Transforming the Three Poisons

Film 

For countless eons we have been influenced and motivated by our greed, hatred, and delusion.  

Therefore, this work of purification and transformation cannot be effected hastily, in obedience to our impatient demand for quick results. This work requires patience, care, persistence, and deep compassion for ourselves and others.  

The Buddha taught us that the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion, which cause so much suffering, can indeed be purified and transformed. We can break the chain of suffering and negative karma and live a happy, fulfilling life.  

The Buddha’s excellent teachings tell us that enlightenment is our true nature, and will naturally shine forth through the purified mind and heart. Therefore, the goal of our spiritual practice is to liberate ourselves from the defilements that obscure the natural clarity, radiance, and joy of our enlightenment.  

So how do we encounter the three poisons and transform them in a way that leads to genuine liberation? We must begin this work of purification in the precise place where the poisons originate—in the mind itself (the conditioned ego or personality).  

This purification and transformation begins with the challenge of calming the mind and seeing deeply into ourselves. In other words, to eliminate the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion, we must first learn to recognize them when they first appear.  

Being mindful and aware, we can then discern how these deep-seated poisons influence our everyday thoughts, feelings, speech, and actions.  

This mindful awareness, this seeing deeply into ourselves, is the beginning of understanding; the beginning of our ability to transform these defilements.  

To accomplish this awareness, we train our mind through meditation. We learn to concentrate on our breathing at the tip of the nose (or the abdomen in Zen training), allowing all thoughts and feelings to arise and pass without reacting to them or evaluating them. Through this practice, we become much more aware of ourselves in everyday situations. We are able to notice when thoughts and emotions arise and begin to disturb us. In this way, we can be conscious of these thoughts and emotions and work with them skillfully before they get out of control, causing harm to ourselves and others. 

 

Source: Used with permission from Neil Cohen at Naljor Prison Dharma Service, PO Box 1177, Mount Shasta CA 96067.

Photo Credit: Intellimon Ltd.