addition to meditation practice, there are also the antidotes or
alternatives to the three poisons.
Buddha has given us the antidote for every defilement; the method whereby we eliminate unwholesome mental
attitudes and replace them with virtuous, wholesome attitudes which benefit ourselves and others. Therefore, the
entire aim of spiritual practice is to gradually subdue the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion by
cultivating the alternative mental factors that are directly opposed to them.
antidotes are called the three wholesome roots: non-greed,
non-hatred, and non-delusion.
To antidote and overcome greed, we
learn to cultivate selflessness, generosity, detachment, and contentment. If we are experiencing greed, strong
desire, or attachment and we want to let it go, we can contemplate the impermanence or the disadvantages of the
objects of our desire. We can practice giving away those things we would most like to hold onto. We can also
practice acts of selfless service and charity, offering care and assistance to others in any way we can, free of
all desire for recognition or compensation. In truth, there is no objection to enjoying and sharing the beauty,
pleasures, and objects of this material world. The problems associated with greed and attachment only arise when
we mistakenly believe and act as if the source of our happiness is outside of us.
To antidote and overcome hatred, we
learn to cultivate loving-kindness, compassion, patience, and forgiveness. When we react to unpleasant feelings,
circumstances, or people, with hatred, anger, or aversion, we can use these sublime antidotes to counteract the
poisons. Here we learn to openly embrace the entire spectrum of our experiences without hatred or aversion. Just
as we practice meeting unpleasant experiences in the outer world with patience, kindness, forgiveness, and
compassion, we must also practice meeting our own unpleasant feelings in the same way. Our feelings of
loneliness, hurt, doubt, fear, insecurity, inadequacy, depression, and so forth, all require our openness and
loving-kindness. Our challenge in spiritual practice is to soften our habitual defenses, open our heart, and let
go of hatred, aversion, and denial. In this way, we can meet and embrace ourselves, others, and all inner and
outer experiences with great compassion and wisdom.
To antidote and overcome delusion, we
cultivate wisdom, insight, and right understanding. Learning to experience reality exactly
as it is, without the distortions of our self-centered desires, fears, and expectations, we free ourselves from
delusion. Deeply sensing and acting in harmony with the interdependent, impermanent, and ever-changing nature of
this world—realizing that all living beings are inseparably related and that lasting happiness does not come
from anything external—we free ourselves from delusion. As we develop a clear understanding of karma, knowing
the positive, wholesome actions that bring happiness and the negative, unwholesome actions that bring suffering,
we cultivate the wisdom, insight, and right understanding that free us from delusion.
By studying the Dharma and applying the teachings properly in our lives, we will gradually wear away even the most
stubborn habitual behaviors, fully liberating ourselves from stress, unhappiness, and suffering. The Buddha calls
this the “taintless liberation of the mind.” When the three poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion have finally
been extinguished, the sublime peace, wisdom, unity, and bliss of Nirvana shine forth as our essential
Source: Used with permission from Neil Cohen at Naljor Prison
Dharma Service, PO Box 1177, Mount Shasta CA 96067.
Photo Credit: Intellimon Ltd.