The essential energy of ignorance consists fundamentally of two aspects:
NOT KNOWINGThe first aspect is "not knowing". Ignorance means "not knowing" and "not knowing" here means not knowing what our true nature is. In other words, not knowing who we really are. Because we don't know our true nature we don't know the true nature of anything at all. This state of "not knowing" is similar to the state of sleep or to darkness or to not recognising the rope as a rope in a dark room. It is essentially a state of inertia and it means that we just let ourselves be carried passively, like a docile animal that lets itself be led along. You just feel resigned, accepting your condition without looking for anything else. It is similar to sleeping in that when you are asleep you just let yourself be there; you just accept your existence without looking for anything else. So, the state of "not knowing" is the state of sleeping. You let your body function and you trust totally the laws that govern your being at the time of sleep - you just let it continue by itself. So this is the "not knowing" aspect. This state of inertia however contains strong power and because of that, we say that ignorance is like a fertile field for the rest of the negative emotions. All the negativities of samsara are like plants growing in this fertile field of ignorance. Because we just let ourselves be carried in a sleep-like state all the negative things that are lying latently dormant like seeds in the ground, can take root and grow.
CONFUSIONThe second aspect of ignorance is "confusion". When there is unknowing and there is no recognition of what is there, then immediately there is confusion about that - we confuse, we misunderstand and we distort whatever is there. We can remain sleeping for some time but after a while we start dreaming. Dreaming is a state of confusion and in the dream state, we misunderstand what is simply the clarity of ones own mind by misunderstanding it to be "real things", "real objects", "real people" and "real landscapes". So, "not knowing" is like darkness, and confusion is like starting to see monsters in the darkness, like a child in a dark room when he starts imagining thieves under the bed and demons inside the wardrobe. And we sometimes do too. When you're in the forest, in the middle of the night, and it is totally dark, you hear noises all around that you're not used to. Then you start thinking that you are going to fall into the fangs of some kind of big animal soon!
Mind very quickly interprets things, and because we don't know what is there, we interpret it wrongly. Everything in samsara is just that. Everything comes out of this ignorance, absolutely everything! The whole of samsara is just our own imagination and wrong understanding. This is confusion and confusion also to identifies our 'selves', so part of the confusion is that we misunderstand ourselves and we identify ourselves for what we are not. We identify our true nature to be a body that we identify with a name and with some ideas about who we are and a whole biography of ourselves; what we are taught and what we learn and what we decide by ourselves. So, we identify with a body and with our own ideas, with concepts about ourselves and about everything. We take these things to be real and we become attached to them as though they are real. All this is confusion, like in a dream.
Dreaming is equal to acting in compulsive patterns of conduct that come from the depths of this ocean of ignorance. So, ignorance can mean a state of "not moving". It doesn't mean that we are all the time sleeping because in fact we are very active, in the way that animals are also very active. Animals are in a totally ignorant state of existence; however, they are not sleeping all the time. They are very active actually, but all their activity is totally compulsory and instinctive. So this is part of the confusion, you become totally attached, totally habituated to these automatic ways of reacting and conduct and you become like a machine of habit.
FEARThere is one factor that is characteristic of ignorance, which is "fear". Where there is ignorance, there is fear, normally. Apart from when we are in deep sleep we have fear just as when there is darkness we have fear. Like children, we have fear of darkness. Why? Because we feel disoriented. When we are ignorant, we are uncertain about everything. We are confused, we are disoriented and we feel lonely also. We don't know who we are or anything. Because of that, we have fear and the way we try to solve that fear and that feeling of insecurity is to hide our head under the bedcovers. That's what a child does. You know, you are in the bed, you start hearing noises and imagine all these monsters and tigers and thieves everywhere - so what is the protection for that? Just cover your head! Then you feel secure inside the bed and you fall asleep much more easily and there's nothing can harm you if you are sleeping. This is the pattern of ignorance; we are looking for security. When we're functioning through ignorance we're looking for security and we're trying to get rid of, or put an end to our fears through becoming totally attached to anything that seems to be solid, stable and able to provide security. This is basically the solidity of the material world, because in ignorance you feel like you are lost in the middle of space. You feel lost so you need to grasp something; you need to feel some kind of stable thing. And so the pattern of ignorance is to become attached to whatever seems to be solid. It can be material solidity or it can be mental structures such as solidifying ones own ideas about things.
