also encourage you to also take notes on whatever you’d like to remember from this course, I encourage you to keep those class notes separate from your personal sutta anthology.

Chapter 1: Taṇhā — Craving

The first chapter of From Craving to Liberation is about, well, craving.


To get a flavor for the original texts themselves, every lesson we’ll read a few selections from the Canon.

This lesson, we ask:

  • What are the different types of craving?
  • What is “Right View?”
  • Who is the “seamstress” of Saṃsāra?
  • How do we get addicted to the things of the world?

What did you notice about the above texts?

A seamstress and a leaking boat: Why do you think the Buddha chose to compare craving to work?

Analysis and Similes

Please read Bhante Analayo’s essay on taṇhā now (if you haven’t already) and the introduction to Part 2 of the Hecker book, along with its similes numbered 16 (The Wheel of Existence) and 57 (Sensual Desire).


Once you’ve digested all that, and think you’re ready, take this lesson’s quiz