Ignorance: its cause/origin and radical eradication

December 2, 2009 at 5:54 pm Leave a comment

Ignorance: its cause/origin and radical eradication through the cultivation of wisdom

An inquiry into the nature of duality in distinction to the nature of inter-connectedness could lead into an open-ended discussion within the intellectual domain. An analytical discussion of Non-dualism (advaya) introduces a unique problem of subject/object duality. Here the object is the inquiry into non-duality, where the subject is the inquirer. Hence, the inquirer places oneself into a dualistic framework. In truth, non-duality cannot be fully understood within a dualistic framework.

A Definition of Ignorance as an absence of Primordial Awareness

At best, an intellectual analytical framework may serve to lay the preliminary grounds for which a non-dual framework may be experienced. The following thus will attempt to navigate that potentially slippery slope obviating being lost in words and concepts. Duality is a mental prison where the citta-vrtti (mind-field) becomes fixated and self-limited. That self-limitation is called ignorance (a mental situation where something is ignored, left out, or absent). In short, ignorance as a state of mind, is imputed to exist in the context where time and place are frozen solid in an isolated moment. That is not a state of mind, which is reflexive of the true nature of reality, because it leaves out a vast multitude of things. Hence, ignorance stands in opposition to full awakening or recognition of the completely all pervasive primordial mind of the Buddha. That is to say, that if what is viewed by the mind and is labeled as existent is an ever-changing intelligent and evolutionary reflexive variance, then that is not dualism, but rather inter-connectedness, union, or the awakened mind. Many variations and levels of dualism could be imputed to exist, but all such imputations, no matter how elementary, will not withstand logical analysis any more than the previous analysis. The definition of ignorance thus begs to be defined. Relatively in manmade sciences, technology, farming, academia, or vocational realms ignorance is the lack of total mastery or masterly knowledge. In the arts, the term, ignorance, is more difficult to apply. For example in Tai Chi it can be defined a lack of beauty, grace, ability, responsiveness, or in terms of a lack of energetic oneness. In spiritual, religious, or philosophical pursuits it is best defined as a negative; i.e., as an absence or lack of awareness, wisdom, clarity, or vivacity. Hence, awareness has to be recognized first in order to define what it is not. This is often called vision, gnosis, jnana, recognition, etc. According to the Hindu and Buddhist systems, one’s mental framework is limited by this pre-existing ignorant state (samsara), until one achieves awakening. Then one knows fully what ignorance (samsara) is.

A Definition of Ignorance in terms of Pure Being

Please notice that this is a definition of ignorance based on knowledge or recognition, rather than being. One may ask what is the effect of ignorance upon being. BEING is also not well defined. It involves the body, but also our sense of self, sense of place, interconnection with the cosmos, interconnection with primordial being, and interconnection with the implicate evolutionary force. In short, being or embodiment can be defined in different degrees of openness. In short, when the body is a referent, is one referring to a body outside of evolution, outside of the breath, the atmosphere, gravity, water, energy, plasma, or the process of evolution? Such an isolated body does not exist, and hence is fictional.

Primarily, dualists propose existence is a permanent fixation between an isolated observer and the observed, as appearances of phenomena, which appear to be solid, singular in themselves, independent/separate of anything else, while appearing not to change (like a momentary eternalism, so to speak). That dualistic stasis is merely superficial, as it is artificial. For them the idea of being is the cause of the problem, because their imputation of existence is problematical. Their solution is to escape existence, but existence as they defined it was entirely an inaccurate mental projection.

The appearance of any object depends on the observer. An object’s true nature (essence) is not dependent upon the superficial surface appearances. It is not dependent upon artificially freezing time. Within any object (be it an object of thought or an imputed solid/physical object, there is space. That space is of the same nature as the space that simultaneously surrounds all phenomena, as well being the natural essence of all phenomena as well as all observers. Thus, duality is dissolved when the true nature of the instrument of knowing (the universal mind) is itself known. This awareness unites the yogi in clarity and essence. This awareness can be put to work on both the object of observation and the observer (as object) as the observation of the observer as well as observation of the observation process. This is awareness is inseparable with clarity when it is accurate (unerring). That integrative realm can also be labeled the union of openness and essence, or pure and true awareness with pure and true being without limitation. Again, the interface of primordial wisdom upon beingness is a more difficult proposition.

After defining the body in context with how the body was made, what co-evolutionary forces were involved, what elements are involved in terms of the air, water, gravity, energy, the planet, galaxy, universe, the intelligent evolutionary force, and its beginningless uncreated source — innate primordial wisdom. When all this is in synchronicity, then vast creative/evolutionary being is expressed in each and every action, speech, and thought.

Regarding the true nature of phenomena and being, that is a deep inquiry. It is also a subject of yoga. Abiding in one’s true nature, one abides in primordial knowledge. The common difficulty of the mind lost in ignorance, sleep, and forgetfulness is that their experience (being) is limited by their lack of realization. Put another way, being is limited by absence of primordial awareness, which bestows a freedom upon one’s evolutionary potential of being/embodying. In Buddhism being bathed in primordial light, is the  realization and experience of the nirmanakaya Buddha. This is reflexive. It is taking refuge in the true body of the Buddha, his energetic body, and formless primordial essence, as one takes refuge in body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas.

