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The three poisons (Sanskrit: triviṣa; Tibetan: dug gsum) or the three unwholesome roots (Sanskrit: akuśala-mūla; Pāli: akusala-mūla), in Buddhism, refer to the three root kleshas of ignorance, attachment, and aversion. These three poisons are considered to be the cause of suffering (Sanskrit: dukkha).
In the Buddhist teachings, the three poisons (of ignorance, attachment, and aversion) are the primary causes that keep sentient beings trapped in samsara. These three poisons are said to be the root of all of the other kleshas.
The three poisons are represented in the hub of the wheel of life as a pig, a bird, and a snake (representing ignorance, attachment, and aversion, respectively). As shown in the wheel of life (Sanskrit: bhavacakra), the three poisons lead to the creation of karma, which leads to rebirth in the six realms of samsara. Of these three, ignorance is the root poison. From ignorance, attachment and aversion arise.
In the Buddhist traditions, it is believed that the three poisons are the cause of both physical and mental illness. Geshe Tashi Tsering states. In Tibetan medicine, it is believed that the three poisons obscure the flow of the energetic wind (Tib. lung) through three main subtle energy channels within the body.
Opposite wholesome qualities
- amoha (non-bewilderment); prajna (wisdom)
- alobha (non-attachment)
- adveṣa (non-aggression, lack of hatred); mettā (loving-kindness)
Sanskrit/Pali/Tibetan terms and translations
The three kleshas of ignorance, attachment and aversion are referred to as the three poisons (Skt. triviṣa; Tibetan: dug gsum) in the Mahayana tradition and as the three unwholesome roots (Pāli, akusala-mūla; Skt. akuśala-mūla ) in the Therevada tradition.
The Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan terms for each of the three poisons are as follows:
|Poison||Sanskrit||Pali||Tibetan||Alternate English translations||Skt./Pali/Tib. Synonym|
|Ignorance||moha||moha||gti mug||confusion, bewilderment, delusion||avidyā (Skt.); avijjā (Pāli); ma rigpa (Tib.)|
|Attachment||rāga||lobha||'dod chags||desire, passion, greed||n/a|
|Aversion||dveṣa||dosa||zhe sdang||anger, aggression, hatred||n/a|
In the Mahayana tradition moha is identified as a subcategory of avidya. Whereas avidya is defined as a fundamental ignorance, moha is defined as an ignorance of cause and effect or of reality that accompanies only destructive states of mind or behavior. Moha is sometimes replaced by avidya in lists of the three poisons. In contemporary explanations of the three poisons, teachers are likely to emphasize the fundamental ignorance of avidya rather than moha.
In the Theravada tradition, moha and avidya are equivalent terms, but they are used in different contexts; moha is used when referring to mental factors, and avidya is used when referring to the twelve links.
- Daniel Goleman (2003), pages 106, 111
- Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen (2010), p. 451.
- Ringu Tulku (2005), p. 30.
- Dalai Lama (1992), p. 4, 42
- Sonam Rinchen (2006), p. 8-9.
- Dzongsar Khyentse (2004), p. 3.
- Geshe Tashi Tsering 2006, Kindle Locations 164-167.
- Tenzin Wangyal 2011, pages 14
- Epstein, Mark (2004), p. 39.
- Leifer, Ron (1997), p. 25.
- Gethin 1998, p. 81.
- Padmakara (1998), p. 336, 414. (from the glossary)
- Damien Keown. "akuśala-mūla." A Dictionary of Buddhism. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2011). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O108-akualamla.html
- Nyanatiloka (1980), http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/g_m/muula.htm
- Ranjung Yeshe Wiki - Dharma Dictionary. http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/dug_gsum
- Damien Keown. "moha." A Dictionary of Buddhism. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2011). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O108-moha.html
- Ranjung Yeshe Wiki - Dharma Dictionary. http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/gti_mug (this entry lists the Tibetan term ma rigpa as a synonym for the Tibetan git mug)
- Berzin, Alexander. Berzin Archives, Glossary of Buddhist Terms
- See Moha (Buddhism).
- Dalai Lama (1992). The Meaning of Life, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, Boston: Wisdom.
- Dzongsar Khyentse (2004). Gentle Voice #22, September 2004 Issue.
- Epstein, Mark (2004). Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective. Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Geshe Sonam Rinchen (2006). How Karma Works: The Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, Snow Lion
- Goleman, Daniel (2003). Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Random House.
- Keown, Damien (2004). A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press.
- Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen (2010). A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path. Snow Lion.
- Lamotte, Étienne (translator). The Treatise on the Great Virtue of Wisdom of Nagarjuna. Gampo Abbey.
- Geshe Tashi Tsering (2006), Buddhist Psychology: The Foundation of Buddhist Thought, Volume III, Perseus Books Group, Kindle Edition
- Gethin, Rupert (1998), Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford University Press
- Leifer, Ron (1997). The Happiness Project. Snow Lion.
- Nyanatiloka (1980), Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, Buddhist Publication Society, http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/dic_idx.html
- O'Brien, Barbara. http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhismglossaryt/g/threepoisons.htm
- Padmakara Translation Group (translator) (1998). The Words of My Perfect Teacher, by Patrul Rinpoche. Altamira.
- Rangjung Yeshe Wiki - Dharma Dictionary. http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/dug_gsum
- Ringu Tulku (2005). Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion.
- Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2011). Awakening the Sacred Body: Tibetan Yogas of Breath and Movement. Hay House.
- Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche Sherpa (2004). Gampopa, the Monk and the Yogi : His Life and Teachings. Harvard University.
- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (2008). The Joy of Living. Paperback. Three Rivers Press.
- Access to Insight, Mula Sutta: Roots (AN 3.69 PTS: A i 201)
- Access to Insight, Nidana Sutta: Causes (AN 3.33 PTS: A i 134 Thai 3.34; BJT 3.34)