3 Moral Roots and 3 Immoral Roots


“Vaccha, greed is unwholesome, non-greed is wholesome; hate is unwholesome, non-hate is wholesome; delusion is unwholesome, non-delusion is wholesome. In this way three things are unwholesome and the other three things are wholesome."
~ The Buddha (MN 73)

From the Abhidhamma Teachings:


1.) Non-greed: Non-greed has the characteristic of the mind’s lack of desire for its object, or non-adherence to the object like a drop of water on a lotus leaf. Its function is not to lay hold, and its manifestation is detachment. It should be understood that non-greed is not the mere absence of greed, but the presence of positive virtues such as generosity and renunciation as well.

2.) Non-hatred: Non-hatred has the characteristic of lack of ferocity, or of non-opposing. Its function is to remove annoyance, or to remove fever, and its manifestation is agreeableness. Non-hatred comprises such positive virtues as loving-kindness, gentleness, amity, friendliness, etc.

When non-hatred appears as the sublime quality of loving-kindness it has the characteristic of promoting the welfare of living beings. Its function is to prefer their welfare. Its manifestation is the removal of ill will. Its proximate cause is seeing beings as lovable. Such loving-kindness must be distinguished from selfish affection its “near enemy.”

3.) Non-Delusion (The wisdom faculty): Wisdom, or knowing things as they really are. It is here called a faculty because it exercises predominance in comprehending things as they really are. In the abhidhamma, the three terms – wisdom, knowledge, and non-delusion – are used synonymously. Wisdom has the characteristic of penetrating things according to their intrinsic nature. Its function is to illuminate the objective field like a lamp. It is manifested as non-bewilderment. Its proximate cause is wise attention.



1.) Greed – lobha, the first unwholesome root, covers
all degrees of selfish desire, longing, attachment, and clinging. Its characteristic is grasping an object. Its function is sticking, as meat sticks to a hot pan. It is manifested as not giving up. Its proximate cause is seeing enjoyment in things that lead to bondage.

2.) Hatred – dosa, the second unwholesome root, comprises all kinds and degrees of aversion, ill-will, anger, irritation, annoyance, and animosity. Its characteristic is ferocity. Its function is to spread, or to burn up its own support, i.e. the mind and body in which it arises. It is manifested as persecuting, and its proximate cause is a ground for annoyance.

3.) Delusion – moha is a synonym for avijja, ignorance. Its characteristic is mental blindness or unknowing. Its function is non-penetration, or concealment of the real nature of the object. It is manifested as the absence of right understanding or as mental darkness. Its proximate cause is unwise attention. It should be seen as the root of all that is unwholesome.

The sources for the above material:
MN 73 Mahavacchagotta: Sutta The Greater Discourse to Vacchagotta.
Copyright © Bhikkhu Bodhi 1995, 2001. Reprinted from The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Used with permission from Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144 U.S.A.

Abhidhamma - Bhikkhu Bodhi, General Editor. A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma. Copyright © 1993, 1999 by Buddhist Publication Society, P. O. Box 61, 54, Sangaraja Mawatha, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Used with permission.


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