The Cause of Ignorance

So regarding ignorance, there are many levels of displacement from pure being and pure awareness. Many different modalities of mental and physical disorganization can be easily identified as the results of ignorance, such as suffering and so forth; however, an inquiry as to the cause of ignorance itself and how it is to be remediated, has been the question, rather than listing the many symptoms of ignorance.

So first we have defined ignorance as a limited state of mind. It is not a thing, but a mental construct, which precludes wisdom. According to yoga, it is a modified and obscured state of mind versus the true nature of mind. The obstructed mind is afflicted (tainted with ignorance). However in describing the symptoms where what we call ignorance is in operation, we risk the danger of reifying ignorance. Rather it would be more productive to refer to it as the absence of primordial wisdom or an operational stasis where pure non-dual awareness is ignored, blocked, not recognized (avidya), or ignored. “It” produces a personal or biased way of seeing/being (asmita), a false identification (being), limited as to space and sequential time. In fact limitations of space and time limit knowledge; i.e., small/limited space cramps our view. Frozen time, creates the superficial view that prevents evolutionary seeing/knowing as if things were frozen, solid, and substantial. The true nature of mind is transpersonal and universal, not limited by space, time, or knowledge – it is universal, primordial, and never ending. We say that this condition is unconditioned as vast space, vast knowledge, and primordial time. Again, we bring time into the equation, while this latter vast time is timeless (out of time – out of sequential time). This can be experienced in pure beingness (it is not merely an abstract concept). For yogis, the difficulty has been how to make this experiential shift.

Blaming Ignorance

The origin/cause of ignorance as distinct from the numerous symptoms of ignorance is indeed not addressed in Buddhism directly, yet it has always held a personal fascination. This may be due to having  been raised in the Judeo-Christian West where the dualistic assertion of the existence of good and evil, light and darkness, virtue and sin, and right and wrong are very black and white. When I was younger, I asked; “after all how did this original ignorance, sin, or suffering begin”? That has been an almost constant underlying inquiry in the hope of destroying confusion, delusion, evil, and suffering. Throughout the years, having attempted to get to the root of this inquiry, I have been dissatisfied with the answers that I have received from others, but I can no longer blame others. Just so, I can no longer blame ignorance, just as I can no longer blame the devil.

In Buddhism, there is a common tendency to say that, “ignorance is beginningless – it always existed and there is no end to it”, as if it were an eternal or primordial force called ignorance, like primordial wisdom. In short, Buddhists often say; “It is uncaused, end of subject”. Westerners are more prone in asking this question because of their cultural dualistic milieu (as above). Again, I think the error is in framing the question by prejudicially assuming ignorance to be a “thing” in itself, something truly existing, or an unchanging object, where it is merely an absence, lack, limitation, disruption of an ongoing continuity. To reify it without understanding the continuity, only reinforces the limitation and split. It can more advantageously observed as a dynamic process, a verb, not a noun, but even as an operational process, so defined it doesn’t necessarily serve to liberate the spiritual seeker unless it presented within the light of continuity – yoga.

However, abiding in pure beingness one can observe the process of confusion/ignorance in others in this very life, in understanding ignorance as being the result of past negative programming, past painful experiences, old habit patterns that were so caused and so forth, all of which obscure the light. Those past experiences imprint darkness/dullness, agitation, and craving upon the mindset and being, which then are known as symptoms of a restricted being. However it is almost impossible to observe  ignorance as an operational force within ourselves, because when we are dull witted, dumbed down, perplexed, confused, agitated, and so forth, we cannot recognize the continuity, hence the recognition of that something labeled  “ignorance” remains elusive. We can however recognize the symptoms. That is why that the symptoms are often listed. Instead of attributing these symptoms to ignorance, it would be better to attribute them to the absence of sacred presence. “Sacred or primordial presence” is like a magical word, which invokes itself. It cuts through the reification process of imputational ignorance and hence the danger of stagnation and paralysis.

Logically we can inquire as to the first cause of this negative programming of the body and the cells as well as the mind. In fact, the body and mind are an interactive mechanism/organism existing interactively with the elements, the planet, universe, and the evolutionary force.

I think that we should start from the ground up. From where does the body emanate, what are the conditions necessary for embodiment? How did these conditions co-evolve intelligently to our true present situation? In short, if we understand who we are, we do so in terms of everything else. Skipping this phase is terminal, yet is it very common.

