Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Three Poisons

The Three Poisons

In the Buddhist teachings the messy emotional stuff
is called klesha, which means poison.
There are three main poisons: passion, aggression, and ignorance.
We could talk about these in different ways--for example,
we could also call them craving, aversion, and couldn't care less.
Addictions of all kinds come under the category of craving,
which is wanting, wanting, wanting---feeling that
we have to have some kind of resolution.
Aversion encompasses violence, rage, hatred,
and negativity of all kinds, as well as garden-variety irritation.
And ignorance? Nowadays, it's usually called denial.

The three poisons are always trapping you in one way or another,
imprisoning you and making your world really small.
When you feel craving, you could be sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon,
but all you can see is the piece of chocolate cake that you're craving.
With aversion, you're sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon,
and all you can hear is the angry words you said to someone ten years ago.
With ignorance, you're sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon
with a paper bag over your head.
Each of the three poisons has the power
to capture you so completely
that you don't even perceive what's in front of you.

The pith instruction is, whatever you do,
don't try to make the poisons go away.
When you're trying to make them go away,
you're losing your wealth along with your neurosis.
The irony is that what we most want to avoid
is crucial to awakening bodhichitta.
These juicy emotional spots are where a warrior gains wisdom and compassion.
Of course, we'll want to get out of those spots far more often than we'll want to stay.
That's why self-compassion and courage are vital.
Without loving-kindness, staying with pain is just warfare.

(Comfortable With Uncertainty, by Pema Chödrön)

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