SAMSARANow, this ignorance and confusion is actually the fundamental state of samsara. The first thing that comes after not recognising our true nature is ignorance. Ignorance pervades all of our mentality, all of the time. There's no break apart from a few moments when ignorance breaks a little bit such as when you sneeze or yawn, but it's only for a moment and we don't recognise it. When you fall asleep, there is a moment there, and at the time of conception, there is also a gap. When you die too. That's the best moment actually! So, there are moments in life when there is a gap, but normally we don't recognise it as that, and for us it just becomes a state of unconsciousness. Other than that, it is the continuous state of our mind.
FALSE REFUGEOkay, so the pattern of activity of ignorance is to look for refuge. All our lives we will be looking for refuge, trying to have a feeling of stability, of solidity, of existing - something that we can rely on and we can trust. That is the basic neurotic, fundamental state of ignorance and as we said before, even falling asleep is a way of looking for refuge. All of these states are like trying to go back to the womb. In a sense the gestating or embryonic state is like an archetype of all this. There are many other examples in our life, but they all basically refer to that archetype because this is the beginning of our life and it is the most powerful experience that we can have related to this state of ignorance.
The neurotic state of ignorance is based on this fear of loneliness and solitude. The feeling of solitude starts at the very moment we don't recognise our true nature and we misunderstand it for a dualistic reality. As soon as we interpret reality in a dualistic way, we are alone. We are alone because we are "one" and the rest is external to us. We are separated from the rest so then we experience loneliness and solitude. We automatically have fear because the world is so big and so powerful and we are so little and so vulnerable. There is a feeling of uncertainty, vulnerability and disorientation and a feeling of being unable to cope with everything and not able to rely upon ourselves. We depend on the rest of the world just to be alive and for so many things so we are very fragile, and all this involves fear. From the point of view of the ignorant mind, being in this situation is a problem. Being alone, existing independently is a problem - it is a cause of suffering and of conflict. You have to fight, you have to work, you have to make effort and it's all too much.
So, we are always looking for refuge from that. We want to hide inside the bed. We want to hide in a little nest somewhere, so we make ourselves little nests like a home or a little room, and we look for nests all the time. We want to make little caves everywhere, in many different ways, because outside there it is too dangerous, too big, too much for us. We feel alone so we want to go back to the state of total protection where there is no separation, which is like being in the womb. This is how we unconsciously know in some sense that we should try to find a state of no duality. In fact, the pattern of ignorance is a confused, misguided way to try to go back to the original state of non-duality. But we do it in the wrong way so instead of looking for the right path that leads to Dharmadatu wisdom we just get more deeply submerged into the state of ignorance. But really we are looking for that state where we can just let ourselves go and everything is fine. So, this fear of ignorance is fear of solitude, fear of open space and fear of having a responsibility over our lives. It is fear of freedom in a way. We prefer to be taken care of by the womb of our mother where we don't have to take responsibility or be free.
This fear of open space and fear of freedom actually sometimes can even manifest in a pathological way such as having a fear or flying or open spaces. There are some people who cannot even go out of their homes because they feel totally lost. It's a kind of illness so maybe it has some sort of relationship with this.
This looking for refuge is the conduct of ignorance and it has a relationship with two of the aspects of suffering. In Buddhism, we talk about "the suffering of conditioned existence", "the suffering of change" and "the suffering of suffering".
