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Tang Dynasty mural of bodhisattvas at the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang. Section.
A Tang Bodhisattva


'"Fermentations" are the same as "taints" (Pali: asavas) in this discourse. And taints are subtle mind defilements that include sensual desires. Buddhism tells you to avoid some things for the sake of not getting fettered. Conceit is one fetter, bad views another, attachment to rituals, ignorance and greed are still others.

The "Householder Potaliya" Sutta (Sutta Pitaka, MN 54) adds more fetters. Among them are: destroying life; stealing; false speech; slandering; malice. Fetters may span many lifetimes, while hindrances may be transitory obstacles. Undue or over-much worry may be counted in among the hindrances. (Wikipedia, "Fetter [Buddhism]")

Defilements is a more encompassing term; it includes all mental defilements, including fetters and hindrances. Defilement in Sanskrit is klesha, and in Pali: kilesa. A variety of English words are used to translate the term : It represents disturbing, destructive agents of mind poisoning, and includes shamelessness, false views, undue pride, arrogance, and recklessness. Defiling or dissonant passions, unsound ignorance, undue attachment are also mentioned as kleshas. (Wikipedia, "Kleshas [Buddhism]")

Deep and sound meditation can help against being fettered. It should pay to give it a try.


All the Taints - Sabbasava Sutta

Below are abstracts, some quotations and modified quotations from the Sabbasava Sutta.

The destruction of taints is not for one who does not see. (3, mod.)

Attention knows and sees. (3)

When one employs one's attention with presence of mind, and wisely, unarisen taints do not arise and arisen taints can be abandoned. (3, mod.)

There are taints that should be abandoned by seeing, others by using, and still others by enduring. Some taints should be abandoned by avoiding and some by removing. And some taints should be abandoned by developing. (4)

Understand which things are fit for attention and which are unfit for attention. Refrain from attending to things unfit for attention and attend to things fit for attention. (5)

By things unfit for attention . . . ignorance increases. (6)

Attend to what makes one give up ignorance. (6)

By attending to things unfit for attention and by not attending to things fit for attention, unarisen taints arise in him and arisen taints increase. (6)

This is an unwise use of one's attention somehow: "Was I in the past, and how was I?" (7)

To attend unwisely to speculation, to that thicket of views, that fetter of views and more, the untaught are not freed from ageing and suffering. (8)

Well-taught, skilled ones who also are disciplined in their Dharma, understand what things are fit for attention, do not attend to things unfit for attention and attend to things fit for attention. (9)

The things unfit for attention include taints of sensual desire and ignorance. And things fit for attention and attending to help lessening and abandoning ignorance. By such means, unarisen taints do not arise in him. (10)

The skilled and well-taught one focuses his or her attention wisely on a way out of suffering, or lessening it. Thereby adherence to rules and observances is abandoned, as they are taints to be abandoned by seeing. (11)

"Taints, vexation and fever are abandoned in one who abides with the eye faculty restrained. Reflecting wisely, tongue restrained. . . the mind restrained. . . there are no taints, vexation, or fever. They are taints that should be abandoned by [a certain sound] restraint. (12)

If you meditate wisely and well, you accomplish much sanity-fostering "abandoning of the outer things" by going inwards - such restraint.

Without being a monk or nun you can consider and adjust more or better to monastic norms like:

  1. Clothing. Use it wisely for protection from cold, heat, contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and for concealing the private parts. (13)

  2. Food. Use well delivered food to endure, to end discomfort, and to assist proper or holy living. Along with it consider: 'Thus I may help my own, my health and live in comfort at last. (14 mod.)

