How to know if you are living in ignorance?

How many times do we fall into the trap of the mind and dare to judge someone or something without knowing the real truth about the person or the situation?

Being aware of one’s own truth is the first step towards making fair judgements and decisions. We need to empty our mind to let go of all misconceptions and wrong perceptions. We need to make our mind open and available to take things as they really are.

In this article, I want to share my thoughts and a compilation of Buddhist teachings about ignorance and its influence on our decision making especially when we relate to others. 

Where does ignorance come from? 

The root of ignorance comes from the identification with the “I”. Automatically at the moment we start experiencing life as human beings, we are conditioned to be someone, we must have a name, a gender, a sort of a label…

At a very young age, our teachers start asking: what do you want to be when you grow up; a doctor, an engineer, a manager?

We mostly watch our parents and learn about their behaviour, life concepts, what’s good and what’s bad according to their experiences. That’s good at some point, however, let’s reflect on the fact that they are also conditioned by what they learned from their parents, teachers, society, and the concept that they formed of themselves according to that learning.

If we start uncovering layers, we will see that our mindset is mixed up with all sorts of things like patterns, emotions, desires, attachment, time… It’s like a film, a story of ourselves passing through our eyes.

At the moment we notice this “autopilot mode”, we must step out of the mind game and observe ourselves, turn our attention inwards and begin writing the real story of our lives.

I remember something I learned during my first meditation guide; “become the observer of the mind” like a mini-me or a huge me watching from another place. 

When you meditate, you get closer to the real version of yourself, you notice how much you know, and by observing other experiences you can also realize how much you don’t know. 

Once you go deeper in your meditation or any spiritual practice, it begins to dissolve the layers of ignorance and we are detaching ourselves from that automatic way of being and responding.

Do you know what you don’t know?

If you don’t know that you don’t know, you probably can’t let that go easily. These are the words from my Teaching Monk LP John from ThailandHe also explains that there are many sources of ignorance that I would like to describe here.

Ignorance covers different situations:

– You thought you know but what you know isn’t correct/updated.

– You thought you know but what you know isn’t complete.

– You thought you know but actually, you don’t.

– You don’t know that you don’t know, you don’t feel aware of something at all.

He also added that in the last case, it is probably not possible to let go at all…

We must let go of everything we think we know in order to know what we don’t know. So, as I mentioned at the beginning, we need to empty our mind completely and surrender to the fact that WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING.

Proper attitude and mindset are also needed to break the mental barriers and step out of ignorance. A change of paradigm is a change of thought, a great change of thought! 

Some steps you can follow to let go of ignorance

  • Move from prejudice to open-mindedness through observation of your own reactions and ability to judge others.
  • Continuously observe your patterns of judgement, to see what they say about you (in a non-judgemental way).
  • Learn to be kind and gentle with yourself, so that you can extend this kindness to all sentient beings.
  • Understand that people do the best they can do with the resources they have. We have no right to judge another because we don’t know everything. Every person experiences life from their own perspective.
  • Go beyond your mindset and touch your heart. When you cultivate loving-kindness towards yourself, then you can spread this state to your beloved ones and finally to everyone around you.
  • Realize that you have the power of choice. You can choose what energy you want to embody. Do you choose negative energy through judgement? Or do you choose the energy of love and compassion through openness?

Before I let you go…

There’s a mind cycle, and this happens during the time we are conscious and sometimes when we are subconscious in a dream state. 

If we want to discover if we are living in ignorance, we need to become aware of everything we are not. For example, you can repeat and reflect on the fact that we are not this body, we are not even this mind. And continue reflecting on everything you think you know about yourself, about others, about life.

By this practice, we empty our mind to a new paradigm of just being, without labels, without judgements.

Once more, we can accomplish this by means of meditation. Meditation is an exercise to keep the mind still, peaceful, and focused on one thought at a time for a long period of time. 

If you want to practice a very simple meditation technique to open your mind to all possibilities, please check our Self-Development Program

And finally I want to quote Ramana Maharsi: “Until you know who you are, all your knowledge is only learned ignorance.”

Be yourself.

Photo credits: @ratushny

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