Buddhist tool box: Three poisons


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?)

  1. Desire (greed)
  2. Ignorance (delusion)
  3. 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.



3 responses

  1. The interactive link was interesting; I was lost in it for quite awhile (much like I am lost in the wheel in life).