THE SUFFERING OF CONDITIONED EXISTENCEThe suffering of conditioned existence means that the mere fact of existing is a state of suffering because it is a conditioned state. We have a body that depends upon many other things - we are not self-sufficient - we are bound to change, and get sick and die etc. So, just existing in a conditioned, impermanent state - by itself implies suffering. It is a faulty state. There is a kind of knowledge of that suffering to which this is related; like sometimes we are not particularly happy or not particularly suffering or anything, there is nothing happening, we're just in a kind of neutral state. And then, if this lasts too long, we start to feel restless, we don't feel happy, we lack for something and we need to look for some kind of entertainment or something. This happens in meditation as well. Meditation is so nice, but then after a little while you feel bored. And when you feel bored, in fact, there is some kind of fear there. "What is happening? What am I going to do?" You feel restless. You don't know how to just be and do nothing. In a way, this is like meeting your loneliness. And then your mind very quickly wants to get attached to something - even if it's remembering, thinking, planning or whatever - but at least get your mind occupied with something else. In this way, through this entertaining yourself, you forget your true lonely state, which is the reality of your life - that you are alone. So, there is a fear of facing our true state. We have fear of facing our loneliness and that's why we desperately need entertaining all the time. We get out of this fear by entertaining ourselves - so we look out for things, we desire things, we try to get rid of things and we get involved in emotional states or whatever. And then we try to get attached to things.
THE SUFFERING OF CHANGEThe fear of change happens here, too - the suffering of change. As soon as we find something that seems to be secure and that can provide well-being and a feeling of happiness then it starts changing. Things don't last. Either these things themselves change or our capacity to experience happiness from them starts changing and we're not happy anymore. So, then we try to get attached more strongly and perpetuate things as much as we can because we have fear of change also. Change causes us suffering because we lose the happiness that we were experiencing. We have fear that things may change and that we may lose the things that we like. This fear is always there, even if we are happy; we have a happy life, everything seems to be ok, you can foresee more or less what is going to happen and everything is going alright, but still you know that it's not going to last forever. So, you have a sense of fear that change will intrude into your life and may dismantle all this. Sooner or later certainly it will happen!
So, fears involved in these types of suffering are all based on ignorance, based on this compulsory search for refuge which is a part of ignorance. But, as I'm saying, the problem is that we are looking for refuge in the wrong direction. We are looking for refuge by trying to maintain and identify with things that are impermanent and limited. We're trying to make our world stable, but it is not stable because everything changes. So that is our mistake.
NEUROTIC MANIFESTATIONS OF IGNORANCESo far we have been talking about the general definition and characteristics of ignorance. Now, let's see how this ignorance manifests in our lives, in different patterns of compulsive behaviour. I have classified here four kinds of manifestations.
MATERIALISMThe first one is attachment to whatever gives us a feeling of solidity. This is often orientated to a feeling of materiality, something that gives a feeling of material stability. For example, something that makes us feel that we have our feet on the ground instead of kind of floating - excessive attachment to this feeling of touching the ground and a feeling of solidity. Attachment to the body is one way. Of course, we are all attached to our bodies, but there can be particular slightly neurotic and exaggerated aspects of attachment to the body. If you are totally involved with your body all the time, then that's an expression of it. Attachment to food is another way. Some people are a little neurotically attached to food because eating gives you a feeling of stability. When you feel a little anguished or restless or slightly disturbed or lost, you can feel a little unprotected in some ways and then you start eating compulsively. It is an automatic way of trying to solve this feeling of solitude or feeling alone, or of not feeling cared for by the mother or whoever. Eating, it is said, is like a substitute for the breast of the mother - like children needing something to suck. Drinking alcohol is another way. When we drink alcohol, first of all we are using our mouths like a child, and secondly, alcohol makes us feel a little blurred and that is similar to sleeping. If you are sleepy you lose the sense of reality and then you feel better.
Another expression is attachment to shopping and buying and possessions in general, you know, accumulating things, material things. Shopping is one of the ways now-a-days that we commonly express it. Retail therapy - I mean everybody does it! We go shopping and then we feel better. You buy a few things, so your house is always a little more solid and full of things. Then, it becomes exaggerated - I mean, some people have a house totally full of stuff. The walls are totally full of paintings and decorations. You have a table but you cannot put anything on the table because it's full of little silly things. You cannot even walk on the floor it's so cluttered. If suddenly you lost all these things then you would feel lost. You need this kind of feeling of being crowded to feel comfortable. So, shopping is similar to that.
These are all addictions, you know. When you become addicted to these things, it's an expression of ignorance. Take addiction to routine, for example. There are many different routines; Think of all your little rituals at home. When you become too nitty-gritty about your rituals, then that's an expression of ignorance. You need to have things in a particular way and if somebody moves something then you feel lost and disoriented. "Where is my fork?" "It's there," "But I want it here!" Old people sometimes become like that, but we do too in many different ways. Routine gives the impression that the world is solid, because everything is always in the same place, so then we feel secure. When things change, we feel lost so we look for refuge in routine. We become attached to a homely life, for example, and have the routine of going home every day at the same time and finding the right person there. If one day we go back home and the person is not there, "Oh, what's happened? My world has changed!" Doing the same things like watching television, having food at the right time and the kind of things that make our daily home life so nice and pleasant may be an expression of ignorance. All these things are based on a fear of feeling unrooted and disoriented. Of course routine is helpful as a way to organize our lives and simplify things; the problem is when we become too dependent of it and fearfully attached to this routines. Then it is a sign of the presence of ignorance.
SOCIAL DEPENDENCEA second neurotic aspect of ignorance is the attachment to dependence on people. We depend on other people and dependence is a way of attachment like when a child depends on her mother; totally and completely relies upon the mother. If the mother is not there, then the child feels terribly lost, so we substitute the 'mother' with other people. It can be our partner, or maybe still be our mother, or our parents, husband, wife or children. So, we become attached to these people and we depend upon them. We have a family and friends and a social circle and we join groups of people. We join societies and clubs and by being part of this and feeling that we belong, we feel more secure. That can become a kind of addictive dependence that is a neurotic state of ignorance. If you cannot do without that person or if people fail you in some way, then you feel terribly annoyed and terribly lost. "What am I going to do in my life?!" That is a neurotic state.
ATTACHMENT TO IDEASThe third type of manifestation is attachment to things like ideologies. We become attached to ideas, you know, to dogmas; whether they are religious dogmas or political dogmas or philosophical dogmas, or even if you become attached to your own opinions or someone's opinions about things in a very kind of intense way. Things are like this - and are joined by that idea and everything that is against that you reject. Also becoming attached to 'the established', whatever it is, you know - the establishment we can say or the traditions - they can be social traditions or religious traditions or political or whatever kind of traditions - I mean we all have this type of attachment; I remember seeing a documentary about a particular tribe in Africa where they practice female circumcision (clitoris extirpation) on pubescent girls. That is a terrible thing and has such bad consequences for health and all manner of things. It is mainly the women who are responsible for doing it to the girls and they asked the senior women in this tribe "Why are you doing this?" The only answer they could give was "It is because we have always done that. It has been done forever, so how can we change the tradition of our ancestors?" That was the only answer they had, there was no other explanation for it. So they kept doing this terrible thing only because it was the tradition, but even they didn't know what the purpose of it was or why it was created. They didn't know. Amazing! This kind of thing is total ignorance, isn't it? It is attachment to traditions just because they give a feeling of stability. You follow the tradition because things have always been done that way and the world has not disappeared, therefore you think that if you keep doing that the world will not disappear for you. Of course conventions, norms, precepts, laws and rules are all useful but if you become addicted to them and fanatically attached to them then they are not good anymore. It's just an expression of this looking for refuge without wanting to decide by yourself or look for freedom and meaning.
Another aspect of this would be that of compulsively depending upon a teacher or a doctrine of the kind that tells us what to do. Whenever you need to do something, first you ask whoever you consider to be the teacher and then the teacher tells you what to do - so you do. Of course, if the teacher is a very good teacher that's fine in a way, you could rely on that and know that you are doing the right thing. But maybe that teacher is not really a proper kind of teacher, but for you, by relying on that person's knowledge you avoid developing wisdom by yourself and developing a healthy sense of freedom by yourself. So you maintain your ignorance that way. A true teacher is the one who helps you to become wise and to develop wisdom within yourself. A good teacher does not help you to stay ignorant! There are many teachers like that - teachers who like being surrounded by disciples and they lead their disciples is in such a way that the disciples can never be equal to the teacher - they are always inferior in some way or another. That way the teacher makes sure that the disciples will always depend on him or her. So, that's not the right teacher. To keep you ignorant is not the way.
