Oakville Zen Meditation

#451 "Ignorance": a Zen perceptive.Why it is important to understand June 18th 23

  What is Ignorance?   A Zen perspective 

 Ignorance with desire/attachment/clinging (I want), dislike/hatred (I don’t want) is one of the so-called 3 poisons causing suffering.  There is a difference between ignorance in the common sense of the word and the Zen Buddhist meaning.

In the Zen Buddhist the sense of the word, rather than a general lack of knowledge, ignorance

means illusion, delusion, false understandings, and unawareness of the factual realities of life. 

Here is the list in no specific order:

The first ignorance is specific, that is a false sense of self:

We wrongly believe that we are unique, separate, independent, intrinsic, and indispensable.

self-entity, and self-sustained living being making us different from everything else. Such a fictional self does not exist. This is why, in Zen,  it is called the “no-self.”

Zen Buddhism teaches that this misunderstanding of self which is a sense of a separate, independent self is causing our suffering, struggle, and many other negative feelings.

We are all interconnected, and cannot survive physically, and emotionally as a separate, independent entity as Thich Nat Hanh used to repeat. “We are interbeings”.

This misconception of self is also the source of separation and potential issues between me and others because I perceive others differently from me.  We can have dramatically different reactions to the same situations and to others depending on our sense of difference and separation from them.  Setting ourselves apart differently from others, and being stuck in our ego-driven mindset could lead to suffering, hate, intolerance, and violence in the world.

2) The second ignorance in general which is not being aware of the surrounding factual reality of the moment & life in general.

The other main cause of our “ignorance” is not being aware of our surrounding factual realities

existing in the present moment. Apart from rare focusing moments such as work, we are in a constant fictional and dreaming state made of zillions of thoughts in various spacetimes

(~ 100,000 thoughts /day). We are “day sleepwalkers in our mind-made virtual world” as Zen says rather than being mindful of our present surrounding realities because our restless mind is always running in many different fictional spacetimes, thoughts, and mindsets. 

Having thoughts is obviously necessary, but believing in all of them can be dangerous.

We have a deluded mindset made of fictional realities that we often consider genuine, let me mention briefly these most common delusions & illusions:

 Life is unfair - I am in control of my life -  I am indispensable -  Happiness comes from outside: the more I have, the better I am – Ignorance of impermanence meaning that things, situations, and people are somewhat permanent, giving me time to deal with them – I believe that my thoughts are true are real.(thoughts do exist but most of them are fictional, and do not necessarily bring truth) - Resisting/fighting is better than accepting.  All of these illusions/delusions about life and self may cause anxiety, suffering & other negativities. This is not Zen.

Ignorance /illusion/delusion are acting like a broken mirror: It distorts facts of life. 

We don’t see Life, situations, and people as we should.

Being mindful of our ignorance created by our mind-made fictional realities of self, and life in general is critical to understand suffering, its causes, and how to minimize its consequences. A giant step towards serenity, equanimity ………….if not Awakening.  TX