Three poisons of Mind

3 Poisons of Mind
3 Poisons of Mind

1. 3 poisons

The 3 poisons (Sanskrit: triviṣa; Tibetan: dug gsum) or the 3 unwholesome roots (akuśala-mūla), in Buddhism, refer to the 3 root Kleśas:

  1. Moha (delusion, confusion),
  2. Rāga (greed, sensual attachment),
  3. Dveṣa (aversion, hate).

These 3 poisons are considered to be 3 afflictions or character flaws innate in a being, the root of Taṇhā (craving), and thus in part the cause of Dukkha (suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness) and rebirths.

The 3 poisons are sometimes depicted in Buddhist artwork, with rooster, snake, and pig, representing greed, ill will, and delusion respectively.

2. Brief description

In the Buddhist teachings, the 3 poisons (of ignorance, attachment, and aversion) are the primary causes that keep sentient beings trapped in Saṁsāra.

These 3 poisons are said to be the root of all of the other Kleśas (mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions).

The 3 poisons are often represented in the hub of the wheel of life as a pig, a bird, and a snake (representing ignorance, attachment, and aversion, respectively).

The 3 poisons lead to the creation of Karma, which leads to Rebirth in the 6 realms of Saṁsāra.

3. Opposite wholesome qualities

The 3 wholesome mental factors that are identified as the opposites of the 3 poisons are:

  1. amoha (non-delusion) or prajñā (wisdom)
  2. alobha (non-attachment) or dāna (generosity)
  3. adveṣa (non-hatred) or mettā (loving-kindness)

Buddhist path considers these essential for liberation.

4. Sanskrit / Pāḷi terms and translations

The 3 Kleśas of ignorance, attachment and aversion are referred to as the 3 poisons (Skt. triviṣa; Tibetan: dug gsum) in the Mahāyāna tradition and as the 3 unwholesome roots (Pāli, akusala-mūla; Skt. akuśala-mūla ) in the Theravāda tradition.

The Sanskrit, Pāḷi, and Tibetan terms for each of the 3 poisons are the following:

1) Delusion (Sanskrit: Moha, Avidyā), (Pāḷi: Moha, Avijjā) – also translated as: confusion, ignorance.

2) Attachment (Sanskrit: Rāga), (Pāḷi: Lobha) – also translated as: desire, sensuality, greed

3) Aversion (Sanskrit: Dveṣa), (Pāḷi: Dosa) – also translated as: anger, hatred, hostility

In the Mahāyāna tradition Moha is identified as a subcategory of Avidya.

Whereas Avidya is defined as a fundamental Ignorance, Moha is defined as Delusion, confusion and incorrect beliefs.

In the Theravāda 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 12 links of Dependent Origination.