From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to navigation Jump to search

āsrava [alt. āśrava] (p. āsava; T. zag pa ཟག་པ་; C. lou 漏) is translated as "contaminants," "outflows," "taints," etc. These are unwholesome mental factors that prevent one from attaining arhathood and keep one bound to samsara. When the āsrava are uprooted, one attains the status of arhat.[1]

A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma states:

...there are four taints: (1) the taint of sensual desire, (2) the taint of (attachment to) existence, (3) the taint of wrong views, (4) the taint of ignorance.
...The word āsava means literally that which flows out. In Pali the word denotes both pus oozing from an abscess and intoxicants which have been fermented for a long time. The defilements classified as taints are called āsavas because they are similar to oozing pus and to fermented intoxicants. The Commentaries state that the āsavas are so called because they flow right up to the topmost plane of existence or because they flow up to change-of-lineage (gotrabhū—see IX, §34).
Of the four taints, the taint of sensual desire and the taint of (attachment to) existence are both modes of the cetasika greed (lobha), directed in the one case to sense pleasure, in the other to continued existence. The taint of wrong view is identified as the cetasika wrong view (diṭṭhi) and the taint of ignorance as the cetasika delusion (moha).[2]

Bhikkhu Bodhi states:

The āsavas or taints are a classification of defilements considered in their role of sustaining the forward movement of the process of birth and death. The commentaries derive the word from a root su meaning "to flow." Scholars differ as to whether the flow implied by the prefix ā is inward or outward; hence some have rendered it as "influxes" or "influences," others as "outflows" or "effluents." A stock passage in the suttas indicates the term's real significance independently of etymology when it describes the āsavas as states "that defile, bring renewal of existence, give trouble, ripen in suffering, and lead to future birth, aging and death" (MN 36.47; I 250). Thus other translators, bypassing the literal meaning, have rendered it "cankers," "corruptions," or "taints." The three taints mentioned in the Nikāyas are respectively synonyms for craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, and ignorance. [The fourth āsava, attachment to views, appears in the commentaries.] When the disciple's mind is liberated from the taints by the completion of the path of arhantship, he reviews his newly won freedom and roars his lion's roar: "Birth is destroyed, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done; there is no more coming back to any state of being."[3]


  1. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. āsrava.
  2. Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Chapter VII: Compendium of Categories, section "Taints".
  3. In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon. Edited and introduced by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Wisdom Publications. Boston. 2005, p. 229.


This article includes content from āsava on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo