The 5 Poisons That Arise in our Mind -- and their Antidotes

The 5 Poisons That Arise in our Mind -- and their Antidotes
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Video version

Contemplate the 5 poisons and their antidotes on a regular basis. When one of the poisons arises in your mind, apply the antidote and witness the shift in your mindstate.

  • For Pride, use Humility and selflessness
  • For Sloth, use Discipline and ask: “What do I most want?”
  • For Anger, use Gentleness and compassion
  • For Hate, use Love
  • For Desire, use Purity

(Excerpted from transcript of a class taught at Dharma Center)

Anytime we find ourselves suffering, in a state of misery, not experiencing our innate Unreasonable Joy, if we look at the mindstate we are in, it can be traced back to one of five poisons. It can be tricky because sometimes one state will masquerade as another state.

So it’s important to practice contemplation when you find yourself suffering. When you discover you are feeling miserable, examine what state has enraptured you so you will know which mindstate is holding you in bondage.

Just as in the world of pharmacology there is a correct medicine for an illness, there is a specific antidote for a poisonous mindstate. If you were to use the wrong medicine, either it won’t work or it can have bad side effects. So it’s important to take the time to diagnose which mindstate is holding you captive, to know what is causing the suffering.

The First Step Is Always To Pay Attention

Check in where your mind is now; not where it was 5 minutes ago, or where it was last week, or where you hope it will be next week, but where it actually is, right now in this moment.


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When you find yourself suffering, and you feel that misery, first celebrate because now you are aware that you are miserable. Celebrate because that is an accomplishment in and of itself. I don’t think people give themselves enough credit for that accomplishment because it’s painful. You realize, “Oh wow, I am really, really miserable right now. I am suffering horribly!”

But before you had that awareness, you were still suffering horribly. Even worse, you were so caught up that you were reacting out of that state of misery and perpetuating it, not only for yourself but also for every single person you came into contact with. So it is a wonderful boon to actually become aware that you are in a state of suffering. So that’s step one, just to become aware.

What Is The Root Of This Suffering?

Now the next step is to figure out, “What is the root of this suffering? What mindstate is holding me captive?”

If we examine all the thousands of mindstates that have to do with suffering, they can be traced back down to five core states. We can find ourselves choking on pride, we can be slothful, we can be immersed in anger, filled with hate, or we can be overwhelmed with desire. Those are the five poisons: Pride, sloth, anger, hate, and desire.

Now you may look at that list and say, “wait a minute, I’m filled with fear. I’m filled with worry. That’s what’s going on with me, and I just can’t stop it because all of these horrible things are happening in the world and I’m just filled with worry.”

If we examine what is worry, what is fear, we learn it’s desire. It’s wanting things to be other than they are. Our mind is saying: “I don’t want this to happen. Or I want that to happen.” So fear and worry fall under the category of desire.

You might also say, “Wait a minute, I’m only a little bit annoyed, a little bit frustrated.” Well, that falls under anger. We don’t like to say anger because that’s such a big, heavy word. But even those tiny little annoyances, that’s a state of anger. If we don’t do anything about it, then it keeps blossoming, and it turns into full-fledged anger and we wind up blowing up on somebody.

What Poison Am I Ingesting Right Now?

Don’t take my word for it. Do your own contemplation, your own examination, and watch your mind. When you find yourself caught up in a state of misery, sit down with it. Accept what is happening, and ask: “What is this state really about? What poison am I ingesting right now?”

Once you figure out which poison you are ingesting, then you can apply an antidote.

The Most Popular Poison Of All: Desire

Trillions of dollars are pumped in to the desire economy on an ongoing basis. We are indoctrinated into desire almost from the moment we are born. We’re taught to relate to the world through desire: wanting, wanting, wanting, wishing, fearing, worrying, feeling greed, and hoarding.

Desire is the primary operating system for most people. That’s all they know, is to move inside a state of desire.

And they suffer.

When we are caught in desire, it’s never enough. Whatever we get, it’s never enough. We say, “I’ll be happy when I have this. I need that. I just gotta get one more of these.” And you get one more of these, you have that, you’ve got this, and you’re happy for a second.

And then you look up from your stash, your big pile you’ve collected and you see something, maybe out of the corner of your eye, and you’re like, “Oh I want THAT!” and now the stuff you have isn’t good enough anymore.

Or maybe you’ve been very, very successful in accumulating your desires and you’ve got this whole houseful of treasure, and then what happens is the fear and the worry: “Oh somebody might take it away from me.” You tell yourself, “I better buy some more locks and invest in a security system and now I need a video system.” And it keeps going, as you keep looking for something, something else, and something else.