ATTACHMENT TO DISTRACTIONSA fourth type, an inner kind of type of attachment, is attachment to distractions, attachment to your own discursive thoughts and attachment to entertainment. It is keeping your mind busy because of that fear of facing your empty state, or it is attachment to an inert state of mind - you know, like just being oblivious without doing anything. Some people get into that, just sitting or lying around doing nothing and leaving one's mind totally blank. This kind of lethargic state is also an attached state of ignorance, of not wanting to face one's responsibility and so on. Even in meditation you can become attached to that type of blank state of mind - a totally peaceful and dark state of mind. You become attached to that, you feel totally kind of cosy there and you can remain there possibly for ages. If you do that you might be reborn as an animal. Yes, that's what they say.
With those few examples we should try to examine if we have any of these types of addictions because we should recognise that they are not wise - that they are probably compulsive aspects, based on fear that is related to ignorance. They are all ways to avoid acquiring understanding of things and knowledge about ourselves. We don't want to commit ourselves to making an effort to discover the truth about things, because we have fear of the truth, we prefer not to know. This way we feel more secure - we don't have to do anything - and if somebody threatens this state of ignorance we reject it sometimes. History has many examples of people who have declared the truth about things and because it was against the established tradition they were burnt alive or whatever. People rejected the truth because it was threatening to their stability of mind. So we fear truth. In fact, all of us here probably have fear of being enlightened. I wonder how many of you would be happy to be enlightened in the next five minutes? "You are going to be enlightened this afternoon". You would probably say "In a moment's time - not here, not yet, maybe a little later, I have so many things to do still!" You don't want to be enlightened just like that - you prefer to still be here. I mean, samara is quite cosy after all, so we think!
CONSEQUENCESNow, what are the consequences of this neurotic state of ignorance? Well, one main consequence is fanaticism. You become a fanatic. Basically, it's a fanatical state of mind. All the poisons are exaggerations of energy and in the case of ignorance this exaggeration becomes fanaticism. When you become a fanatic you are ready to condemn anything and anybody who threatens that stability. This can be even your partner or your family. For example, if you love someone intensely in the sense of "I cannot do without you"; then if that person leaves you one day, then you become terribly angry towards that person - to the point where you could kill that person. There are many of these cases happening now-a-days where men kill their ex-wives. Very often it is the same pattern; they kill them because they can't accept that this person whom they depended on so much has left them. Their pride was so much dependent on that person being "part of me" and "loving me" and "I loving you" and all these things. When this person leaves you cannot bear it so you kill that person. In a social way this can also be done. The whole of society can declare some person or a group of people to be the culprits of their problems. You become attached to a particular style of society and if another group disagrees and tries to make changes, you condemn them altogether. You say, "They are the bad ones, we are the good ones. They have to be eliminated". So, fanaticism means becoming attached to what you consider to be good and rejecting anything that goes against that. When you divide reality into black and white like that you become totally fanatic and this is a consequence of ignorance. You can think of so many examples of this now-a-days in our world.
On the other hand, we are ready to support whoever protects our establishment and whoever we consider to be on our side. If they going to maintain the order and the stability of our world then we defend and support these people blindly. Mostly people have no idea who is good and who is bad but because one smiles a little better than the other, and one says a few things which seem to better protect my interests, I follow this person. You don't really examine the consequences of this or the long-term benefits for everybody- you just react in a very limited and compulsive way. Let's take an example from history at the time of Nazism in Germany; Why was Nazism able to have so much success and do what they did? It was because a lot of people supported them because in some way or another they felt that they were the defenders of stability and the principles they felt were important to themselves. To feel this kind of security and stability and maintenance of order they were ready to support this. So, this is fanaticism, the fanatic way. Through ignorance we can become very manipulative and very destructive without noticing it.
Anyway, ignorance is what maintains samsara going on. It is the main engine of samsara. It has this tremendous power in it even although it appears in the form of inertia. Ignorance is like the great mother of samsara. Samsara is like a womb of ignorance. Samsara is a dark state of mind compared to nirvana or enlightenment. Within this dark, infinite state of existence, there is the tremendous power of all the habitual tendencies and karma going on, forever. We take refuge in samsara - all the time - we have total trust in samsara. We don't know that there is a possibility of enlightenment so it is the source of all samsara. It is the container for the whole of samsara and it is the very essence of the energy of samsara. And, we feed out of this and we are nourished by it, like a mother. We let ourselves be led like a docile animal by it. We are resigned to accept the suffering even. We know that life is difficult, that everything is a little unsatisfactory, but what can we do? So we say that it's okay; we just accept even that.
