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akuśala (P. akusala; T. mi dge ba; C. bushan 不善) is translated as "unwholesome", "non-virtuous", "unvirtuous", "unsalutory", "unskillful", etc. This term refers to actions of body, speech and mind that result in increased suffering and unfavorable rebirths.[1] It is the opposite of kusala.

The Princeton Dictionary states:

An “unvirtuous” or “unwholesome” action generally refers to any volition (cetanā) or volitional action, along with the consciousness (vijñāna) and mental constructions (saṃskāra) associated with it, that are informed by the afflictions (kleśa) of greed (lobha), hatred (dveṣa; P. dosa), or delusion (moha). Such volitional actions produce unfortunate results for the actor and ultimately are the cause of [rebirth in] the unfavorable destinies (durgati) of hell denizens (nāraka), hungry ghosts (preta), animals (tiryak) and (in some descriptions) titans or demigods (asura).[1]

The Berzin Glossary states:

States of mind, or physical, verbal, or mental actions motivated by them, which ripen into unhappiness or the suffering of problems or pain, to be experienced by the person on whose mental continuum they occur. Since the term carries no connotation of moral judgment, the translation "nonvirtuous" is misleading for this term.[2]

The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening states:

... “unwholesomeness” is anything that blocks, suppresses, or mystifies our movement along the path to the cessation of suffering. And when I say “mystify,” I mean being conditioned by something that does not correspond to reality; it’s blocking wholesomeness. This is why “wrong view” is an unwholesome [mental] factor. Anything that increases our habits of suffering is unwholesome. (The words good and bad are a bit heavy, and evil certainly does not apply in these Buddhist contexts.) The key point ... is how we are with our “mind,” our habits of attention, and our awareness. In the Dhammapada, there is a phrase that is worthy of continued reflection in this regard: “We are what we think, having become what we thought.”[3]

Unwholesome (akuśala) courses of action

Buddhists typically enumerate a list of ten "unwholesome courses of action" (akuśalakarmapatha). These are:

Unwholesome (akuśala) mental factors

Buddhists identify varying lists of unwholesome mental factors. For example, the six root unwholesome factors (mūlakleśa) of the Abhidharma-samuccaya are:

  1. Raga - attachment
  2. Pratigha - anger
  3. Avidya - ignorance (or mūḍhi, stupidity)
  4. Māna - pride, conceit
  5. Vicikitsa - doubt
  6. Dristi - wrong view

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. akuśala.
  2. Internet-icon.svg mi dge ba, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  3. Goodman 2020, Chapter 12.


External links