Three poisons (Buddhism)

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The three poisons are represented in the center of the wheel of life as a pig, a bird, and a snake.
The three poisons are represented in the center of the wheel of life as a pig, a bird, and a snake.

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).

Brief description[edit]

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.[1][2]

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).[3] 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.[3][4][5][6]

In the Buddhist traditions, it is believed that the three poisons are the cause of both physical and mental illness. Geshe Tashi Tsering states.[7] 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.[8]

The three poisons have been compared to the Western psychological concepts of narcissism, desire, and anger.[9][10]

Opposite wholesome qualities[edit]

The three wholesome mental factors that are identified as the opposites of the three poisons are:[11]

The principal aim of the Buddhist path is to cultivate these and related positive qualities.[11]

Sanskrit/Pali/Tibetan terms and translations[edit]

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[12][13] Pali[14] Tibetan[12][15] Alternate English translations[12] Skt./Pali/Tib. Synonym[16][17]
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.[18] 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.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Daniel Goleman (2003), pages 106, 111
  2. ^ Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen (2010), p. 451.
  3. ^ a b Ringu Tulku (2005), p. 30.
  4. ^ Dalai Lama (1992), p. 4, 42
  5. ^ Sonam Rinchen (2006), p. 8-9.
  6. ^ Dzongsar Khyentse (2004), p. 3.
  7. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2006, Kindle Locations 164-167.
  8. ^ Tenzin Wangyal 2011, pages 14
  9. ^ Epstein, Mark (2004), p. 39.
  10. ^ Leifer, Ron (1997), p. 25.
  11. ^ a b Gethin 1998, p. 81.
  12. ^ a b c Padmakara (1998), p. 336, 414. (from the glossary)
  13. ^ Damien Keown. "akuśala-mūla." A Dictionary of Buddhism. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2011). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O108-akualamla.html
  14. ^ Nyanatiloka (1980), http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/g_m/muula.htm
  15. ^ Ranjung Yeshe Wiki - Dharma Dictionary. http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/dug_gsum
  16. ^ Damien Keown. "moha." A Dictionary of Buddhism. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2011). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O108-moha.html
  17. ^ 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)
  18. ^ Berzin, Alexander. Berzin Archives, Glossary of Buddhist Terms
  19. ^ See Moha (Buddhism).

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]