The Buddha was a rebel against that, you know. He said "I don't accept that; I don't accept that suffering. I want to get out of it", so he got enlightened. But, the ignorant mind just accepts, and puts up with these little inconveniences such as dying. So, we let ourselves be carried. We know that we're going to die but, anyway, what can we do? In the meantime let's try to entertain ourselves as best as we can. This is totally letting ourselves be carried by this great monster that is the mother of samsara. And this monster, this big mouth that is holding the wheel of samsara in its mouth, is very happy. She feeds us with all kinds of things - nice things,- "have this food", "such nice food", "oh food, oh how happy" - we live in order to have the next meal, you know. Or we live in order to see the next film on television, "how nice, we are going to see this." We live in order to meet the next person. There are many things that samsara provides for us to keep us busy and entertained - and this is what this mother of ignorance is doing for us. And we say "thank you very much" and we are grateful for it. We may even think that this is God giving us these things.
So, ignorance functions like that. It is like the great dragon that protects samsara from getting enlightened, from the dangers of freedom. You know, treasures are always protected by a big dragon or a monster of some kind, so enlightenment is protected by this dragon of ignorance. It makes sure that we don't want to escape and when somebody tries to escape, then he gets really angry and in Buddhism we call this 'Mara'. When the Buddha was near to enlightenment, he got really strongly attacked by 'Mara'. All the manifestations of ignorance tried to persuade the Buddha that it was not wise to get enlightened. This is what the dragon is doing for us all the time, and because he gets angry when we try to achieve some kind of wisdom, we are frightened very easily, so we say "okay, okay, just leave it there", "I just will keep doing my routine and following the flow". So, when does this happen? When you say, "Oh dharma is really interesting", it teaches such good things, I'm going to try to practice that". And then, you feel inspired - you start practicing, but then after a little while all kinds of thoughts start telling you that you would be better doing something else. This is so boring, you are not going anywhere, you're wasting your time, it's so painful - many different kinds of things. This may even convince you and you say, "Well okay, tomorrow, now I have too many things to do". So, ignorance basically keeps us resigned to a state of suffering, it keeps us existing in a state of suffering and on the other hand it leads us make many mistakes, deciding what is good and what is bad. So, we decide wrongly, and because of that, we do many things that cause suffering to ourselves and to others. This is how we remain in a sleep or dream state, which is a state of samsara.
SOME POSITIVE ASPECTSYesterday we talked about the positive aspects of this energy, but I'd like to say a couple of things more:
The fundamental, neutral energy of the Buddha Vairochana family, which is this aspect of docility, receptivity, passivity and open-mindedness, before it has become clearly tainted by the negativity of ignorance, has a positive side in that it helps us to become more accepting of things and able to accommodate situations. If we have this quality we are receptive to other people. We can understand others better if we are open and we are receptive to wisdom. If we have an open mind, then we can learn many things and wisdom can sometimes come out of our own minds. If we try to solve a problem that we have, one of the best ways is to meditate and let our thoughts pacify and develop an open, empty state of mind. We just stay there - then, out of that may come the answer to your problem. If you just keep thinking and thinking and thinking about it, you are just creating more turbulence, more ignorance and more confusion. You won't find the answer.
Another positive aspect is that you have a mystical kind of disposition in the sense of being receptive and docile, and devotion is an aspect of that also. Devotion means that you have an open mind, that you trust somebody or something who is higher and better than you and you are receptive to it opening up to try to mix with it. You look for union with it. You want to mix yourself with the Buddha or with a guru or something like this. This is a very profound kind of quality that some people have. In general, if you are open you are more easygoing in the world. You can accept situations and you are able to be contented with any situation. You don't have too many preferences so you are an easygoing person; somebody who is easy to live with. These are the positive sides of this particular energy.
REMEDIES FOR IGNORANCEFinally, I have to tell you the remedies for ignorance. The first step in the remedy is to recognise ignorance. That's why it's so important to know all the details about it. You have to reflect and examine for yourselves and recognise ignorance, because this is most difficult. Yesterday we saw, in general, the process of healing these illnesses of the five poisons. This is always valid and you have to remember that, but then more specifically, there's a few things I can say.
