Would it be helpful, wholesome, skillful and wise to investigate the root condition of (each of) the three poisons/unwholesome roots of greed, ill-will and delusion (raga, dosa, moha)? [Why these three and not some random qualities like baseball, terpenes and a Farm Aid concert?]

And why do vast amounts of beings seem to tend more towards lust, ill-will and ignorance instead of wisdom, wholesomeness and skillfulness? Why is our true nature still mostly obscured?

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    Upvoted to cancel downvote because downvoting without explanation is not helpful.
    – OyaMist
    Nov 15, 2018 at 15:11
  • Original question: what is the root condition for the vast amount of uninstructed worldlings?
    – vimutti
    Nov 16, 2018 at 1:55

4 Answers 4


All Buddhist teachings revolve around the same core, Dependent Co-Arising, usually described as the Twelve Nidanas.

Dependent Co-Arising refers to the process of development of informational (representational, semiotic) reality, starting with unconscious causational/informational tendencies, to basic inclings of rudimentary representation, to development of mind, to emergence of representational "entities", culminating in an idea of Self as Subject of experience and Agent of action.

This process grows hand-in-hand with (co-develops in conjunction with) development of behavioral tendencies for attraction, repulsion, and judgement in general (of things as "good" and "bad"). When these two things - the representational reality made up of entities and self - and the judgement-based attraction/repulsion - come to maturity, we end up having something that thinks of itself as a sentient being acting in a world of good and bad entities, trying to acquire the good, and get rid of the bad. But because the fundamental assumption this is all based on is false - because in fact the world is not made of fixed entities, and they are not inherently good (desirable) or bad (undesirable), this situation leads to all kinds of turbulence, that to these so-called "sentient beings" looks like a valid struggle against trouble and suffering, towards some imagined idealized happy state. The funny thing though is, the more each of these "sentient beings" acts to obtain happiness for itself, the more trouble they (us) create for each other, and therefore for all of them (us). So to them (us) it looks like they (we) are trying hard to make things better, but in fact they (we) end up perpetuating this confusion and struggle.

This situation is the core condition of the vast amount of uninstructed worldlings. They (we) think their (our) subjective idea of the world is what the world is, and they (we) seriously try to act within it, only causing more trouble, endlessly.

The Three Roots are a distilation of the above to three basic tendencies in the minds of sentient beings. A tendency for assuming something as desirable, a tendency for assuming something as undesirable, and a tendency for taking subjective (representational) things at the face value as if they were objective.

It's kinda sad, if you think about it. Even tragic, if you ask me. Out of this vast field of energy develop formations capable of representation, and then these formations seriously think they need a new cell phone or a bigger breast. It would be comical if it weren't so sad.

  • Thanks. It’s boggling how Dependent Co-Arising (and mindfulness too) is said to have been rediscovered by the historical Buddha right? How and why is the realization of Dependent Co-Arising and mindfulness obscured and unobscured? What are the forces and energies associated with the obscuration and unobscuration and what’s their source/origin? Perhaps this is also asking about the who, what, why and how of the yugas and/or beginningless and endless cycles of birth and death?
    – vimutti
    Nov 16, 2018 at 14:00
  • I think it's just a natural process of evolution/maturation of mind. In the beginning there is no ability to differentiate and recognize, then this ability develops but not without its flaws, and then when it gets fully mature to the level of becoming aware of its own limits and mechanisms that's when we call it Enlightenment. As to the exact forces at play during the early phases of this process of evolution of mind, I think it's up to the future humans to study and fully describe it in all the details. Certainly, Peirce's tendency of the habits to grow plays a key role, as far as I can see.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:06
  • Reminded of this: “[Bodhi Nirvana] is the primal bright essence of consciousness that can bring forth all conditions. Because of conditions, you consider it to be lost. Living beings lose sight of the original brightness: therefore, though they use it to the end of their days, they are unaware of it”
    – vimutti
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:10
  • To say that the original mind is enlightened is a bit of a poetic exaggeration IMO. To give an analogy suppose there was a child who was happy and harmonious with its surroundings until it grew up to an adult and got into a conflict and struggle, but then at some point grew wise and learned "to be like a child". It's not that he actually came back to that childish state, but he did realize that his taking of the adult things all too seriously was actually unnecessary and returned to that open-mindedness and the feeling of trust he used to have as a child.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:45
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    So it's not that you were literally Enlightened and forgot it. It's more like, as our inteligence grows it first creates these half-baked ideas that it takes seriously and either craves or avoids them, and then it gets over that phase and no longer takes them too seriously and in that sense we can say it returns to its original state. But the reason it no longer takes them seriously/craves/avoids (i.e. the knowing and seeing things as they are) is not at all the same reason it had initially (i.e. the ignorance-as-bliss).
    – Andriy Volkov
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:55

This question goes too far. The Buddha taught greed, hatred & delusion are "roots" and did not teach about the "roots of the roots".

