Human Nature, The Three Poisons, and The Witness

The three poisons are greed, delusion, and hatred. This term, the three poisons, comes from Buddhism. In Buddhism the three poisons are the cause of our suffering. We could also reference what many say about these negative traits, calling them simply “human nature”.

It’s natural to be greedy, delusional, and to feel hatred. The Buddhist path helps us to experience less suffering, by identifying these natural traits, and helping us to instead see that underlying these traits that cause suffering, is our true self, the witness.

The witness is the same in all of us. It is a peaceful awareness. When we cultivate this aspect of ourselves it becomes easier to reduce the suffering that would otherwise be caused by the three poisons. This awareness is mindfulness. Mindfulness helps because we can see in each moment the three poisons as they arise, and when we are aware that a poison is there, we will know that is natural to experience that poison,that we don’t need to react in a way that causes more suffering. Our reaction can instead be more compassionate, resulting in less internal and external suffering.

If you are wondering why there are so many words used when referring to mindfulness, my theory is because it is a lost way that we need to rediscover. By using many words, meaning is elaborated. The witness (true self, awareness, mindfulness) is a natural part of the human experience. A healthier way for our communities to heal and thrive would be for us to recognize the witness as a part of “human nature” as well.