REFUGE - THE BUDDHA VAIROCHANA COMMITMENTThe first of them is a very interesting one from the point of view of Vajrayana. When we take an initiation in the Vajrayana, the Anuttarayoga tantra, the first initiation has five aspects, which are the five Buddhas. If you know the details, then you have the five Buddha initiations. Each one is supposed to involve some kind of commitment for the one who receives it. The commitment for receiving the initiation of Vairochana, of that particular wisdom or family, is the commitment of refuge - maintaining the refuge vow. So now, after what I've said, we can see very clearly why it's like that - because taking refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha is part of this energy of ignorance. We look for refuge all the time, but we have to take refuge in the right thing. What is the right thing? It is the Buddha - the Buddha is the Dharmadhatu wisdom; it is the wisdom, the three kayas and the five wisdoms - it is the true nature of our minds. This is why we need to keep this vow of looking for refuge in the Buddha and we keep the vow of looking for refuge in the dharma because the dharma is the path that leads us to that realisation. If we take refuge in the dharma it means that we trust and rely on the teachings of the Buddha and all the different types of prescriptions, rules of conduct, methods of practice and ways of living that lead to this result. Taking refuge in the dharma means entrusting ourselves completely to the dharma. We are saying, "I know that you know what is best, so I just have to follow that". There is this attitude of docility and letting yourself be carried by it, by the best kind of thing and taking that kind of guidance. And then, taking refuge in the sangha is similar to taking refuge in a family in some sense. You are looking for a family, for friends, for partners and the sangha is the best friends, the best family, the ones who help us and share the same path. So, to rely on them is the meaning of refuge and that's why one way of putting an end to ignorance is to practice the refuge - not just repeating the words, but really developing the attitude of refuge.
BODHICHITTAAnother part of this samaya or this commitment is the bodhicitta commitment. Developing the attitude of wanting to liberate all beings from samsara is also a way to counteract ignorance. Instead of just remaining here sleeping, we take a courageous determination that we want to help everybody to find the wisdom and to cultivate that compassionate, courageous attitude. Cultivating bodhicitta is a way to dispel ignorance.
STUDY & REFLECTIONThen, of course, the main direct remedy for ignorance is to cultivate wisdom. That requires making an effort to wake up basically, which, in fact, is all what Buddhism is about. Making an effort to learn the truth about ourselves and about things. To learn means to study, to read and to listen to teachings, to go to retreats and things like that. Then you have to examine and analyse these teachings that we hear and learn. We have to reflect on them and develop our own understanding through our positive thinking about it - so that is part of developing wisdom.
MEDITATIONFinally, we have to meditate on it. Practicing meditation means accustoming our mind to the meaning of the particular teaching that we received and have examined. It means to maintain the mind in the essence of that particular truth with clarity and with understanding.
SHINAYMeditation in general means what we just normally do, which is first of all to try to dispel all this confusion in our minds by just resting our minds - just not following the thoughts, not nourishing our particular samsara in our mind with our own attachments, not looking for entertainment in our thoughts. It is being brave enough to face the empty space of our mind, which is actually very wonderful and slowly diminishing our addiction to discursive thinking and entertaining our minds. So, this is part of meditation - cultivating this open state of mind.
LAKTONGFrom that, the second stage in meditation is vipashyana or lhatong meditation, which is how to look at the mind itself and try to find the true nature of mind. All this is involved in wisdom, so prajnaparamita or wisdom paramita, is a remedy for ignorance.
There are many little things that can relate to that, but I think if you recognise how the pattern of ignorance and how the neurotic state of ignorance is basically a state of addiction, how you solidify things, then you know what you have to do. You have to recognise that, and you have to diminish that exaggeration, because it's just an exaggeration. You have to become more balanced first of all, you have to look at the things you fixate on and that you tend to solidify with a more equanamous mind. Be more open, and observe and see as well: "What is this about? I mean, why am I so attached, so fanatical about this?" If you watch it a little with more perspective, you will see that there is not so much about it. You don't need to be so overwhelmed or over-the-top, so, you go on in a more equanamous or balanced way.