Three Pillars of Strength
// November 29th, 2007 // Buddhism
Now that I am moved (unpacking…well, that’s another story), I am able to start devoting more time and concentration back on the important stuff. Which feels good, and is well timed, as I need to put a chill on the stress levels going on in my head. I need to regain some focus and concentration. I slept well last night, which certainly helped.
The Three Poisons of Greed, Anger, and Delusion are the source of all illusions and desires. These poisons keep us one step away from happiness, always moving us away from reality. What is the common root of all three poisons, and how can we transform them into happiness?
“Transforming Poison into Happiness” ~ The Middle Way
I have other things to discuss as well that have been on my mind of late, but that article above gives me some groundwork, so I’ll get to the other stuff some other time. Besides, I like the Middle Way blog and hope you take some time to read some of their stuff.
I will paraphrase some of what they talk about as an introduction, and by paraphrase, I mean be lazy and hope that my brevity is understandable in some form. See, there are these three things, which we can call poisons, which work to stop a person from achieving happiness. Another way to look at it is that these would be three components of dukkha (suffering). They may exist alone, or in combinations with each other. As quoted, they are anger, greed, and delusion. They are a basic barrier to being happy in your life.
Anger is a good one. You can’t turn a corner without running in to it. People get angry when they identify influences as negatively impacting their life, from there they decide that something must take the blame, and anger occurs from the resulting frustration with the situation. I had a good run in with this one yesterday, when I got my car back and noticed it driving funny around 55mph. But rather than get angry at it, I have found understanding. The car has a problem, probably not major, and my anger towards it would not change the matter. Nor is the car trying to dish out some punishment on me. It is what it is, and it will be fixed, or not. Anger would not solve the problem though. The car (or situation, or personal conflict, etc) cannot attack what we know as the Self. It is our perception that what we commonly consider the “I” is under attack, and we respond with anger. But the truth is that there is no I to be attacked. Therefore there is no reason to get angry. To put it in more personal terms, if someone were to start a conflict with you, they are trying to attack a person that actually does not exist. They are angry at “you,” when “you” cannot exist if there is no “I.” Therefore we should respond to their anger with compassion, because they are angry at an idea, not at our Self.
Greed comes in all forms, and might be one of the harder poisons to break. It may be for money and possessions, for love and emotions, for less or more of situation, for an event, and on, and on. Greed is the root source of some of the worst dukkha. Wars have been started by one person coveting what others had. Greed drives good people to do bad things. Worst of all, greed is self perpetuating. It can sustain itself longer, the deeper into it a person falls. This is selfish greed. The alternative is selfless greed. It is natural to want the best for ourselves, but really, we should focus on the best for everyone else. What we get from that will occur naturally and will sustain us exactly as much as we need. It is a hard thing to sit down and flip a switch from selfish to selfless greed, but much easier to strive towards it over time. Change a little more each day. Spend meditation time on others and their needs. Find ways to help them get what they need. Find happiness not in getting the best for you, but rather finding the best for others. I think many of us can identify with people in our lives that think they never have enough, and can never get ahead. They have combined greed and anger, which powers their suffering. They believe they never have enough, and get frustrated when this impedes their path.
The third poison, Delusion, I saved for last. Delusion is more commonly a result of one of the first two. Delusion is a poison that distracts people from truly seeing the solution to their suffering. They might be angry at their friends, and frustrated with not being able to buy what they want, or have the relationships they want, so they believe moving will solve everything. Or perhaps they fall into a relationship that they think will tie up all their loose ends. These are common delusions. They fail to identify the source of their dukkha, and in turn do not transform their other poisons into Pillars to stand on, so their cycle of unhappiness follows them and repeats. The counterpoint to delusion is right view, where instead you see through delusions, and are present only in the Truth. This opens the door to the Four Noble Truths, where you can begin work on the other two poisons.
So, while Delusion occurs as a result of Greed and Anger, it is the first one you need to solve to overcome the latter two. Without Right View, you cannot begin work transforming the other two poisons into pillars for cultivating good mindfulness. From there, once you have transformed those poisons, we can come to the final Noble Truth of practicing the Noble Eightfold Path, which will prevent them from returning and prepare you to help others do the same.