Ignorance – how the illusion of “me in my body experiencing the world out there” comes about

The Buddha said that we can’t escape suffering and have to revolve in the round or rebirths because of 1 thing – ignorance, avijja.  Ignorance of what?

The basic ignorance, delusion or illusion is called sakkayaditthi – self identification – thinking that who we really are is this conscious human being living inside our bodies, experiencing the external world out there.  But the Buddha said that this is taking appearances to be reality and like mistaking a thief for your own son.

How does this illusion come about?

In the Shurangama Sutra, the Buddha said that our perceptions of everything around us is as if we were someone who had cloudy, distorted, unclear vision from cataracts.

Analogy of Someone with Cataracts – Which Distorts Our Vision

Imagine someone with cataracts that makes the vision go cloudy – as if looking through a fog.

They look at a candle at night time – they might see glare and a halo around it.

Where do the haloes come from?

  • Do they come from the candle? – If so, then how come other people can’t see it?
  • Or do they from the seeing? – If so, then the seeing itself is haloed.
  • If it is APART from the candle – then you’d be seeing haloes around the curtains, tables and floor as well.
  • If it has NOTHING to do with the seeing – then why does the person with cataracts seeing it?
The answer:
–  Light comes from the candle
–  The defective seeing brings about the halo
BUT
“THAT which sees” the defective filter of the cataract is not defective.

Therefore, you shouldn’t say that it’s the candle or seeing or that is neither the candle nor seeing.

The Analogy of the 2nd Moon

Press on your eye and you’ll seed a 2nd moon – this is an illusion arising from the pressure on the eye.This 2nd moon is neither:

  • Substantial
  • Nor a reflection

So a wise person wouldn’t say this 2nd moon is form or not a form.  Nor can you say this illusion of a moon is seeing or not apart from the seeing.

Same with the cataracts on the eyes.  You can’t say it’s from the candle or the seeing.  Even less can it said to be NOT from the candle and NOT from the seeing.
  • The haloes appear to be real – but this “appearance” is not reality – it’s just a result of the cataracts altering the vision.
  • BUT the essence of the seeing itself, which perceives the cataracts – is free from disease – free from the defects of the cataract
The Buddha said that all that you see and experience around you now – all the things around you that you perceive – the mountains, rivers, countries and even other people – are just “appearances” that are the result of the “disease” called your physical body (which acts like the cataract, altering, filtering and limiting reality through its 5 senses) since beginningless time.
But:
  • “That which is aware” of the disease is not diseased
  • “That which is aware of the faulty awareness” is not faulty
“That which is aware” is the “true perception of seeing” – true perception – unadulterated by the cataracts of the body’s sense organs.”The true essential seeing by nature has no disease. Therefore it is not what we normally call seeing. 2:198

For example, what we perceive through our eyes is what we usually call seeing.  But what this is, is just perception limited to the visible spectrum of light that humans can see – normally, we can’t see into other parts of the spectrum of light like x-rays or ultraviolet or infrared (unless we supplement our physical eyes with special instruments).

True perception is also NOT limited by:

  • The sense organ
  • Nor the type of sense organ

Therefore true perception is not what you normally call seeing.  It can perceive sounds as easily as it perceives sight, smells, tastes and touches and even things beyond what our physical senses can perceive.

So all that we see, all that we experience in our everyday world is:
“Produced from a beginningless falsity in the seeing.
  • It is the same in the three thousand continents of Jambudvipa, throughout the four great seas and in the Saha World and throughout the ten directions.
  • All countries that have outflows and all living beings are the enlightened bright wonderful mind without outflows.

Because of the false, diseased conditions that are seen, heard, felt, and known, they mix and unite in false birth, mix and unite in false death. 2:204”If you can leave far behind all conditions which mix and unite and those which do not mix and unite, then you can also extinguish and cast out the causes of birth and death, and obtain perfect Bodhi, the nature which is neither produced nor extinguished. It is the pure clear basic mind, the everlasting fundamental enlightenment. 2:205

In other words, if we can remove the veil, the cataract of our sensory perceptions, which distort and limit our true perception – then we can realize the true perception of our pure, fundamental everlasting mind of enlightenment – our own True Nature, our Buddha Nature which was never born and so, can never die.

Source:  http://www.cttbusa.org/shurangama/shurangama9.asp

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2 thoughts on “Ignorance – how the illusion of “me in my body experiencing the world out there” comes about

  1. “That which is aware” of the disease is not diseased
    “That which is aware of the faulty awareness” is not faulty

    this is I think sometimes at the heart of the confusion when we talk about appearances. This clears confusion, and the only way to clear confusion seems to be to go to the source of that which is aware. why meditation is key, this is not an intellectual process.

    Thank you. Always insightful!

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