The Nature of Mind, Five Defilements & Three Poisons in Buddhism

Perhaps there is nothing more mysterious than the true nature of our mind. The Buddha taught that the mind is luminous in nature but that it’s temporarily obscured by the five defilements and the three poisons (three unwholesome roots). In this video I explore what the Buddha said about the nature of the mind and how these defilements are not something for us to identify with as they are not an intrinsic part of who we really are.

Another verse regarding the defilements from the Pali Canon which I didn’t include in the video:

There are these two sicknesses. What two? Sickness of body and sickness of mind. There are to be seen some beings who can admit to freedom from suffering bodily sickness for one year, two years, ten years, fifty years, perhaps even a hundred years. But it is hard to find beings who can admit to freedom from mental sickness for even a moment, except those who have destroyed the defilements. ~ Anguttara Nikaya II.143

Further reading:

Purification of Mind by Bhikkhu Bodhi

And in the Mahayana sutras, the Buddha explains how these defilements (kleshas) are the very thing covering up our Buddha nature (or Tathagata-garbha). He said:

“Or, kulaputras, it is like the genuine gold that has fallen into a pit of waste and been
submerged and not seen for years. The pure gold does not decay, yet no one knows that it is
there. But suppose there came along someone with supernatural vision, who told people,
‘Within the impure waste there is a genuine gold trinket. You should get it out and do with it
as you please.’ Similarly, kulaputras, the impure waste is your innumerable klesha. The
genuine gold trinket is your tathagatagarbha. For this reason, the Tathagata widely expounds
the Dharma to enable all beings to destroy their kleshas, attain correct perfect enlightment
and perform Buddha deeds.”
At that time bhagavan expressed himself in gatha, saying:
“It is just like what happens when gold is submerged
In impure waste, where no one can see it.
But someone with supernatural vision sees it
And tells people about it, saying
‘If you get it out and wash it clean,
You may do with it as you will,’
Which causes their relatives and family all to rejoice.
The sugata-vision is like this.
He sees that for all kinds of beings,
The Tathagata dhatu is not destroyed,
Though it is submerged in the muddy silt of kleshas.
So he appropriately expounds the Dharma
And enables them to manage all things,
So that the kleshas covering the Buddha dhatu
Are quickly removed and beings are purified.”

More videos:

You can find a complete collection of my videos on Buddhism and meditation at The Enthusiastic Buddhist Society.

Suttas used in this video:

“Vatthupama Sutta: The Simile of the Cloth” (MN 7), translated from the Pali by Nyanaponika Thera. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013,

“Buddhavagga: The Buddha” (Dhp XIV), translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013,

“Pabhassara Sutta: Luminous” (AN 1.49-52), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013,

“Jhana: jhana”, edited by Access to Insight. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013,

“Malavagga: Impurity” (Dhp XVIII), translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013,




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