Buddhist Philosophy

~ November 29, 2016 ~

Truly Understanding the Five Poisons

Buddhist Philosophy • audio

Truly understanding the five poisons, also known as the five negative emotions, is a crucial step on our path. In this audio teaching, Phakchok Rinpoche reminds us that it is not enough to know the names of the poisons. We have to examine our own minds to see how these poisons manifest.

The Five Poisons:

  1. Anger
  2. Jealousy
  3. Pride
  4. Ignorance
  5. Attachment

Rinpoche gives us some personal advice. He says that he heard about negative emotions from his teachers many times. But he says that at the beginning, he was not able to see these in his own mind. Do we have the five poisons? Of course. In order to truly understand, we should not just rely on descriptions from books.


Instead, we should reflect on ourselves. We should see how our emotions arise. Did we have negative feelings toward someone? What is jealousy? Reflect on how we feel about someone else’s success.

What about pride? Do we feel that someone looks down on us? Rinpoche gives a dramatic example of someone not able to shoot at a photo of himself. Pride is simply identity – not just that our body is “me,” but ego-clinging even extends to a photo. We should think about how our ego extends: to our communities, our states, and our countries. Pride is based on ego.

Transformation Through Meditation

Thus, Rinpoche reminds us that we must be sincere and honest in our self-examination. When we see our poisons, we must really see them and recognize them. This doesn’t mean we should feel depressed. Instead, we must acknowledge our poisons and try to transform them. By doing this, we diagnose and then work with our problems. We can’t transform ourselves by just thinking or studying philosophy. The only way to transform the poisons is through meditation. And we need to realize that all these individual poisons are connected. The five poisons are a byproduct of judgment. Do we judge and compare? Do we like and dislike easily? All these negative poisons are a result of this habit of judgment.

That’s why when we learn meditation it is very important to understand how the poisons develop.

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3 responses on "Truly Understanding the Five Poisons"

  1. thank you thank you thank you from the depth of my heart!

    (again, difficult to hear)

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