The Buddha’s Lists

The three poisons

All the negatives in Buddhism come from the Ego, the strong sense of self which keeps us apart from the truths of being alive, of being part of the oneness and ultimately of being happy.

Since the Ego is the sense of self it makes sense that the three poisons are about self interest, summed up as roughly:

on my side

against me

of no interest to me

Each one has massive implications for how we live in the world and with our own consciousness. They sum up what are called Kleshas or unwholesome states of mind. It is humbling to notice that even as I write this I can recognise them all in myself too.

Traditionally animals are used to represent these kleshas, a rooster, a snake, and a pig, though this seems deeply unfair to the animals concerned and not like them at all. I happen to like all three animals and respect their rights to thrive and be themselves, but I do not think it wise to allow the kleshas to thrive at all. They only undermine all our attempts to be our best selves.

‘On my side’ can also be seen as attachment, greed, passion, desire to control or own or manipulate. Lust perhaps even. Whatever we want and like we just want more of it regardless of the cost. It is a distortion of the alternative expression which is love, compassion and joy. It is a distortion based on the ego’s desire to survive and thus collect or crave more of what makes it feel good i.e. survival mode turbo charged and that comes from fear of not having enough to survive, a lack mentality, the idea there is not enough for everyone to have enough, not more or less but just simple enough.

As with all things negative in Buddhism it can be turned into positive by using the energy of passion to move towards a healthier form of love and abundance thinking.

‘Against me’ is hostile enemy mentality, perception of threats from others, a desire to repel or escape from, and a willingness to hurt someone else to get what we think we want or need, or to protect ourselves from the perceived threat they pose. This is a very powerful illusion or delusion since the reality can appear concrete and manifests in very many ways. In order to win over here we must see beyond the concept of threat to us from others and recognise threat to ourselves from ourselves by our thinking or attitudes. When we can do this we achieve great wisdom, so the positive is born from the negative again. This poison is probably the greatest cause of suffering across our planet right now and thus needs the most attention to it. If we each remove that thinking from our hearts and minds we can start to heal it in others. It is the continuous reflecting back and forth that makes it seem impossible to overcome, but the mirrors do break from time to time and then we can see the deeper truths.

‘It is not about me’ is another way of saying I don’t care or am indifferent. Indifference is another very selfish attitude based on ignorance of our interconnectedness. We are never individual or independent, this is another trick or delusion of the Ego, we are always part of the whole.When you meditate and contemplate the oneness you begin to see this as the reality. It is like trying to separate out single waves of water from the sea as a whole, A wave emerges but it is never separate from the rest of the ocean and it is always rising and falling back into the ocean body. So it is with us and the rest of the universe. These delusions that obscure the deepest truths about our true nature also make us profoundly unhappy and when we see beyond them we find deep happiness. It is the transition from dualistic perception or thinking into oneness and the realisation that your short term pleasure should never take precedence over someone else’s suffering either. This kind of delusion of indifference holds very little salvation in it either. It cannot be transformed so easily other than by a realisation of its fundamental flawed nature.

Dharma Talk

a forum for sharing ideas and inspiration based on the teachings of the Buddha

Sylvia Clare MSc. Psychol

Written by

Mindfulness teacher, poet, author. Top writer on Quora 2018 and Medium in Parenting and Feminism. https://sylviaclare.co.uk/

Dharma Talk

a forum for sharing ideas and inspiration based on the teachings of the Buddha