Rāga (T. 'dod chags འདོད་ཆགས་; C. tan 貪) - is translated as "attachment," "passion," "greed," "desire," etc. It is defined as hankering after things within the three realms of existence; it produces frustration.
Rāga is closely synonomous with lobha.
Rāga is identified in the following contexts:
- one of the three poisons within the Sanskrit tradition.
- one of the three unwholesome roots within the Pali tradition (often using the synonym lobha)
- one of the six root kleshas within the Abhidharma-samuccaya of the Sanskrit tradition
- one of the six underlying tendencies of the Sanskrit tradition
- one of the fourteen unwholesome mental factors within the Pali tradition
The Foundation of Buddhist Practice states:
- Attachment (rāga) arises based on projecting or exaggerating the attractiveness of an object within cyclic existence (people, things, ideas, places, and so forth). It wishes for, takes a strong interest in, and clings to that object.
Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics (Vol. 2) states:
- The first of the six root mental afflictions is attachment. This mental factor keenly seeks to acquire something contaminated on account of conceiving it to be intrinsically attractive. Also, upon seeing a physical body, food, clothing, jewelry, and so on as something attractive, it fixates on what was seen and does not want to be separated from it. Afflictions other than attachment are relatively easier to remove from the mind, just as, by analogy, it is relatively easy to remove dirt from a dry cloth. Attachment, in contrast, is as difficult to remove as dirt from an oil-soaked cloth. It clings to its object and gives rise to other afflictions. Thus attachment is a mental factor that is very difficult to remove on account of increasing one’s fixation on objects of desire, intensifying longing to see, touch, and do such things with its chosen objects.
- The function of attachment is to produce its resultant suffering. The Compendium of Knowledge says: “What is attachment? It is desire pertaining to the three realms. It functions to give rise to suffering."
The Khenjuk states:
- Attachment is to be attached to the defiling aggregates of the three realms. It produces the pain of [samsaric] existence. It is thought that there are two types of attachment: the attachment of a person in the desire realms, called the attachment of desire, and the attachment of the two upper realms, call the attachment of existence.
The Abhidharma-samuccaya states:
- What is [attachment]? It is the desire after things ranging over the three levels of existence, and its function is to produce frustrations. [Guenther translation]
Je Tsongkhapa states:
- [Attachment] is a desire after any pleasurable external or internal object by taking it as pleasing to oneself. For example, just as it is difficult to remove oil stain from a cotton cloth, in the same way, this hankering after and getting more and more involved with the thing makes it very difficult to get rid of.
The Visuddhimagga (XIV, 162) gives the following definition of lobha:
- ...greed has the characteristic of grasping an object like “monkey lime”. Its function is sticking, like meat put in a hot pan. It is manifested as not giving up, like the dye of lamp-black. Its proximate cause is seeing enjoyment in things that lead to bondage. Swelling with the current of craving, it should be regarded as taking (beings) with it to states of loss, as a swift-flowing river does to the great ocean.
Nina van Gorkom states:
- Greed has the characteristic of grasping like monkey lime. Monkey lime was used by hunters in order to catch monkeys. We read in the Kindred Sayings (V, Mahā-vagga, Book III, Chapter I, par7, The monkey) that a hunter sets a trap of lime for monkeys. Monkeys who are free from “folly and greed” do not get trapped. We read:
- ...But a greedy, foolish monkey comes up to the pitch and handles it with one paw, and his paw sticks fast in it. Then, thinking: I'll free my paw, he seizes it with the other paw, but that too sticks fast. To free both paws he seizes them with one foot, and that too sticks fast. To free both paws and the one foot, he lays hold of them with the other foot, but that too sticks fast. To free both paws and both feet he lays hold of them with his muzzle: but that too sticks fast. So that monkey thus trapped in five ways lies down and howls, thus fallen on misfortune...
Contemporary Buddhist teachers such as Mingyur Rinpoche, Daniel Goleman, and Ron Leifer have noted that there is a level of "attachment" to the self that is necessary for biological survival, but that when this "attachment" extends to non-essential needs, it becomes unhealthy. Mingyur Rinpoche states:
- The perception of “self” as separate from “others” is [...] an essentially biological mechanism–an established pattern of neuronal gossip that consistently signals other parts of the nervous system that each of us is a distinct, independently existing creature that needs certain things in order to perpetuate its existence. Because we live in physical bodies, some of these things we need, such as oxygen, food, and water, are truly indispensable. In addition, studies of infant survival that people have discussed with me have shown that survival requires a certain amount of physical nurturing. We need to be touched; we need to be spoken to; we need the simple fact of our existence to be acknowledged. Problems begin, however, when we generalize biologically essential things into areas that have nothing to do with basic survival. In Buddhist terms, this generalization is known as “attachment” or “desire” —which, like ignorance, can be seen as having a purely neurological basis.
Mingyur Rinpoche uses the example of becoming attached to chocolate; he states:
- When we experience something like chocolate, for example, as pleasant, we a establish a neuronal connection that equates chocolate with the physical sensation of enjoyment. This is not to say that chocolate in itself is a good or bad thing. There are lots of chemicals in chocolate that create a physical sensation of pleasure. It’s our neuronal attachment to chocolate that creates problems.
Mingyur Rinpoche also emphasizes that whatever the conditions we have that make us happy for a period of time are bound to change. "Change is the only constant of relative reality."
Types of attachment (raga)
Traditional texts identify many different types of attachment (raga), including:
- attachment to sensuality (kāmarāga)
- attachment to existence (bhavarāga)
- attachment to rites and rituals (śīlavrataparāmarśa)
- stinginess, greed, etc. (macchariya)
- Yeshe Gyeltsen 1975, s.v. attachment ('dog chags).
- Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. rāga.
- Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2018, s.v. Chapter 3.
- Thupten Jinpa 2020, s.v. The Six Root Mental Afflictions.
- Mipham Rinpoche 2004, s.v. Chapter 1.
- van Gorkom 1999, Cetasikas, Chapter 15, Attachment (lobha)
- Ringu Tulku (2005), p. 29
- Mingyur Rinpoche (2007), p. 117-118
- Mingyur Rinpoche (2007), p. 118
- Mingyur Rinpoche (2007), p. 119
- Ajahn Sucitto (2010), Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching, Shambhala
- Berzin, Alexander (ed.), Primary Minds and the 51 Mental Factors, StudyBuddhism
- Dalai Lama; Thubten Chodron (2018), The Foundation of Buddhist Practice, The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, Volume 2, Wisdom Publications
- Goleman, Daniel (2008). Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Bantam. Kindle Edition.
- Leifer, Ron (1997). The Happiness Project. Snow Lion.
- Mingyur Rinpoche (2007). The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness. Harmony. Kindle Edition.
- Mipham Rinpoche (2004), Gateway to Knowledge, vol. I, translated by Kunsang, Erik Pema, Rangjung Yeshe Publications
- Ringu Tulku (2005). Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion.
- Yeshe Gyeltsen (1975), Mind in Buddhist Psychology: A Translation of Ye-shes rgyal-mtshan's "The Necklace of Clear Understanding", translated by Guenther, Herbert V.; Kawamura, Leslie S., Dharma Publishing
- van Gorkom, Nina (1999), Cetasikas, Zolog
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