The Psychology of Confusion and the Path of Liberation

The Three Poisons

The Three Poisons are ignorance, attachment, and aversion. Ignorance is symbolised by a pig, attachment is symbolised by a rooster and aversion is symbolised by a snake. The traditional image of these three may either show a pig vomiting the two others – symbolising ignorance as giving rise to attachment or aversion, or it may show the three animals biting each others' tails to point at how these three poisons perpetuate samsara. As long as the pig of ignorance is engrossed in the dung heap of confusion, it ignores that all appearing phenomena are complexes resulting from causes and conditions, and not at all solid realities. Based on the assumptions of such ignorance we develop likes and dislikes, and consequently, strategies of attachment towards what we like, and strategies of aversions towards what we don't like.
These three poisons – ignorance, attachment and aversion – form the basis of our actions.
Whatever we do under the influence of them, our thoughts and actions are consequently poisoned and it follows that the results will be painful.

The Two Paths

Our experiences are results of our actions and the motivations behind these actions. This is known as the law of cause and effect, or karma. When we engage in 'dark' actions based on ignorance, attachment or aversion they will generate painful results corresponding to these negative attitudes.
In contrast when we are motivated by 'light' sentiments such as kindness, empathy, and generosity, these will result in the corresponding positive experiences. Dark or destructive actions bring about rebirth in the lower realms, while light or ethical actions bring about rebirth in the upper half of the Wheel of Existence.
The black and white semi-circles illustrate the ramifications of actions with the white semi-circle showing persons ascending, and the black semi-circle showing persons descending. While on one hand this image illustrates the responsibility for an individual's actions, it also establishes how an individual is empowered to create his or her own destiny in samsara. For this reason Buddhists emphasize the importance of accumulating virtue and discarding evil, and place great importance on even the smallest ethical and meritorious action. The verse on the left is from the Vinaya, the Buddhist scriptures on discipline, and emphasises the importance of ethical behaviour.