BUDDHISM > Three poisons

As human beings, we are subject to many negative habits.

The most serious and detrimental being craving and anger, which stem from our emotional attachments to the concept of having an individual and permanent self, and to our lack of understanding our true place in the universe and our relationships with all those who inhabit the universe with us.

This lack of understanding is ignorance—having wrong views and knowledge, and lacking correct knowledge.

These three—greed, anger, and ignorance—are called the three poisons.

Greed, or craving, arises from the mistaken idea that we can obtain and hold on to possessions, to ideas, and even to other people. Greed arises from selfishness, from the misconception that our bodies are who we are. Our greed and attachments tie us to unhappiness and lead us to much harmful behavior.

Because of greed, we become angry as others have or take something we want. Anger so often arises when our greed is unrestrained. Or when we do not get what we want, because others reject our ideas or obtain what we had wanted for ourselves. Or when what we have is taken from us, or those we love are lost to us. The ways that greed and attachments can overwhelm us and, then, lead us to anger are endless. And the pain generated, as a consequence, is infinite.

Anger in all its forms, ranging from frustration to resentment, animosity, and even cruelty, is one of our most significant problems. It arises before we even realize what is happening. Somebody says something and, in a flash, we are angry.

Why do we so easily become angry? We do so because we are do not understand, we are ignorant of reality. We are attached to self-importance, our view of who we are, to the concept of “I.” When my concept of “I” is threatened, “I” very often strikes out in anger.

How can we eliminate our three poisons?

Letting go and giving offset greed. Patience and loving-kindness counteract hatred. Wisdom, which already lies within our true nature, counter ignorance.

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