Four kinds of asavas

In the teachings defilements have been classified in many different ways
and each classification shows a different aspect. Defilements can be
classified as “asavas”, which is translated as cankers, poisons or
intoxicants. There are four kinds of asavas:
the canker of sensuality (kamasava)
the canker of becoming (bhavasava, clinging to rebirth)
the canker of wrong view (dithasava)
the canker of ignorance (avijjasava)
The “Visuddhimagga”( Ch XXII, 56) states that the asavas are “exuding from
unguarded sense-doors like water from cracks in a pot, in the sense of
constant trickling”. The asavas produce the suffering of the round of rebirth.
Only the arahat has eradicated the asavas. Thus, for us the asavas keep
on trickling from unguarded sense-doors, they are also trickling at this
moment. Because of clinging we have to be reborn again and again. Before,
we may not have understood that being born again and again is sorrowful,
but now we may begin to see that we really are in a tangle because of our
being in the cycle of birth and death. There was clinging since the first
javana-cittas of our life arose. Actually, the first javana-cittas of every living
being are lobha-mula-cittas, cittas rooted in attachment.
We read in the scriptures that people cultivated samatha to the degree of
jhana in order to have temporary release from sense-impressions and the
akusala cittas which arise on account of them. Those who were skillful could
have many moments of jhanacittas succeeding one another. But after they
emerged from jhana there were sense-impressions again. There was seeing
again and clinging, and paying attention to shape and form with clinging,
there was no end to akusala. Moreover, even the calm of jhana could be an
object of clinging. Jhana cannot eradicate the asavas and, thus, it cannot
lead to true freedom.
Vipassana is exclusively the Buddha’s teaching and this leads to the
eradication of defilements; it can eventually liberate us from clinging and,
thus, from rebirth. Vipassana is the development of right understanding of
any reality which appears now, even if it is akusala.

Topic 214