With desire, it’s always one step away. We’re always reaching for one more thing, one more thing. It never ends. It’s an endless cycle. Beginningless and endless; it goes on forever. It’s very popular; everyone does it, so we feel very justified in clinging to our desires. But if we pay attention, we start to notice the sense of desire, this chasing and chasing, makes us miserable. We suffer because it’s always just out of reach. And we feel horrible, so we keep reaching for something, anything to take away the pain.

The Antidote To Desire Is Purity

Now purity is hard to define. It’s total and complete acceptance of what is and what will be, without clinging. It’s Trust in our deepest self, in Eternity, in Light, in whatever your Word of the day is, in that Infinite Eternal Awareness.

Don’t get caught up in trying to define purity.

But if you want to learn about purity, sit with a flower or a tree. Plants are innately pure. They have no self-consciousness; they are a pure expression of Light.

Again, don’t turn it into an intellectual exercise; simply sit and open yourself to the essence of a flower or a tree.

Instead use purity as an antidote, as a focal point anytime you are caught up in desire and you feel yourself reaching for that one more thing, one more thing, one more, one more. Whenever you find yourself saying, “I want this ... Oh I could do so many things if I won the lottery!”

I Have Everything I Need In This Moment

So if you’re caught up in desire and watching your mind spin, say a prayer for purity. Just say, “What I want most is purity.” And focus on that. “What I want most is purity. I pray for purity.”

And in that moment of praying for purity, it interrupts the endless cycle of desire. Suddenly you recognize: “I have everything I need in this moment, and if I don’t, then I can feel the guidance to go where I need to go, do what I need to do, without feeling like I am controlling any of it.”

In purity, you are no longer the doer, you are being done.

This energy, this life, this existence is playing itself out through you. And you know what needs to be done. There’s no question when you are in a state of purity.

Purity is closely related to humility. The more we let go of pride by embracing humility, the easier it is to access purity and let go of desire. All of these antidotes work together when applied correctly.

Sadness and Grief Are An Aspect of Love

Now there’s one state I did not talk about, and you might be wondering, asking, “Well, wait a minute, sadness feels terrible. Doesn’t sadness and grief create suffering?”

Yes, sorrow or grief can degenerate into a state of suffering. It can degenerate into desire, or into a state of anger. It can degenerate into a state of hate. But in and of itself, grief, sorrow, sadness, in its pure state, is an aspect of love.

There’s a quiet beauty to grief; it is recognition that we loved something. And even though the object of our love is no longer present, that sense of love is still with us, and that’s why we feel grief, that’s why we feel sorrow. So I would not classify sorrow or grief as a poison if it’s looked at properly.

Apply the Antidotes and Free Yourself

When you’re feeling miserable, when you’re suffering, apply the antidotes and free yourself. The challenging part is no one can do this for you. No matter how much you pay them, or how much you beg them, “Please give me the antidote!” they cannot force you to take it. Only you can do that.

I highly encourage you to do the work to investigate your mind. When you are caught in misery, when you’ve been drinking one of the 5 poisons, take the appropriate antidote so you can experience the Unreasonable Joy that is your true nature.

Excerpted from the book: Unreasonable Joy by Turīya.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Electric Bliss.
©2020 by Jenna Sundell. All Rights Reserved.

Article Source

Unreasonable Joy: Awakening through Trikaya Buddhism
by Turīya

Unreasonable Joy: Awakening through Trikaya Buddhism  by TuriyaUnreasonable Joy: Awakening through Trikaya Buddhism, points the way towards Enlightenment and liberation from suffering. We suffer through tragedies and the daily grind of eat-work-sleep, chasing happiness but finding fleeting pleasure. Built on the foundations of ancient wisdom, a new school called Trikaya Buddhism promises freedom from the suffering of this wearisome cycle.

For more info, or to order this book, click here. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)

About the Author

Turīya, author of Unreasonable JoyTurīya is a Buddhist monk, teacher, and author who, despite living with chronic pain, founded the Dharma Center of Trikaya Buddhism in San Diego in 1998 to share her path. For over 25 years, she has taught thousands of students how to meditate, trained teachers, and helped people discover the unreasonable joy of our true nature. For more info, visit dharmacenter.com/teachers/turiya/ as well as www.turiyabliss.com 

Video/Presentation with Turīya: Someone Is Suffering - a dharma talk on no-self

Video version of this article:

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