The Natural Law of Karma is a concept that refers to the law of cause and effect, where every action, thought, and word creates an imprint on our mindstream that influences our future experiences. The three poisons – craving, anger, and ignorance – are the origin of unwholesome karma, which can cause suffering and discontent in our lives. It is important to understand these poisons and how we can overcome them to cultivate positive mental states and create more wholesome karma.
The first poison is craving or attachment, which arises from an intense desire or greed for something. Craving is a mental state that arises from an intense desire or greed for something, be it material possessions, relationships, power, or any other object of desire. It is the feeling that we need something to be happy or complete, and without it, we may feel empty or dissatisfied. Craving can take many forms such as wants and is closely related to clinging and holding on too tightly, as well as having expectations, as all of these states involve a sense of attachment or grasping.
The problem with craving is that it is an unwholesome root which leads to unwholesome outcomes…this is the karma. When we act out of craving, we engage in actions that harm ourselves or others, or that create negative mental states such as anxiety or anger.
To remedy craving, there are two antidotes that are particularly effective:
The first is practicing generosity, which involves giving without expecting anything in return. When we give freely, without any strings attached, we train our minds to let go of our attachment to material possessions and cultivate contentment. This can help us break free from the cycle of craving and find joy in what we already have.
The second antidote for uprooting craving is breathing mindfulness meditation. This practice helps us develop awareness of our thoughts and feelings, enabling us to observe our cravings without being controlled by them. By observing our cravings with detachment and curiosity, we can begin to understand them better and see them as passing mental states rather than as absolute truths. This can help us develop greater emotional resilience and inner peace, even in the face of difficult circumstances.
The second poison is anger or aversion, which arises from intense dislike or hatred towards someone or something. This mental state leads to unwholesome karma. The remedy for anger is practicing loving-kindness, compassion, and effective communication.
Loving-kindness involves developing and practicing a positive attitude towards ourselves and others, wishing them well-being and happiness. It is having a genuine interest in seeing all beings well, including ourselves. Through the practice of loving-kindness meditation, we cultivate a sense of empathy and connectedness with all beings, including those who have caused us harm. This can help us let go of our anger and resentment and find forgiveness and understanding.
Compassion involves cultivating a mindset of empathy, understanding, and forgiveness towards others, even when we disagree with their actions or beliefs. By developing compassion, we can learn to respond to difficult situations with patience and kindness, rather than reacting with anger or hostility.
Effective communication is another important aspect of dealing with anger. By learning to identify our triggers and communicate our needs and boundaries clearly and assertively, we can prevent conflicts and build stronger, more positive relationships with others.
By practicing loving-kindness, compassion, and effective communication, we can break free from the cycle of anger and cultivate greater emotional resilience and inner peace.
The third poison is ignorance or delusion, which arises from a lack of understanding or knowledge of the true nature of reality. This mental state leads to unwholesome karma and can give rise to the first two poisons: craving and anger. Ignorance is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of reality, including the impermanence and interconnectedness of all things, as well as the law of cause and effect.
Ignorance can lead us to believe that our thoughts and feelings are solid and real, which can give rise to craving and attachment. At the same time, it can make us blind to the causes and conditions that give rise to our suffering, leading to anger and aversion.
The remedy for ignorance is wisdom, which can be developed through learning, reflecting, and practicing the natural laws of existence. By gaining wisdom, we can develop a deeper understanding of the nature of reality and overcome our ignorance. We can start by reflecting on the impermanence and interconnectedness of all things, as well as the law of cause and effect. This can help us see the world and our experiences in a more accurate and realistic way.
Practicing mindfulness is another way to cultivate wisdom and overcome ignorance. By observing our thoughts and feelings and developing a deeper understanding of our own minds, we can gain insight into the nature of reality and overcome our delusions. Mindfulness can also help us see the causes and conditions that give rise to our craving and anger, allowing us to address them at their root and prevent them from arising in the first place. “Mindfulness is always beneficial.” – Gotama Buddha, The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
Overcoming ignorance is essential to breaking free from the cycle of craving and anger and cultivating greater emotional resilience and inner peace. By cultivating wisdom through learning, reflecting, and practicing, we can develop a deeper understanding of the true nature of reality and live in greater harmony with ourselves and the world around us. The way to overcome all ignorance is to follow the Eightfold Path, namely: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. These give us Righteous Wisdom, and with Righteous Wisdom comes Righteous Liberation.
By practicing the antidotes to the three poisons, we can overcome them and create more wholesome karma and positivity in our lives. We have the power to shape our own destinies through the choices we make. Understanding the natural law of karma and cultivating healthy mental states can help us create a more beneficial future for ourselves and others.
AN 3.34 is a discourse in the Anguttara Nikaya, which is one of the major collections of Buddhist sutras in the Pali Canon. This particular discourse is often cited as one of the foundational teachings on the nature of karma and is frequently studied by Buddhist practitioners seeking to deepen their understanding of the law of cause and effect.
A Sonnet to The Three Poisons:
In mind and heart, three poisons thrive, With craving, anger, ignorance alive. They cloud our sight and muddy the soul, Creating karma that takes its toll.
The first, craving, like a hungry beast, Devours all and leaves no peace, For things that are but fleeting, mere, We suffer, long and shed a tear.
The remedy is to be kind and share, To give without thought of what to spare, To cultivate a mind of abundance and light, And in letting go, find delight.
The second poison, anger, does burn, A raging fire, no lesson learned, Hatred, dislike, and aversion, these three, A destructive force, this anger be.
The antidote is love and compassion, dear, To care for others and hold them near, To wish them happiness and peace of mind, And in this way, to freedom bind.
The third poison, ignorance, does blind, Our sight obscured, no truth to find, We stumble in darkness, lost and alone, A life of suffering, our only home.
The cure is wisdom, to see things as they are, To learn, reflect, and travel far, To understand the natural law of cause and effect, And in this way, our ignorance reject.
So, in these teachings of the Buddha, we find, A path to peace, a way to unwind, By overcoming these poisons, we gain, A life of freedom, devoid of pain.
Coach Nick’s personal experience on The Path to Enlightenment is a testament to the transformative power of these teachings. As a former Army Intelligence Pilot, he discovered the benefits of the Buddha’s teachings and has since dedicated himself to sharing them with others. Through his own practice and study, he has gained deep insight into the nature of the three poisons and the antidotes that can help us overcome them.
In his teachings on karma, Coach Nick emphasizes the importance of cultivating positive mental states and taking responsibility for our own actions. By doing so, we can create a more peaceful and harmonious world, both for ourselves and for those around us.