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Kāma: may denote: 1. subjective sensuality, 'sense-desire'; 2. objective sensuality, the five sense-objects.

1. Subjective sensuality, or sense-desire, is directed to all five sense-objects, and is synonymous with kāma-cchanda 'sense-desire', one of the 5 hindrances nīvarana, kāma-rāga sense-lust', one of the ten mental chains, kāma-tanhā 'sense-craving', one of the 3 cravings tanhā, kāma-vitakka 'sense-thought', one of the 3 wrong thoughts micchā-sankappa see: vitakka - Sense-desire is also one of the fermentations āsava and clingings upādāna.

2. Objective sensuality is, in the canonical texts, mostly called kāma-guna 'cords or strands of sensuality'.

There are 5 cords of sensuality: the visible objects, cognizable by visual-consciousness, that are desirable, cherished, pleasant, lovely, sense-and alluring; the sounds... smells... tastes... bodily contacts cognizable by body-consciousness, that are desirable. D. 33; M. 13, 26, 59, 66.

These two kinds of kāma are called 1. kilesa-kāma i.e. kāma as a mental defilement, 2. vatthu-kāma i.e. kāma as the object-base of sensuality; first in MNid.. I, p. 1, and frequently in the commentaries.

Sense-desire is finally eliminated at the stage of the Non-Returner Anagami see: ariya-puggala,

The peril and misery of sense-desire is often described in the texts, e.g. in stirring similes at M. 22, 54, and in the 'gradual instruction' see: ānupubbī-kathā See further M. 13, 45, 75; Sn. v. 766ff.; Dhp. 186, 215.

The texts often stress the fact that what mental chains man to the world of the senses are not the sense-organs nor the sense-objects but lustful desire chandarāga On this see A. VI, 63; S. XXXV, 122, 191.


Maha Thera Nyanatiloka. Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, Buddhist Publication Society, first edition 1952.