Buddhism - A Discourse on Ignorance

Buddha, the Founder of Buddhism

by Bhikkhu Bodhi

64. Saying, "Good friend," the bhikkhus delighted and rejoiced in the Venerable Sariputta's words. Then they asked him a further question: "But, friend, might there be another way in which a noble disciple is one of right view... and has arrived at this true Dhamma?" — "There might be, friends.

65. "When, friends, a noble disciple understands ignorance, the origin of ignorance, the cessation of ignorance, and the way leading to the cessation of ignorance, in that way he is one of right view... and has arrived at this true Dhamma.

66. "And what is ignorance, what is the origin of ignorance, what is the cessation of ignorance, what is the way leading to the cessation of ignorance? Not knowing about suffering, not knowing about the origin of suffering, not knowing about the cessation of suffering, not knowing about the way leading to the cessation of suffering — this is called ignorance. With the arising of the taints there is the arising of ignorance. With the cessation of the taints there is the cessation of ignorance. The way leading to the cessation of ignorance is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view... right concentration.

67. "When a noble disciple has thus understood ignorance, the origin of ignorance, the cessation of ignorance, and the way leading to the cessation of ignorance... he here and now makes an end of suffering. In that way too a noble disciple is one of right view... and has arrived at this true Dhamma."

Commentary on Ignorance

aññanam) means not knowing about the truth of suffering. This is In the section on ignorance, not knowing about suffering (dukkhe a designation for delusion (moha). The same method with respect to "not knowing about the origin of suffering," and so on.

Herein, not knowing about suffering should be understood in four ways: as to containment (antogadhato), as to physical basis (vatthuto), as to object (arammanato), and as to concealment (paticchadanato). Thus, because of being included in the truth of suffering, it ("not knowing" or ignorance) is contained in suffering; and the truth of suffering is its physical basis by being its support condition; and (the truth of suffering) is its object by being its object condition; and it conceals the truth of suffering by preventing the penetration of its real characteristic and by not allowing knowledge to occur in regard to it.

Not knowing about the origin (of suffering) should be understood in three ways: as to physical basis, as to object, and as to concealment. And not knowing about cessation and the way (to cessation) should be understood in one way only: as to concealment. For non-knowledge only conceals cessation and the way by preventing the penetration of their real characteristics and by not allowing knowledge to occur in regard to them. But it is not contained in them because it is not included in this pair of truths. And these two truths are not its physical basis because they are not conascent. Nor are they its object because of its non-occurrence on account of them. For the last pair of truths are difficult to see because of their profundity, and non-knowledge, which is blind, does not occur there. But the first (pair of truths) is profound in the sense of opposition because of the difficulty in seeing the characteristic of their intrinsic nature; it occurs there by way of obsession by the perversions.

Furthermore: About suffering (dukkhe): to this extent ignorance is indicated as to inclusion, as to physical basis, as to object, and as to function. About the origin of suffering (dukkhasamudaye): to this extent, as to basis, as to object, and as to function. About the cessation of suffering (dukkhanirodhe) and about the way leading to the cessation of suffering (dukkhanirodhagaminiya patipadaya): to this extent, as to function. But without distinction, (in each instance) ignorance is described in terms of its intrinsic nature by the phrase "not knowing."

With the arising of the taints (asavasamudaya): But here the taint of sensual desire and the taint of being are conditions for ignorance by way of conascence, etc.; the taint of ignorance, only by way of decisive support. And here the ignorance that had arisen previously should be understood as the taint of ignorance. That is a decisive support condition for the ignorance that arises subsequently. The rest by the method stated.

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    Source: Excerpted from  The Discourse on Right View - The Sammaditthi Sutta and its Commentary - Translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli, Edited and Revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi Copyright © 1991 Buddhist Publication Society Access to Insight edition © 1994. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any medium. It is the author's wish, however, that any such republication and redistribution be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis and that translations and other derivative works be clearly marked as such.

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