By Trina Otero
om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah
[I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.]
“The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering is craving. We need to point out that this word can be confusing. It is often used for extremes, such as drug addiction. So many people think this truth doesn’t apply to them; that they don’t crave. The majority of people being dragged or shoved through life by their desires, do not realise they are craving. Craving is not just a feeling, emotion, thought, or type of behaviour. It is a combination of these, combined with ignorance and unawareness that leads to clinging. We are normally aware of the feelings, thoughts, and so on, but we do not realise we are craving, being pushed or pulled by a force based on ignorance. Gotama taught that the origin of suffering is craving (tanha) conditioned by ignorance (avijja)…” [Source: Trans4mind]
I had a dream in January in which foreign words came to me. They blinked mid-air, like a retro sign with light bulbs. What I saw was, “If you want this skill, you must practice igana after gana.” [Or gana after igana. I couldn’t remember the order when I woke up.] I was not sure what the “skill” was, nor was I sure what were these two words. I woke up and tried to spell them how I remembered, but I struggled. For some reason, I automatically knew these words were most likely Sanskrit [an intuitive feeling]. So I reached out to my “brother” in India, and he referred me to his friend who is knowledgeable in Vedic studies. His response to me was, “I think the words may be ‘gnana,’ ‘vignana,’ or ‘agnana,’ also termed as ‘jnana,’ ‘ajnana,’ or ‘vignana’ relating to Knowledge and lack of it! I think it’s a small lightening of enlightenment which has struck you in sleep! 🙂 I think it means ‘practice true knowledge [awareness] instead of ignorance.’ Maybe. Not sure.”
I looked up the words after receiving his message and this is what I found:
- Gnana & Jnana = knowledge; a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced. It is the knowledge that comes from experience and cannot be separated from it. It is the totality of the lesson and the experience. [Source: Wikipedia]
- Ajnana = ignorance. [Source: Wikipedia]
- Vignana, vijnana, viññana = consciousness, life force, mind, discernment. [Source: Wikipedia]
After looking up these terms and writing them down, I left it in my memory banks until the message would be revealed. January 24, 2014, I decided to Google “what does Ganesh help with” because I was listening to mantras and the current song playing was to Ganesh. This was serendipitous, because the day before a friend told me Ganesh was helping her break through some obstacles during kundalini yoga. Ganesh is a Hindu “god,” the one who has the head of an elephant. To my surprise, the article I found talked about religion and the ignorance of humans and how they focus on the symbols [aka “gods,” idols] that were created to REFLECT “God” and God’s facets. The symbols are a mere reflection of All that Is, and humans have forgotten this.
“The purpose of religion is reflected in the origin of that word, religare, which means “to reunite or to bind, to reconnect,” and is identical to the Hindu term yoga, which comes from yug, which means “to unite,” and is where we get the word “yoke.” Our purpose is not to unite with some image of a God or to enslave ourselves to some doctrinal demands to behave a certain way in order to be a true follower of such and such symbol. Our true purpose is to be a manifestation of the unmanifested, to become a God on Earth. The whole purpose of Divinity is to make us a reflection of It. That is why we are alive: to become divine.
When we study any religion, this point of view is absolutely critical to bear in mind. It is the loss of this point of view that has caused the decay and corruption of every religion on the face of the Earth. We have become trapped in Avidya, ignorance (a-, “without” and vidya, “knowledge or gnosis”). Avidya is ignorance, it is a lack of knowledge. The chief meaning of Avidya is a lack of genuine self-knowledge. We do not know ourselves. That is why we become trapped in politics, religions, materialism, and the pursuit of possessions, money, and sex, and we die and are reborn continually, because we fail to recognize the truth which is the unmanifested within us. The truth is far beyond any symbolic representation of God.
The true devotee of any symbolic of God seeks to go beyond the symbol, seeks to become it. Some traditions have a form of practice that we can call Deity Yoga, a means to unite with a Deity by recognizing that our true nature is that Deity. The basis of all yoga (whether Hindu, Buddhist, or any other tradition) is to seek to become like God, and this is why Jesus said, “Be ye perfect, as your father in Heaven is perfect.”
That is pure Deity Yoga, pure Bhakti Yoga. To seek that perfection requires that we seek out our imperfection and remove it. This is not an easy task. Success in religion does not come by beliefs, by dressing a certain way, or attending certain temples, it comes through a rigorous psychological analysis of ourselves.” [Source: Gnosticteachings]
After reading these passages, I looked up the meaning of vidya & avidya. “Avidyā is commonly translated as “ignorance” or “delusion”. It can be defined as not understanding the full meaning and implication of the four noble truths or as a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of reality.” [Source: Wikipedia] These terms sound just like the terms from my dreams, huh? I studied Buddhism in college but could not clearly remember the Four Noble Truths, so I searched for it on Wikipedia.
