Ignorance Greed Anger

Ignorance develops Greed

Greed develops Anger

Anger develops Ignorance

Ignorance, greed, and anger in Buddhist teachings are referred to as: the three poisons, the three unwholesome roots, or the three fires, and they are the source of all human suffering.

Ignorance arises from wrong thinking. 

Greed arises from wanting things to occur.

  Anger arises from wanting things not to occur.

Ignorant people cannot reason correctly and because of this they obstinately desire for sense pleasures.

Because we desire more than our entitlement we suffer from greed.  Greed is a bottomless hole that can never be filled.

Because of ignorance and greed we imagine discriminations where none exist causing anger.  

If people are infected with greed, anger, and ignorance, they will lie, cheat, abuse, and be double-tongued, and, then will actualize their words by killing, stealing and committing adultery.  These three evil states of mind, the four evil utterances, and the three evil acts, if added together, become the ten gross evils.[1]


Ignorance has much impurity, which is very hard to overcome.

Greed has little impurity, which is hard to remove.

Anger has more impurity, but is easy to remove.

Greed, lust[2], fear, anger, misfortune, and unhappiness all derive from ignorance.  Thus, ignorance is the greatest of the poisons.

The kernel of all jealousy is lack of love.   MDR 137

These mental impurities exist in three layers 1) dormant 2) manifested and 3) expressed. 

Fortunately, for every defilement there is an antidote.  Since all suffering arises from these three primary sources and these three sources are a result of a) ignorance and b) desire, then the three fires must be extinguished through a) Wisdom and b) pure-unselfish thoughts.   

Morality removes the impurities of greed.

Concentration removes the impurities of anger.

Wisdom removes the impurities of ignorance.

By having a strong character developed in good behaviour (morality), one can suppress the compulsiveness of expressing the impulses.

Because thoughts arise, having attentive mindfulness (concentration) to be aware of their presence, and a calm and steady mind, means the thoughts can be skillfully suppressed. 

The dormant suppressed thoughts can be evaluated through insight (wisdom) and eradicated

From desire action follows; from action suffering follows; desire, action and suffering are like a wheel rotating endlessly.

... the World Wheel is based on a ternary system in that the three world-principles are to be found in its centre: the cock, equalling concupiscence; the serpent, hatred or envy; and the pig, ignorance or unconsciousness (avidya). 

Ignorance is represented by a pig and is pierced by a lance.  With the opening of the eye ignorance is wiped out.  TMTT 138

     The Four Unlimited States of Mind[3]

There are Four Unlimited States of Mind that the seeker of Enlightenment should cherish:

1.     Compassion

2.     Tenderness

3.     Gladness

4.     Equanimity

·        Cherishing compassion removes greed

·        Tenderness removes anger 

·        Gladness removes suffering

·        An equitable mind removes the habit of discrimination of enemies and friends by cherishing.


“Our volitional dispositions are our tendencies to act, speak, and think in a particular way.  They are what determine our habits and thus what make us distinctive.  They constitiute those aspects of our character which others are constantly praising or complaining about.  Depending on our particular moral make-up, some of these habits will be skilful, others unskillful.  Owing to their relative continuity, we tend to think that these habits are enduring and unchanging, but this is a mistake that prevents us reforming them and reliazing our potential.”  (Nagapriyva, 2004, p51)


            There are four exercises to strengthen the mind:

1.     removing from it any unwholesome qualities it may have,

2.     closing it to any unwholesome qualities it does not have,

3.     preserving and multiplying those wholesome qualities that are present in the mind,

4.     and opening it to any wholesome qualities that are missing.”[4]


[1] The Teachings of Buddha 4.7 (pg. 87)

[2] If a dry bone is smeared with blood a dog will gnaw at it until he is tired and frustrated.  Lust to a man is precisely like this bone to a dog; he will covet it until he is exhausted.  The Teachings of Buddha 4.6

[3] Look up Three Ways of Practice on the net and cite.

[4] The Discourse Summaries – S.N. Goenka – page 8