I am reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead Chapter 2 page 26, "A prayer for union with the spiritual teacher [entitled], Natural Liberation, without renunciation of the three poisons".

Now in reading this chapter it seems that is a call for union with the fundamental buddha bodies of Reality, Resource, and Emanation.

I find it curious that the chapter EXPLICITLY states what the three poisons are, makes a mention "how needing of compassion ..." are buddha bodies that engage in these poisons and proceeds to give an explicit solution, yet renunciation of the poisons is not asked of the reader in fact the title of the prayer explicitly states they will not be renounced.

Why is it important NOT to renounce these poisons at this stage of prayer? The beginning of the book makes it clear that much will be renounced (including the desire of sympathy) as it merely perpetuates our cyclic existence yet here an explicit effort is being made to acknowledge the poisons but NOT renounce them.

What reason is there for this? At best I can theorize that this has to do with avoiding the type of extreme asceticism that the buddha believed did not allow one to break the cycle, but surely anyone engaging in the poisons described without some renunciation will be trapped all the same.

  • Which translation are you using?
    – Caoimhghin
    Jan 29, 2021 at 17:46
  • Sorry for the long delay: the translation I’m using is the penguin classics “First complete translation” deluxe edition with introductory commentary from his holiness the Dalai Lama Feb 9, 2021 at 7:27
  • It’s an orange colored book with a blue plant printed on the spine. Feb 9, 2021 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


Not renouncing the three poisons is considered a foundational prelude to the journey, that the practitioner develops a recognition and respect of the function of the three poisons - which comes about as one reads and gives further practice - and that, in this graduated development, grows the clear seeing of liberation. By this very seeing, the three poisons dwindle and waver of their own tender, and not through the recourse of any self-governing motivations which are, by and large, etched with the three poisons, marred by them. Thus, the relinquishment of the three poisons occurs naturally.

Therefore, recognition and respect of the three poisons is something that grows through persistence. If I understand him correctly, Andrei Volkov mentioned - indirectly - that they simply present as growing pains that are transmuted into compassion where he refers to the three poisons in their greater domain, as samsara.

The transformed purified attitude to samsara is called "compassion" or "unity of wisdom and compassion". You still see all those childish behaviours, neuroses etc. but you see them as growing pains, as part of an evolution. You see that in the grand scheme of things everything is perfect and is going as it's supposed to. At that point you can try and help as much as you can, but you also have patience to let things develop naturally.

See more here

In some respect, renouncing the three poisons is to renounce liberation in and of itself.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .