Buddhist dharma offers us many lists — lists of four, of eight, of 12, etc. Each list acts as a different key for unlocking something. The simplest list I know is the three poisons. (Anybody can remember three, yes?)
- Desire (greed)
- Ignorance (delusion)
- Anger (hatred)
These three help to explain how we manufacture suffering for ourselves (and others). When I catch myself in one of these (which isn’t always easy — catching oneself), I have to look at it and try to see how I got it, or how I made it. (I, I, I — there’s the real issue!)
In illustrations of the “wheel of life,” in the center of the wheel (shown above), three animals represent the three poisons: the snake is anger, the pig is ignorance, and the rooster is desire. (There is a nice interactive version of the wheel of life online at BuddhaNet; it explains all the parts of the full diagram.)
Knowing that they are “poisons” makes it clear that I need to stay far away from them — but of course I find myself swimming in one or the other (or all three) more often than I like.