  3. Dwellings. Use a resting place for protection from heat and cold, creeping things and so on, to ward off perils of climate and to enjoy retreat. (15)

  4. Permitted medicine. Use medicinal requisites to protect you from arisen, afflicting feelings and for the benefit of good health. (16)

You can avoid taints, vexation, and fever by using the enumerated taints as prescribed by Buddha. From these key guidelines as to what you may use to good benefit, other sound norms of living and dwelling can be formed like twigs on branches. (13-17)

Buddha specifies more details than those included here. This summary aims mainly at benefitting lay persons who are interested in adapting to their own benefit by attuning to sagacious counsels for higher living, and in freedom too. Such an ambient approach is part of Buddhist standards of old, as seen from how the five moral basics for all followers - the Five Precepts - are augmented for monastics, and how there are sorts of "middle grounds" involved too: It is customary that some lay people take up somewhat augmented moral codes for living, but they are derived from standards for monastics, but not as encompassing, and thus not as austere. The practice is common, as exemplified by The Eight Precepts for lay people. However, it rests on you whether you want to take up any part of it. The tradition also suggests is possible to derive great benefits by the further attunements made possible by this kind of approach.

Some taints are got rid of by enduring certain things cleverly and well. They include, for those who reflect wisely: cold and heat to bear, hunger and thirst, contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things. Also included are ill-spoken, unwelcome words and emerged bodily feelings that are painful, racking, sharp, piercing, disagreeable, distressing, and menacing to life. To endure such things may work well if aggravations hardly set in because of it.)(18) Better dispense with some taints by avoiding certain things from the start: By reflecting wisely, avoid a wild elephant, a wild horse, a wild bull, a wild dog, a snake, a stump, a bramble patch, a chasm, a cliff, a cesspit, a sewer. Reflecting wisely, avoid sitting on unsuitable seats, wandering to unsuitable resorts, and associating with bad friends as long as there are no taints, no vexation, and no feverishness involved in avoiding them. Yes, Buddha teaches considerate avoidance behaviour as fits. (19)

Taints to remove upon wise reflection and getting rid of some things for the sake of a better life:

Abandon unsuitable carnal desires by removing your thoughts from them, if you can. The same applies to ill will, cruel thoughts, and emerged evil, unwholesome states as long as they cause taints, vexation, and fever. (20)

'Fever' in these Buddha lists represents more than high temperature. Understand it metaphorically too, from unhealthy feverishness to unhealthy excitement, heat, passion, frenzy, ferment, and delirium. There is much to choose among.

In Ashtanga Yoga, Sanskrit samskaras or vasanas, deep mind impressions of menial sorts and had in former times or lives, are able to sprout if conditions correspond to them somehow. Such "bad seeds" look in part like the taints referred to by Buddha. By avoiding those things he enumerates, the menial samskaras, or 'seeds', may not sprout in a life, according to Yoga philosophy. TK

Enlightenment factors to develop. What taints should be abandoned by developing yourself inwardly in certain ways? Reflecting wisely, develop mindfulness. It can be supported by seclusion. Further develop the "investigation-of-states factor", and energy for diving within and for enlightenment. Also develop rapture, tranquillity, concentration and equanimity supportable by seclusion and some dispassion too. For the taints and their aligned vexations and various fevers abate and can be abandoned by developing these things proplerly. (21)

Conclusion. Some taints may be abandoned by seeing things as they are; some by you carefully restraining yourself; some by good uses; and some by enduring things as told. Other taints may be abandoned by avoiding and still others by removals of such as things or people or both. There are also taints that can be removed and abandoned by (you) developing at least restrain embarrassing taints if you can and see through conceit. By good and decent strategies make an end to many sufferings, including future sufferings. (22)


All the Taints, the Sabbasava Sutta, Buddhist discourse, Buddhism, Literature  

It is usually wise to (1) study the whole suttra/sutta before making any resolves in matters they pertain to, allowing for a variety of interpretations; (2) adjust it to the overall design of the Buddhist Way; (3) take into account the general ways of living in the Apannaka Sutta and other sutras; and thus make three times sure if not more.


Nanamoli, Bhikkhu, tr. and Bhikkhu Bodhi, ed. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. 4th ed. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2009.⍽▢⍽Parts are online at Access to Insight,

Upalavanna, Sister, tr. Majjhima Nikaya. Sri Lanka: Metta Net. Online.

Pali Canon collections:

AN - Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses arranged according to numbers)

DN - Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses)

MN - Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-Length Discourses)

SN - Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)


Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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