By Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
“THE TIBETAN YOGA OF DREAM AND SLEEP”
All our experiences, including dreams, originate in ignorance. In the West, such an assertion may come as a surprise, so let us first understand what is meant by ignorance (marigga *). In the Tibetan tradition a distinction is made between two types of ignorance: innate and conditioned by culture.
Innate ignorance has its basis in Sansara and it is the hallmark of ordinary beings. It is the ignorance of our true nature and the true nature of the world, and the result is that we are held captive by mistakes of the dualistic mind.
Duality generates opposites and dichotomy. It dismembers the indivisible unity of experience into this and that, true and wrong, you and me. On the basis of this speculative division, we have preferences that manifest themselves as attraction and rejection: habitual reactions that form of what we identify ourselves with. We want it, not that, we believe in it, but not that, we respect it and despise that. We want pleasure, peace, wealth and glory and we try to avoid suffering, poverty, anxiety and shame. We want all of this for ourselves and for those we love, but we don’t care about others. We want different sensations than those we have, or we want to keep the sensation and prevent the inevitable changes that would lead to its loss.
There is a second kind of ignorance, which is due to culture. It is expressed in the inclinations and prohibitions that are included in the system of values. For example, in India Hindus believe that beef can not be eaten, but pork can be. Muslims are convinced that it is permissible to eat beef, and pork is forbidden for them. Tibetans eat both. Who of them is right? They are all sure that they are right. Different beliefs come from prejudices and beliefs, which are part of culture, and not from original knowledge.
Another example can be seen in philosophical differences. There are many philosophical systems that differ in some subtleties. Although these systems are designed to help people gain wisdom, they generate ignorance, as their followers cling to a dual understanding of reality. This inevitably happens in any speculative system, since the mind operating in concepts is a manifestation of ignorance.
Ignorance due to culture is developed and preserved in traditions. It permeates any custom, any opinion, any value system and an aggregate of knowledge. Both individuals and society as a whole consider these preferences so indisputable that they take them for the voice of common sense or for the law outlined from above. Growing up, we become supporters of various beliefs, political parties, systems of healing, religions, ideas about how the world should be organized. We graduate from elementary school, high school, possibly college, and in a sense, each certificate becomes a reward for the development of more and more refined ignorance. Education strengthens the habit of looking at the world through a particular lens. You can become a specialist in erroneous views, achieve great success in this area and communicate with other such experts. This is also the case in philosophy, where complex intellectual systems are studied, turning the mind into a perfect tool of cognition. But until we overcome innate ignorance, all we gain is internalized prejudices, not original knowledge.
We develop an attachment to the most insignificant things: to a certain kind of soap or to a particular hairstyle. If we take a larger scale, we create systems of religion, politics, philosophy, psychology and science. But no one is born with the conviction that one should not eat beef or pork, or that one philosophical system is right and the other is not, or that one religion is true and the other is false. All these views need to be learned. Adherence to certain values is the result of ignorance due to culture, but the tendency to assimilate limited views originates in duality, a manifestation of innate ignorance.
There is nothing wrong. It so happened. Our attachments can lead to war, but they also manifest themselves as advanced technologies and various skills that bring great benefit to the world. Until we reach enlightenment, our destiny is duality, and this is normal. Tibetans say: “As long as you live in the body of a donkey, enjoy the taste of grass.” In other words, you need to appreciate this life and enjoy it, because it is meaningful and precious in itself, and also because it is our life.
If we are not careful, then it may happen that the teachings become only a means of strengthening our ignorance. You can say that striving to get a degree or limit yourself to a diet is harmful, but this is not the point. With the same success, it can be said that ignorance is bad or that ordinary life is merely a Sansar delusion. In fact, ignorance is just a clouding of consciousness. Attachment or aversion to it is still the same old game of duality played out in the world of ignorance. You can see how deep it penetrates everything. Even the teachings are forced to deal with duality, for example, to encourage striving for virtue and rejection of vice, paradoxically using the inherent ignorance of duality to overcome the same ignorance. What a subtle understanding is necessary to develop and how easily you can go astray! That is why practice is needed: to have a direct experience, and not to invent another speculative system, then to develop and defend it. When you look at things from a higher point, the differences between them are erased. From the point of view of non-dual knowledge, such concepts as “important” and “unimportant” do not exist.
Posted by I.S. Kovpak