Net of Love Sutta (Part I)


May 2, 2010. 80-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Full New Meditation Hall, New Hamlet, Plum Village. The talk was given Vietnamese (found here) and is translated into English by Sr. Chan Khong. This is the first in a series.

The Sutra on Net of Love, as discussed here, is from Chinese Dhammapada and originally in the sanskrit (Taisho #213). The sutra has 32 chapters, has 752 stanzas, and was translated to Chinese in the 3rd century. The topic is sensual love and has historically been a sutra for the monastic community. Sensual love is like a net that can imprison us. However, Thay believes that lay people (non-monastic) can benefit from it too though it is easier for monastic because they are in a safe environment. The main intention of sutra is to help monastic keep celibacy.

A portion of the sutra being discussed today are Gathas 1-6.

When the mind goes in the direction of sex, the tree of sexual desire springs up and quickly sprouts branches.
With sex as the object of mind, a fire will burst up in us and cause the mind to be dispersed.
Those who look for sex are like monkey’s that search for fruit, jumping from branch to branch.

Sensual love inflicts us with suffering and ties us to worldly life.
Worries and accidents caused by sensual love grow day and night like an invasive grass with tangled roots.
Blinded by love, sooner or later, we fall into passion.
Obsession grows daily like a trickle of water filling a pond.

In life there are many worries and sorrows, but there is no greater worry than that brought by sensual love.
Being able to let go sexual desire, releases all worry.
If we want to happy and joyful, then we must be determined to let go of sensual love.

Free from sensual love, we are no longer caught in the circle of samsara.
Nor burdened by anxiety.
Nor restlessly searching for what is unwholesome.
The absence of attachment will lead to true peace and joy.

If we have been deeply caught in love, then on our death bed, surrounded by relatives, we will see just how long the path of worry and suffering is before us.
The suffering caused by love often leads us into unsafe situations and numerous disasters.
As a practitioner, we should not go in the direction of sensual love that it’s roots can no longer sprout.
It is not simply cutting reeds above ground.

The roots of sensual love are deep and firm.
The tree may be cut, yet branches and leaves sprout again.
When sensual love is not uprooted, the suffering it causes will come back.

Like a monkey that jumps from one tree to another, people jump from one prison of sensual love to another.
The mind of attachment is like a stream of water that goes with the flow of habit energy and pride.
Our thoughts and perceptions can be embellished by the colors of sensual love and then we ourselves hide the truth and cannot see it.

That is all available in English at this time. The lines may “broken” at incorrect places, as this has been transcribed verbally. Please post any comments, suggestions, or corrections below.

Update: the sutra as written above is the initial English translation and a couple of drafts are still in development. Look in future posts for updated versions.


By Chan Niem Hy

Dharma Teacher.


  1. Hello, I just landed on this page through twitter update. The heading says Net of Love Sutta. I think it should be Sutra instead of Sutta. Please see to it.

  2. Celibacy is an obsession too.
    “Self-liberate even the antidote.”

  3. Dear Friends,
    Im so delighted to hear this commentry and see the sutra, it is perfect for helping single people (non monastic) for developing strong roots in them selves, then they have a choice to stay single or with strong roots they may make a good partener. I wish I had met this teaching earlier, I would have saved myself a lot of suffering and also stopped creating pain for others. Im happy single now after 20 years of dating and casual encounters. Im greatfull to those people, they really helped me in so many ways and now (for the moment) im here for myself and resting happily as a single 42 year old man. I would love to see strong single people living their lives happily and stong couples living their lives happily


  4. .. who have been ordained in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing (Vietnamese Zen.) Conducted in Noble Silence and including gentle yoga, walking meditation, lightly-guided sitting meditation, mindful lunch, guided deep-relaxation, and dharma talk. …

  5. Thank you my Dear for your transcription. May I suggest a correction here. This sutra was based on Chapter 32 ??? in ??? Taisho 210. The pali equivalent is Dhammapada chapter 24 “Craving”. Also, the meaning of some Chinese words may not have been very accurately translated into English. But I am grateful that Thay introduced this passage here!

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