Ignorance of the Four Noble Truths, the Three Jewels, and of the law of Karma is the state from which we must escape. Moha is the starting point. The natural state of a sentient being is moha. From the helplessness of a newborn to the cloudiness of old age, with all the confusion and longing and pain in between, moha is the characteristic which defines, bookends, or haunts each moment in life. For this reason, ignorance is the worst of the three poisons. The other two—hatred and greed—cannot flourish without ignorance.

Without understanding, it becomes easy to cling to a delusion, be motivated by hate or anger, or feel despair. The three poisons can be thought of in directional terms. Greed is pointed inward to satisfy and exceed the self’s cravings. Hatred, or anger, is pointed outward at a particular object. Ignorance is pointed downward to the ground, as if retreating from the possibility of wisdom.

The three poisons are at the root of the cause of suffering. They illuminate the Second Noble Truth.

Three Unwholesome Roots (Poisons), Greed, Hatred, Ignorance

Pali: Akusala-mūla, Lobha, Dosa, Moha
Sanskrit: Akuśala-mūla, Rāga, Dveṣa, Moha