A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

The three poisons

Ever have one of those days, you know the one where no matter what you do, or say it just seems to make things worse. I have then once in a while, thankfully not very often. Had one recently, and by the end of the day was withdrawn, defensive, and belligerent. To say that I felt like I had drank a mouthful of poison, would be pretty accurate. In Buddhism, this is called klesha, which means poison. There are three types of poison we inflict upon ourselves.

The first poison is ignorance or denial. If we didn’t know, then we need to study, and if we knew but just find any excuse to justify saying, but it wasn’t my fault, then we can lump them under ignorance. Remember the three monkeys, Hear no evil, See no evil, and Speak no Evil. They make pretty good poster representatives for ignorance, unfortunately need to include our ego, aka the zoo keeper in that photo. For if the zoo keeper was doing his job, the monkeys would have been kept safely caged up, not causing all sorts of mischief, then collectively denying any responsibility.

The second poison is passion or craving. this is one where we let our desires for something or someone run away with us. It doesn’t matter which sense is selling the message of desire, it’s time to reign it in. Time to say no matter how appealing the desire is, we are not considering placing the order. Perhaps it is more than one sense, your eyes saw them smile, your nose picked up a scent that drew your attention, you heard them say hello. Perhaps it was the aroma of a fresh baked pie, followed by seeing it fresh out of the oven, taking that first bite, oh wait am I making you hungry? Knowing when something is not good or that too much of a good thing is not good either, takes self control. The manager needs to be in charge, not the sales team.

The third poison is aggression. This one may take many forms, so is especially insidious. At work we are always in a competition, with other companies as we try to gain new business, or retain current clients for the company we work for. Then with our fellow co-workers, in who is the most important to the company. After all that bonus would sure feel good in your bank account, more so than somebody else’s account.

Oh wait did you drive to work today, did you practice safe and courteous driving, or where you competing to be the first in line, get that best parking spot?

Regardless it is when we realize that these poisons are self inflicted, can we begin the hard task, of not only stopping the ingestion of more poison, but detoxify our bodies of the poisons we have already consumed.

Take a deep breath, or a few till you feel calm, now try to maintain that feeling as you finish your day. Don’t get discouraged, when you can’t do it, just take another breath or three, and start over. Forgive yourself, and forgive those around you, while your at it, forgive that nameless person who cut you off in traffic, or took that last good parking spot. They had just as much right to that space as you did.

the next time someone starts to upset you, think “they are doing the best they can, trying to be happy”. Do not judge if they are on the right path, just accept them as they are, where they are, for they are the same as you.


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