Q121. What are the three poisons that prevent us from being happy?

A. The first poison, ignorance, is the lack of ability to see things as they are. For instance, we look upon a piece of broken rope as a snake, or mistake rotten food for healthy food. When we can’t see things as they are like this, we are said to see illusions as real.

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The second poison, greed, is the desire to get or avoid such illusions. When we are confused into seeing illusions as being real, we want to run away from illusions like a piece of broken rope that look awful or ugly, or strive to obtain illusions like rotten food that look attractive. Such desire is called greed.

Finally, when we struggle to obtain or avoid illusions that we mistake for being real, things usually don’t go as we desire. Repeated failures to achieve our goals, whether to avoid or obtain such illusions, cause us to lose our temper. Even if we sometimes succeed in achieving such illusions, we are disappointed or upset to see that they are not what we desired and don’t give us as much happiness as we expected. Such emotion, the third poison, is called anger.
©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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One thought on “Q121. What are the three poisons that prevent us from being happy?

  1. Simon, thank you very much for posting these Zen questions and answers from Boo Ahm.

    Two of my friends started reading your blog.

    Like

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