Three mental poisons

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Tibetan wheel of life ( Bhavacakra ). The three animals in the center symbolize the three spiritual poisons

Three poisons of the mind , three pollutions of mind or three roots of the unwholesome (skt./pali mūla , Tib . : dug gsum ) is an important term in Buddhist ethics and summarizes the three harmful properties of greed, hatred and delusion. The term "mental pollution" indicates the fundamental ability to cleanse or the original otherness of the mind.

  • Greed (pali lobha , Tib. 'Dod chags ), also translated as addiction or desire, is the wanting to have and possess, the striving to exist in any case and at any price. Related to greed are the passions of intense desire (raga) and "thirst" for becoming ( tanha ). Generosity and charity ( Dāna ) are beneficial (kosala ).
  • Hate (pali dosa , skt. Dvesa ), also translated as anger or aggression, is the self-assertion of an illusory self towards fellow beings. Goodness ( metta ) is beneficial .
  • Delusion ( moha ), ignorance (skt. Avidya ) and not-knowing are largely congruent terms. Ignorance is a condition that is believed to be the root cause of all suffering. The other two poisons of the spirit follow the basic ignorance. Not knowing is the basis of all karmic-causal action. It means not knowing the truth (s) about the nature of mind. When the delusion / ignorance / not-knowing is purified, the wholesome aspect appears in the mind: wisdom ( pañña ).

In Buddhist and Hindu literature, other forms of mental pollution (p. Kilesa, skr. Kleśa) are also mentioned and combined in lists of different lengths and compositions. (See Klesha ).

The counterpart to the three roots of unwholesome actions are the three roots of wholesome (kusala) actions: greedlessness (alobha), hatelessness (adosa), unblinking (amoha).

In relation to the mental attitude, the 3 mental poisons mean:

  • Ignorance - Indifferent Mindset
  • Greed - Attachment of mind
  • Hatred / Aggression - Rejecting attitude

Either way, the antidote is "love and compassion".


In the Tibetan wheel of life , the three spiritual poisons are depicted as the central driving force of samsara in the center of the painting in animal form: a rooster (greed), a snake (hatred, aggression) and a pig (delusion, ignorance, ignorance). In some depictions the pig holds the snake and the rooster with its mouth and is therefore considered to be the cause. In the painting shown here, the pig, snake and rooster form an intertwined circle.

See also


Web links

Source texts in Karl Eugen Neumann's translation of the Pali Canon :