Saturday, October 25, 2008
Overcoming Ignorance.....Part I
I want to share this wonderful and informative essay with you because this is what I do and who I am. Ignorance is not a derogatory term or state because we are all ignorant about many things. I know that I am. Ignorance is actually the state we are all in before the spark of wisdom ignites and illuminates a path previously hidden. The timing of this occurrence is not in our hands any more than the day of our birth was. It will happen when it happens. I sincerely hope that something I post here will be the flint that ignites your spark. The wisdom is here for anyone able to "hear". I hope this helps those of you already on your Path with Heart and possibly helps to awaken one or two of you who are starting to question the illusion of the status quo.
"The only thing I know is that I know nothing."
Overcoming Ignorance.....Part I
One could ask why one should write about ignorance at all. People who are truly ignorant are not aware of their ignorance - not being aware that one does not know is a defining quality of ignorance. The ignorant will not really read this kind of article, for they will not know this is applicable to them. So why "preach to the converted"?
Ignorance seems to be a universal condition. In some way and to some degree, we are all ignorant. To a certain extent, we are all victims of illusion. This essay is designed to give readers some guidance on how they could assess their own "degree of ignorance", and how they could overcome it.
Becoming aware of one's own ignorance is the first step towards getting rid of ignorance. It is a thinking process, but also one of taking concrete steps in real life. It is an act both of analysis and commitment.
No matter how wise or compassionate one is, there is always room for improvement. Becoming wise and compassionate is a never ending quest.
B. The root of suffering
Ignorance is the root of suffering. Hinduism, Taoism and all schools of Buddhism, including Ch'an and Zen, but also many Christian schools of thought, agree on this.
Ignorance is more than just the absence of knowledge, even though a lack of knowledge is often part of the condition. It is the negative opposite of wisdom: the absence of qualities associated with wisdom. Ignorance also implies a lack of compassion, and as such it constitutes a self-centered attitude and its subsequent destructive approach to life. It is a life of greed and hatred instead of compassion and wisdom. It is to fall victim to illusions of permanence and materialism - the inability to distinguish between the real and the fake, and the failure to choose priorities correctly.
In Zen, ignorance is seen as the antithesis of enlightenment. Enlightenment is to be freed totally from ignorance.
Ignorance in Taoism is often described as disharmony with the Tao. It is a state of control by the ego, a restless condition of volatility dominated by illusion and destructive emotions. This state of disharmony with the Tao can only be overcome when one manages to strip oneself of a false sense of self, illusion and pretense. To be freed from ignorance is an awakening process - often gradual, but with brilliant moments of keen insight - and it entails the discovery of the true self and the transformation that accompanies it. It is a movement from disunity towards unity with all of creation.
Ignorance is the source of most suffering, yet it is "curable". It is a state of mind anyone - even the wise - can fall prey to, but it is a condition anyone can be liberated from - even those who seem to be inextricably enmeshed in it.
We live in a world promoting ignorance, vivifying the illusionary, and ignoring, even denying, the true essence of things. Fighting ignorance has therefore become a constant vigil against negative influence, which can take the form of peer pressure, the group mind, government propaganda, or subtle and brash forms of an omnipresent advertising industry. Our consumer society is focused on evoking greed and inflating the ego, and it is difficult to isolate ourselves from its negative influences. Governments often fan the flames of blind patriotism. Often, our professions, social pressures and education promote and demand an egotistical life style which runs contrary to a compassionate and wise approach to life. Many people seem to have no alternative but to follow life styles which strengthen their own egos and ignorance.
In this environment hostile to the spirit, it is difficult to rid oneself of ignorance and to move with the freedom only harmony with the Tao, and compassion and wisdom, can bring.
To be continued....