The Three Poisons

To those who are free from desire and anger, who aspire [for Self‐realisation] whose minds are controlled, and who have attained self‐mastery — the Great Nirvana is close at hand. (Gita 5:26)

There are three drives which cause us to perform negative actions which lead to demerit and suffering; they are Desire (Kama), Anger (Krodha) and Greed (lobha). These three are the three poisons which retard spiritual growth and are said to be the three gateways to suffering.

Desire — primarily and generally refers to the libido which is the strongest drive we have. In more specific terms it refers to the desire which is self‐centered or self‐referent and directed purely at self‐gratification. It is wrongly directed desire which is unhelpful to spiritual progress, and thus prolongs one’s existence in Samsara — the cycle of births and deaths.

Aggression — the reaction towards unfulfilled desires and failed expectations one has of others or the feeling of being threatened. This leads to causing injury and hurt to others which in turn results in bad Karma and further suffering. Our sages teach us that a moment’s outburst of anger destroys heaps of merit painstakingly accumulated over long periods of time.

Greed — the craving for more beyond the limits of necessity or comfort. Its goal is having and possessing for the sake of possession itself without any personal use or utilization for the benefit to others. Its dynamism lies in the delusive identification with body, possessions and resources and the resultant inability to share them with others and to rejoice at the good fortune of others. It actually manifests as a desire to obstruct the progress and prosperity of others.

All these three poisons have their roots in delusion. Delusion (moha) is the notion that the mind/body complex is the “self” and that the individual is a unique and separate entity to all others which leads to craving and clinging. This conviction is the very axis on which the wheel of reincarnation revolves. Until we attain enlightenment and realize that we are not the physical complex but eternal spiritual beings which are perfect rays of divinity, and thus interconnected with all life forms, then we will continue indefinitely in bondage to the material nature.