Asava are inflowing impulses, influxes, biases, or intoxicants. Four may be listed:
(1) Kamasava – sense-gratification
(2) Bhavasava – existence, self-centered pursuits.
(3) Ditthasava – views, opinions
(4) Avijjasava – ignorance
Note: Sometimes number 3 is cut out entirely, leaving only three types of asava.
It can be concluded that these various asava are the source of human behavior; they are the factors responsible for people becoming misguided and taking other things to be the self.
It is ignorance (avijja) at its most fundamental level that forces people to conjure up and embellish thoughts, exhibit various behaviors and actions, and not know themselves for what they are – all of which develops according to the power of ignorance.
Once again, ignorance is the first step in the cycle, that is, whenever asava occur, ignorance arises; and when ignorance arises, it is the cause of mental formations (sankhara). We can express this condition of misguided behavior by saying, “People are not themselves”, because their behavior is being controlled by mental formations and predispositions, an utterly thoughtless driving force.
Source: Phra Prayudh, Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life, trans. Grant A. Olson (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995), 128-129.
Photo Credit: Intellimon Ltd.