Of course, we can point to early causes and conditions in this very life. Like an alcoholic mother, while the child is still in the womb, the child evidences consequences in later life, which may limit one’s experiences unless remediated. Just so, abusive and insensitive parents, abusive and demanding playmates and peers, intolerant bigoted teachers, fundamentalist and prejudiced indoctrination processes which demand obedience, loyalty, and servility of mind and body. There are almost countless other external programming forces to which human beings are subjected to according to culture, geography, environmental exposure, and conditions that indeed shape the mind (either limiting it or liberating it). Such are the grounds for psycho-sociological conditioning/training theories and also a subject of bodypsychotherapy, ecopsychology, green psychology, and the like. In general the modern technologically and logically oriented human beings lacks vast awareness, hence they operate in a milieu which is very self limiting unless they embrace right brained modalities, the arts, the meaning behind myths, experientially based yoga, and so forth. Limited theories and belief systems, obviously limit the mind and our evolutionary potential. Those human beings, who have not questioned or challenged the sacred cows that they have been fed, thus are lacking in the ability to think outside boxes. Being insecure and confused, they seek external order, predicted outcomes, and tight structured box-like structures where this predilective trauma can rest in an ersatz reality.

Sparing the reader from the almost infinite amount of possible sources of negative programs inflicted upon human beings by other human beings in the transmission of transgenerational institutionalized ignorance, let it be said that ignorance is not the cause of ignorance. Rather the cause of suffering is the dulling of the primordial light, the hiding of the light, the taboo of that light, the ignoring and denial of that light, the absence of that light, and humanity’s split from its holographic reality. That darkness leaves a negative imprint upon humankind’s operating systems, a negative programming, a virus, and self-imposed bondage upon the human bodymind complex, which paralyzes human evolutionary potential.

Let us use darkness, absence, and separation only as a temporary placeholder for interconnectedness – for co-evolutionary interactive non-dual being. Therefore, in order to address “ignorance” we must consider what ignorance is not. Ignorance is like an ersatz or neurotic grasping due to a primary trauma, split, rend, gap, separation from primordial space, primordial time, and primordial recognition. When this connection becomes unavailable, ignored, taken away, absent, or unrecognized, then “something” remains lacking, the human being grasps upon limited substitutes.

Once one finds oneself to be chronically displaced/dispossessed or exiled from that primordial space/time continuum, then we can call that ignorance, but better let us call it separation or even better, a stasis, where absence of the sacred is chronic. Habitually once caught up in this dualistic syndrome, the human being chronically goes to the substitute, while the essential remains ignored and unavailable. How else as human beings can we know ourselves, unless we consider from whence we have all come from and where we are going in a co-creative mutually co-arising non-dual context, which invokes both vast time and vast space as non-dual referents? That is the basic inquiry that all young children are naturally curious, but which often becomes inhibited/repressed through negative circumstances. Otherwise, inquiry becomes artificially bounded.

Summary conclusion

I wish to make it absolutely clear that the practice of praxis/process oriented yoga is designed to effectively destroy all the symptoms of ignorance, all the causes of such afflictions, negative tendencies, and causal (samskaric) imprints completely including predilection, prejudice, ideological belief systems, conceptual limitations, dullness, and bondage. Its purpose is not just the destruction of such bondage (citta-vrtti), but liberation (mukti) in this very life as the union of pure being (sat), pure awareness (cit), and unconditional and unsurpassed ecstasy (ananda).

Liberation from the mental boundaries of ignorance as well as the inhibition upon our creative expression of the evolutionary force is accomplished first by liberating oneself. That will provide the wisdom and skill required to help free others. Although an attractive possibility, the assumption that ignorance as an independent force or reified object, that is capable of being blamed or eradicated may be misleading. Ignorance not being an independent or separate force, resists our passion to eradicate it en masse in one fell swoop because it is harbored as the darkness within its purveyors, the human harbingers of darkness, deceit, confusion, and deception, who know very little else and thus feel a great need and pain. These people can be helped as soon as they meet the true nature of their pain. That is the role of therapy and spiritual practice.

On a broader scale, prevention is possible. In that regard, it is useful to look at institutional, religious, and socio-political forces that foster institutionalized ignorance, transgenerational ignorance, and transgenerational abuse and violence. But it requires a sufficient amount of awakened beings who are dedicated to pounding swords into plough shares to accomplish. All that is part and parcel of a long process of vast awakening – of humanity waking up en masse to their creative/co-evolutionary potential… any day now.

I hope that this short treatise may open up and activate an inner dialogue within the reader, as an inquiry on the subject of the cause of ignorance (in terms of the inhibition/repression of our evolutionary/creative potential or kundalini shakti). Knowing the cause (the why and how) can help us find the remedy, but knowing the cause intellectually still is lacking. Yoga, of course, is praxis, a realization beyond that of conceptual thought constructs (nirvikalpa) where a direct experience (beingness) is provoked. That beingness is free from any concept of a separate self, rather it is a realization that true being resides inside unlimited space, which is both inside and out, neither in nor out, not in and out, beyond duality, all pervasive vast awakening … so it is — svaha

May all beings be free from suffering and the cause of suffering. May all beings be truly happy and abide within the cause of lasting happiness. May all beings awaken and abide in ultimate self-liberation!

See also: This related article, entitled “Purveyors of Confusion and Slavery”


Also see part 3 On Ignorance: Liberation from prison at http://wp.me/pBbnL-2l


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