The Three Poisons

The three poisons or the three roots (of suffering) were the subject of Brother Phap Vu‘s dharma talk on Saturday, April 30, 2016 at the Earth Holder Retreat in the Deer Park Monastery.


Br. Phap Vu, Photo Jerome Freedman

The three poisons are variously translated as shown in the following table (reading down)

desire greed attraction
hatred ill-will aversion
ignorance illusion delusion

The Buddha taught that the manifestation of any of these elements eventually leads to suffering, not that all is suffering.

People have been misled by this statement for centuries and thought that Buddhism was a negative religion – a perfect example of delusion!

These poisons exist at the personal level as well as the societal level.

Brother Phap Vu sees climate change as a result of unrelenting desire to consume products that in the long run cannot provide deep fulfillment and happiness, but lead to the destruction of the ecosystem, the extinction of many plants and animals, and global warming.

He asks, “How do we change that story?”

The answer is to change our intention, volition and will through the action (karma) of our body, speech and mind in the direction of appropriate attention to skillful means for a better way of life.

Brother Phap Vu quoted the Buddha,

Mind is the forerunner of all things.
Mind is their master. They are all mind-made.
Speak or act with an impure mind, and sorrow will follow you
As surely as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

Mind is the forerunner of all things.
Mind is their master. They are all mind-made.
Speak or act with a pure mind, and happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakeable.

He then proceed to outline how the mind works according to the Abhidhamma or Buddhist psychology in terms of seeds that lie dormant in our store consciousness and are brought into our mind consciousness by our thoughts, words, and deeds.’

The perfection of wisdom (non-delusion), generosity (non-greed), and loving kindness (non-hatred) can be found through practice and training to water these good seeds, thus getting beyond good/bad, beautiful/ugly, and becoming awakened!

What small desire are you willing to constantly pay attention to so that the seed of that desire does not disturb your peace of mind?


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