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anuśaya (P. anusaya; T. bag la nyal ba བག་ལ་ཉལ་བ་; C. suimian 隨眠) are unwholesome mental factors "that lie along with the mental process to which they belong, rising to the surface as obsessions whenever they meet with suitable conditions."[1]

This term is translated as "underlying tendency," "proclivity," "predisposition," "latent tendencies," etc.

Contemporary explanations

Germano and Waldron (2006) state:

We can see this in something we all experience: habit-formation. We do something enjoyable, like drinking caffeine or alcohol, which affects our bodies and minds in certain, mostly pleasurable, ways. In the process, these experiences create (or reinforce) specific neural pathways in the brain and body, whose very presence supports their repetition, just as storm runoff creates furrows in the ground that attracts further runoff. As a result, we start to crave (S: tṛṣṇā, P: taṇhā), both physically and psychologically, the pleasures these actions bring and so tend to repeat them. In this way, our actions reinforce the conditions that lead to their repetition, creating neuro-psychological complexes we call dispositions. In Pali these are the anusaya, underlying tendencies.
These tendencies are the latent counterparts to the three afflictions of greed, hatred, and ignorance, which make actions karmically consequential, that is, actions that lead to effects that may be experienced in the future. They "are called anusaya, underlying tendencies," a later Pali commentary explains, "in the sense that they have not been abandoned in the mental continuum to which they belong and because they are capable of arising when a suitable cause presents itself" (MN 1995, 1241, n. 473).[2]

Saṃsāra, Nirvāṇa, and Buddha Nature states:

Although the main afflictive mental factors are listed as both underlying tendencies [anusaya] and root afflictions [mulaklesa], they are seen differently in the Pali Abhidharma than in the Compendium of Knowledge. In the Pali tradition, anusaya literally means "to lie down or sleep along with." Firmly established in the mind, underlying tendencies "sleep alongside" the mental continuum, acting as causes for manifest afflictions. They are latent dispositions present even in newborn infants that enable manifest afflictions to arise when the appropriate causes and conditions are present.
Although seven underlying tendencies are listed, all the afflictions have a dormant form that is also called an underlying tendency. These may be stronger or weaker depending on the person's actions and thoughts. When a certain view or emotion repeatedly arises in our minds – and especially when we act on it – its underlying tendency increases in strength. Saying someone has a hot temper means that his underlying tendency for anger is strong.
When afflictions arise and we counteract them by appyling the antidotes, their underlying tendencies weaken. Training our minds in correct ways of thinking increases the strength of the antidotal mental factors, transforming someone who has a hot temper into someone who is kind and patient. Underlying tendencies begin to be eradicated from our mind-streams when we attain the supra mundane path and become stream-enters. This corresponds to the path of seeing in the Sanskrit tradition.[3]

Traditional explanations

Sanskrit tradition

The Ornament of Abhidharma states:

Karma, which is explained in part IV in the statement “Various mundane states arise from karma” (4:1a) is accumulated {and capable of projecting karmic maturation} through the power of negative tendencies (anuśaya). Thus, without negative tendencies, contaminated karma is not accumulated, and also, without karma, rebirth is not established. {Otherwise, it would follow that rebirth would even exist for arhats, since they have indeterminate karma. Therefore} the root (mūla) of existence (bhava) should be recognized as the negative tendencies. Master Pūrṇavardhana writes:
The chariot of birth, driven by childlike beings,
possesses the wheels of affliction and karma.
But if the wheel of affliction breaks,
the wheel of karma cannot turn.
This states that karma projects rebirth, and the root that actually establishes karma is the negative tendencies. It explains that existence is the desire for rebirth and the root of existence is the negative tendencies.[4]

Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics (Vol 2), states:

Proclivities are mental factors that are the roots of both projecting and actualizing causes of rebirth in saṃsāra. Their nature is hard to realize, and they proliferate owing to their object and their concomitant factors. They can be classified in two ways. They may be counted as six: (1) the proclivity that is attachment, (2) the proclivity that is anger, (3) the proclivity that is pride, (4) the proclivity that is ignorance, (5) the proclivity that is view, and (6) the proclivity that is doubt. Or they may be counted as seven, where the proclivity of attachment is further divided into the following two classes: the proclivity of attachment belonging to the desire realm and the proclivity of attachment belonging to the higher realms of saṃsāric existence.[5]

Pali tradition

A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma states:

The latent dispositions (anusaya) are defilements which “lie along with” (anusenti) the mental process to which they belong, rising to the surface as obsessions whenever they meet with suitable conditions. The term “latent dispositions” highlights the fact that the defilements are liable to arise so long as they have not been eradicated by the supramundane paths. Though all defilements are, in a sense, anusayas, the seven mentioned here are the most prominent. Both sensual lust and attachment to existence are modes of greed; the others are each distinct cetasikas. Thus altogether six cetasikas function as anusayas.[1]

The Visuddhimagga states:

These things are called ‘proclivities’ since, in consequence of their pertinacity, they ever and again tend to become the conditions for the arising of ever new sensuous greed, etc.” (Vism XXII, 60).[6]

Main underlying tendencies (anuśaya)

The Sanskrit tradition identifies six main underlying tendencies, which can also be grouped as seven when rāga is divided into two types (kāmarāga and bhavarāga).[4][3][5] The Pali tradition identifies a group of seven main underlying tendencies, which corresponds to the group of seven identified in the Sanskrit tradition.[1][6][3]

When counted as six, the main tendencies are:

  1. rāga, attachment
  2. pratigha, aversion, anger
  3. māna, pride
  4. dristi, views
  5. vicikitsā, doubt
  6. avidyā, ignorance

When counted as seven, the main tendencies are:

  1. kāmarāga, attachment to sensuality
  2. bhavarāga, attachment to existence
  3. pratigha, aversion
  4. māna conceit
  5. dristi, wrong views
  6. vicikitsā, doubt
  7. avidya, ignorance

Ninety-eight types

The Abhidharma-kosha also presents a list of ninety-eight types of anuśaya in the fifth chapter of the text.[7]

Alternate translations


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, Chapter VII: Compendium of Categories, section "Latent Dispositions".
  2. Germano & Waldron 2006, p. 39.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2018b, s.v. Chapter 3: True Origins of Dukkha, section "Underlying Tendencies".
  4. 4.0 4.1 Chim Jampaiyang 2019, s.v. Part V. Negative Tendencies.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Thupten Jinpa 2020, s.v. Chapter 14: Alternate Presentations of Mental Factors.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Nyanatiloka Thera 2019, s.v. anusaya.
  7. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Abhidharmakośabhāṣya.


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