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Kilesa, aka: Klesha, Klesa, Kleśa; 7 Definition(s)


Kilesa means something in Buddhism, Pali. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit term Kleśa can be transliterated into English as Klesa or Klesha, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

'defilements', are mind-defiling, unwholesome qualities. Vis.M. XXII, 49, 65:

"There are 10 defilements, thus called because they are themselves defiled, and because they defile the mental factors associated with them. They are:

  • (1) greed (lobha),

  • (2) hate (dosa),

  • (3) delusion (moha),

  • (4) conceit (māna),

  • (5) speculative views (ditthi),

  • (6) skeptical doubt (vicikicchā),

  • (7) mental torpor (thīna),

  • (8) restlessness (uddhacca);

  • (9) shamelessness (ahirika),

  • (10) lack of moral dread or unconscientiousness (anottappa)."

For 1-3, s. mūla; 4, s. māna; 5, s. ditthi; 6-8, s. nīvarana; 9 and 10, s. ahirika-anottappa.

The ten are explained in Dhs. 1229f and enumerated in Vibh. XII.

No classification of the k. is found in the Suttas, though the term occurs quite often in them. For the related term, upakkilesa ('impurities') different lists are given - (App.).

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

M (dirt, defilement). Mental impurity. Poverty of spirit. Mental pollution, troubles. There are ten kilesas:

  1. False views (sakayaditthi)
  2. Doubt (vicikiccha)
  3. Belief in the effectiveness of rituals
  4. Sensuous pleasure (raga)
  5. Aversion (dosa)
  6. Passion towards rupa jhanas (pertaining to the sphere of forms)
  7. Passion towards arupa jhanas (pertaining to the formless sphere)
  8. Self pride (mana)
  9. restlessness and worries (uddhacca)
  10. Ignorance (avijja)

Source: Dhamma Dana: Pali English GlossaryDefilement - lobha (passion), dosa (aversion), and moha (delusion) in their various forms, which include such things as greed, malevolence, anger, rancor, hypocrisy, arrogance, envy, miserliness, dishonesty, boastfulness, obstinacy, violence, pride, conceit, intoxication, and complacency.Source: Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).


Kilesa, (and klesa) (from kilissati) 1. stain, soil, impurity, fig. affliction; in a moral sense, depravity, lust. Its occurrence in the Piṭakas is rare; in later works, very frequent, where it is approx. tantamount to our terms lower, or unregenerate nature, sinful desires, vices, passions.

1. Kilesa as obstacle (see °āvaraṇa, °-sampayutta, °-vippayutta, °pahāna) Ps. I, 33; Sdhp. 455; bhikkhu bhinnakileso “one whose passions are broken up” Vbh. 246, PvA. 51; upasanta kileso “one whose passions are calmed” PvA. 230; no ce pi jātu puriso kilese vāto yathā abbhaghanaṃ vihāne Sn. 348; pariyodapeyya attānaṃ cittaklesehi paṇḍito S. V, 24=A. V, 232, 253=Dh. 88. 2. Occurs in such combinations as kilesā ca khandhā ca abhisaṅkhārā ca Nd2 487; kilesa+khandha: Ps. I, 69‹-› 72; II, 36, 140; cp. Vbh. 44, 68; kilesa+saṃsāra PvA. 7; kammaṃ kilesā hetu saṃsārassa Nett 113, cp. 191. ‹-› 3. kilesa also occurs in a series explanatory of taṇhā, in the stereotype combn of t. , diṭṭhi, kilesa “clinging to existence, false ideas and lust” (see Nd2 s. v. taṇhā v.).—4. In the same function it stands with rāga, viz. rāga dosa moha kilesa, i.e. sensuality, bewilderment and lust (see Nd2 s. v. rāga II.), cp. Dhs. 982, 1006. ‹-› The grouping as dasa kilesa-vatthūni is: lobha dosa moha māna diṭṭhi vicikicchā thīnaṃ uddhaccaṃ ahirikaṃ anottappaṃ Dhs. 1548=Vbh. 341; Vism. 683; mentioned at Ps. I, 130.—These with the exception of the last two, are also grouped as aṭṭha k°-vatthūni at Vbh. 385. -As three kilesas (past, present and future) at Ps. II, 217.—5. The giving up of kilesa is one of the four essentials of perfection: the recognition of evil, the removal of its source (which is kilesa), the meditation on the Path, and the realization of the extinction of evil (see Nd2 s. v. dukkha II.). Kilesa in this connection interchanges with samudaya, as denoting the origin of evil; cp. samudayo kilesā Nett 191.

—āvaraṇa the obstacle of lust Vbh. 342 Pug. 13; Vism. 177; °āvaraṇatā id. A. III, 436; —kkhaya the destruction of lust Bdhd 81; —paripantha danger of lust J. VI, 57; —pahāna the giving up of worldly lust Vin. III, 92 sq. , IV. 25; Bdhd 129, 131; —puñja the heap of lusts; consisting of ten qualities, viz. the four āhārā (etc. four of each: ), vipallāsā, upādānāni, yogā, gandhā, āsavā, oghā, sallā, viññāṇaṭṭhitiyo, agatigamanāni. Nett 113, 114; 116 sq. —bhūmi the substratum or essence of lust Nett 2, 192; there are four mentioned at Nett 161: anusaya°, pariyuṭṭhāna°, saṃyojana°, upādāna°; —māra death which is the consequence of sinful desire DhA. I, 317 (in expl. of Māra); —vatthūni (pl.) the (10) divisions of kilesa (see above) Dhs. 1229, 1548; Vism. 20. —vinaya the discipline of lust Nett 22; —vippayutta free from lust (dhamma principles, to which belongs Nibbāna) Dhs. 1555; —sampayutta connected or affected with lust Dhs. 1554 (as 12 principles); Vbh. 18=30=44=56, 68, 80, 96, 120, 323. (Page 216)

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary

kilesa : (m.) passion; lust; depravity; impurity.

Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English DictionaryPali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

General definition (in Buddhism)

kleśa [kilesa] defilement, impurity or delusion. According to Buddhist psychology, mind is fundamentally pure but it is defiled by unwholesome qualities known as defilements that come from without. The defilements stand in the way of spiritual practice and obstruct wisdom. When they are latent and inactive in mind, they are known as residue (anuśaya) [anusaya]; when they become distinct, they are known as paryavasthāna [pariyuṭṭhāna].

According to the Abhidhamma the ten defilements are as follows.

  1. greed (lobha),
  2. hatred (doṣa) [dosa],
  3. delusion (moha),
  4. conceit (māna),
  5. false views (kudṛṣṭi) [diṭṭhi],
  6. doubt (vicikitsā) [vicikicchā],
  7. mental torpor (styāna) [thīna],
  8. restlessness (auddhatya) [uddhacca],
  9. shamelessness (to do evil) (āhrīkya) [ahirika],
  10. lack of fear (to do evil) (anotrapya) [anottappa].
Source: DLMBS: Buddhānusmṛti

The word defilement is a common translation of the Pali word kilesa, which more literally translated means “torment of the mind.” We know directly from our own experience that when certain states arise strongly within us, they have a tormenting quality—states like anger, fear, guilt, and greed. When they knock at the door and we invite them in, we lose touch with the fundamentally pure nature of our mind, and then we suffer.

Source: Shambala Publications: General

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