And what is the root of the unwholesome? Greed is a root of the unwholesome; hate is a root of the unwholesome; delusion is a root of the unwholesome. MN 9

Ultimately, the Buddha taught these are lead by "ignorance" and that there is no preceding cause of ignorance:

Monks, ignorance is the leader in the attainment of unskillful qualities, followed by lack of conscience & lack of concern. SN 45.1

Bhikkhus, this is said: ‘A first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, is not seen such that before this there was no ignorance and afterward it came into being.’ AN 10.61

The above defilements are merely elements (dhatu) of nature (refer to MN 115; SN 14.12; AN 7.11). This is all that needs to be known.

  • Great point. If mentioning the cause and process of ignorance would have been skillful for the realization of Nibbana the historical Buddha would likely have mentioned it.
    – vimutti
    Nov 21, 2018 at 1:05
  • Wondering if there are finer and more subtle dimensions of natural laws — perceivable by the fully awakened — which governed what was taught by the historical Buddha. Maybe we can pick up the analysis of ignorance and refined nuances of natural law after we all realize full liberation/the true heart’s release.
    – vimutti
    Nov 21, 2018 at 1:34
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    Ignorance does not have a cause (hetu). However, it is sustained or fed by the five hindrances and can be destroyed by wisdom. Please read this link: suttacentral.net/an10.61/en/bodhi Nov 21, 2018 at 2:55

Because we chase delight, relishing and craving, there is suffering. Thinking to have only delight, we run away from pain, chasing pleasure. This is delusion.

Nandī dukkhassa mūlan’ti. Delight is the root of suffering --MN1/Bodhi

We build our identities on this chase, running after pleasure, avoiding pain, building up our selves, refusing to see the wisdom of the Four Noble Truths:

The noble truths of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the way of practice that leads to the cessation of suffering --MN141/Sujato

The way out is the Noble Eightfold Path. Start with Right View:

A noble disciple understands the unskillful and its root, and the skillful and its root. --MN9/Sujato

The terms used in the suttas are precise yet open to personal interpretation. Here are my interpretations:

  • root is understood to be analogous to the root of a plant. A root emerges from a seed and supplies nutrients for the plants's existence. When plants are cut above the root, many will spring back to life. When plants are uprooted, they are gone and don't come back.
  • condition is a necessity for something else. A condition for bread is warmth that encourages yeast to rise. Conditions are not causes.
  • cause makes something happen actively. Yeast causes bread to rise if conditions are favorable.

For example, I would say that ignorance is a condition for delight to become the root of suffering. Even that statement might be inaccurate because it is possible (?) that delight simply would not happen for the Buddha. Delight does happen for me even though I am not ignorant of it or its effect. And delight still causes suffering for me even though I am aware of my ignorance.

  • The term "Delight is the root of suffering" refers to suffering rather than the causes of suffering. Nov 19, 2018 at 11:45
  • Without the root, the plant cannot grow. In this sense of dependent origination, delight is the original cause of suffering (greed, hate and delusion).
    – OyaMist
    Nov 19, 2018 at 16:21
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    Thought “tanha” is the cause of suffering — translated literally meaning “thirst.”
    – vimutti
    Nov 21, 2018 at 1:01
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    @vimutti thanks for question. Updated answer
    – OyaMist
    Nov 23, 2018 at 16:13
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    In my personal experience, with practice, enjoyment does in fact become a problem. One chases transient enjoyments, clinging to that chase, extinguishing each in turn. One clings, if you will, to the process of finding and extinguishing clinging. That sounds circular, but our delusions often are loopy.
    – OyaMist
    Nov 26, 2018 at 15:55

It's because not seeing, not knowing, Dukkha, e.g. lack of recognising Dukkha, that the roots of Dukkha arise. Is because not hearing/remembering the good Dhamma with proper attention, that lobha, dosa and moha penetrates the mind. And what is the lack of Dukkha, as a cause of Saddhā/Saddha (sacrifice) arising? Birth is the cause of Dukkha. So it's by taking birth, by coming into being at auspicious conditions and hearing/remembering the Dhamma at proper time, that path and fruit, the way beyond is obtained, conditions for further becoming uprooted, abound.

[Note: this is a gift of Dhamma, not thought for trade, stakes, exchanges or other gains subject toward decay and should be deleted if it's not giften to give in Dhammic conditions]

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