“The Four Noble Truths are regarded as the central doctrine of the Buddhist tradition, and are said to provide a conceptual framework for all of Buddhist thought. These four truths explain the nature of dukkha (Pali; commonly translated as “suffering”, “anxiety”, “unsatisfactoriness”[a]), its causes, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation.
The four noble truths are:
- The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness)
- The truth of the origin of dukkha
- The truth of the cessation of dukkha
- The truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha
The first noble truth explains the nature of dukkha. Dukkha is commonly translated as “suffering,” “anxiety,” “unsatisfactoriness,” “unease,” etc., and it is said to have the following three aspects:
- The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying.
- The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.
- A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, due to the fact that all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance. On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.
The central importance of dukkha in Buddhist philosophy has caused some observers to consider Buddhism to be a pessimistic philosophy. However, the emphasis on dukkha is not intended to present a pessimistic view of life, but rather to present a realistic practical assessment of the human condition — that all beings must experience suffering and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable sufferings of illness, aging, and death. Contemporary Buddhist teachers and translators emphasize that while the central message of Buddhism is optimistic, the Buddhist view of our situation in life (the conditions that we live in) is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic.
The second noble truth is that the origin of dukkha can be known. Within the context of the four noble truths, the origin of dukkha is commonly explained as craving or thirst (Pali: tanha) conditioned by ignorance (Pali: avijja). On a deeper level, the root cause of dukkha is identified as ignorance (avijja) of the true nature of things. The third noble truth is that the complete cessation of dukkha is possible, and the fourth noble truth identifies a path to this cessation.
According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha first taught the four noble truths in the very first teaching he gave after he attained enlightenment, as recorded in The Discourse That Sets Turning the Wheel of Truth (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta), and he further clarified their meaning in many subsequent teachings.” [Source: Wikipedia]
Once again I will reiterate what I read from gnosticteachings.org — “to seek that perfection requires that we seek out our imperfection and remove it…it comes through a rigorous psychological analysis of ourselves.” This falls right in line with current lessons and the energies of the moon as of late. Since January 1 the New Moon in Capricorn and the Full Moon in Cancer have caused many around the world, including me, to fall deep into our subconscious, the “shadowland,” the “underworld,” for us to see our individual deep-rooted emotions, old patterns and beliefs, and pain. The things from our past that no longer serve our highest good. This has been an intense psychoanalysis of Self. This also resonates with my beliefs that we must face our fears and release them. This was my intent for my New Years Video and my recorded meditations. This has been my repeated mantra to MJL as well — that we both stay honest about our fears, face them, and release them with one another’s help.
So, we should probably take a more in-depth look at what causes dukkha, aka suffering, which I mentioned in the very beginning of this post. “Dukkha is commonly explained as a craving. This craving runs on three channels:
- Craving for sense-pleasures (kama-tanha): this is craving for sense objects which provide pleasant feeling, or craving for sensory pleasures.
- Craving to be (bhava-tanha): this is craving to be something, to unite with an experience. This includes craving to be solid and ongoing, to be a being that has a past and a future, and craving to prevail and dominate over others.
- Craving not to be (vibhava-tanha): this is craving to not experience the world, and to be nothing; a wish to be separated from painful feelings.
Ignorance (Pali: avijja) can be defined as ignorance of the meaning and implication of the four noble truths. On a deeper level, it refers to a misunderstanding of the nature of the self and reality.
Another common explanation presents the cause of dukkha as disturbing emotions (Sanskrit: kleshas) rooted in ignorance (Sanskrit: avidya). In this context, it is common to identify three root disturbing emotions, called the three poisons, as the root cause of suffering or dukkha. These three poisons are:
- Ignorance (Sanskrit: avidya or moha): misunderstanding of the nature of reality; bewilderment.
- Attachment (Sanskrit: raga): attachment to pleasurable experiences.
- Aversion (Sanskrit: dvesha): a fear of getting what we don’t want, or not getting what we do want.”
Now I want to look at how we can END suffering. How can we end this ignorance of self? The lack of knowledge of our Self? “The third Noble Truth is the truth of the cessation of dukkha. The term cessation (Pali: nirodha) refers to the cessation of suffering and the causes of suffering. Cessation is the goal of one’s spiritual practice in the Buddhist tradition. According to the Buddhist point of view, once we have developed a genuine understanding of the causes of suffering, such as craving (tanha) and ignorance (avijja), then we can completely eradicate these causes and thus be free from suffering.” [Basically saying to know your flaws, know your fears, your old patterns, and thought patterns that cause you suffering and negativity.]
“Cessation is often equated with nirvana (Sanskrit; Pali nibbana), which can be described as the state of being in cessation or the event or process of the cessation. A temporary state of nirvana can be said to occur whenever the causes of suffering (e.g. craving) have ceased in our mind. Joseph Goldstein explains: Ajahn Buddhadasa, a well-known Thai master of the last century, said that when village people in India were cooking rice and waiting for it to cool, they might remark, “Wait a little for the rice to become nibbana”. So here, nibbana means the cool state of mind, free from the fires of the defilements. As Ajahn Buddhadasa remarked, “The cooler the mind, the more Nibbana in that moment”. We can notice for ourselves relative states of coolness in our own minds as we go through the day.” [Source: Wikipedia] I believe “coolness of the mind” can be achieved through yoga, meditation, prayer, deep breathing techniques, mantras, affirmations, doing things that connect you to your heart… these practices work for me!
Knowing that suffering should be ceased through some types of means, I wanted to remember how it was done. This is explained in the Fourth Noble Truth, and once I refreshed my memory, I sat back and laughed. This falls in line with “mindfulness” and “mindful living,” which is a concept I was pondering about yesterday, and I shared my thoughts with MJL yesterday night. “The fourth noble truth is the path to the cessation of dukkha. This path is called the Noble Eightfold Path, and it is considered to be the essence of Buddhist practice. The eightfold path consists of: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.” Do you take time to find understanding? To think with love? To speak to others in a kind way? To do things after you have thought it through? You can read examples on how to do this here.
“While the first three truths [right understanding, right thought, right speech] are primarily concerned with understanding the nature of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, stress) and its causes, the fourth truth [right action] presents a practical method for overcoming dukkha. The path consists of a set of eight interconnected factors or conditions, that when developed together, lead to the cessation of dukkha. Ajahn Sucitto describes the path as “a mandala of interconnected factors that support and moderate each other.
Thus, the eight items of the path are not to be understood as stages, in which each stage is completed before moving on to the next. Rather, they are to be understood as eight significant dimensions of one’s behaviour—mental, spoken, and bodily—that operate in dependence on one another; taken together, they define a complete path, or way of living.” [Source: Wikipedia]
In a nutshell, the Universe… God… was showing MJL and I how to grow together SPIRITUALLY. Just as Rumi wrote in “The Song of the Reed,” one cannot see a reflection if there is rust on one’s face. This means — and this is how I interpret it — rust represents fears, old thought patterns, “dukkha.” When one person “wipes off the rust” aka releases [or is working on releasing] the fears/patterns/dukkha, this person is able to see a CLEAR reflection in the “mirror” because this person’s mirror is his/her partner. And if this person is working on wiping off his/her rust, then his/her partner is ALSO wiping off his/her own rust…to mirror the partner. This is done together. In unison. By doing this…the two partners are able to see their Truth. Their origin. “God.” Divine. “Home.” The field from where the reed came from [reference to Rumi’s poem]. By being one another’s mirror we are able to reach All that Is, which is where we come from. Which is our whole goal — to become more like God. To manifest the unmanifested. And this is done by mindful living, the Eightfold Path. We are perfect mirrors for one another — we are seeing & feeling our fears and instead of reacting out of fear we help one another with unconditional love. This allows us to recognize our fears and work on releasing the fears, transforming the fears. Evolving. But when we come across situations that become intense we need to remember more than ever to be mindful of our speech, thoughts and actions towards one another. By being mindful we will create a safe, loving space for us to heal and grow. A place of comfort, safety, and unconditional love. In my dreams MJL tells me he will help me “see clearly.” He is my mirror.
***This was a piece I wrote a few months ago, and did research on. The beginning of the year was a very intense time for many, for those who were ready to walk the shadow lands to reflect, review, and release. It was an intense time for healing, of “death,” and this springtime has truly been a magnificent representation of the spiritual rebirth for those who were brave to face their Selves. If you had the interest [and patience] to read such a lengthy and scholarly piece, then I know this was meant for you to read! Be blessed. Stay mindful. ❤
May the Light guide you.
Inspired? Share my Love but please credit my work ❤
All works by Trina Otero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.