Pāḷi; √ avijjā
alt. sp.: IPA: əʋɪd͡ʒd͡ʒɑː, Velthuis: avijjaa, readable: avijjaa, simple: avijja
translation ~: …
avijjā: Description welcome. Info can be removed after imput.
by late Ven. Nyanalokita Thera:
➥ avijjā: 'ignorance,' nescience, unknowing; synonymous with delusion (moha, see mūla), is the primary root of all evil and suffering in the world, veiling man's mental eyes and preventing him from seeing the true nature of things. It is the delusion tricking beings by making life appear to them as permanent, happy, substantial and beautiful and preventing them from seeing that everything in reality is impermanent, liable to suffering, void of 'I' and 'mine', and basically impure (see vipallāsa). Ignorance is defined as 'not knowing the four truths, namely, suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the way to its cessation' (SN 12.4).
As ignorance is the foundation of all life-affirming actions, of all evil and suffering, therefore it stands first in the formula of Dependent Origination (see paṭiccasamuppāda). But for that reason, says Visuddhi Magga (XVII, 36f) ignorance should not be regarded as “the causeless root-cause of the world … It is not causeless. For a cause of it is stated thus 'With the arising of cankers (see āsava) there is the arising of ignorance' (MN 9). But there is a figurative way in which it can be treated as a root-cause; namely, when it is made to serve as a starting point in an exposition of the Round of Existence … As it is said: 'No first beginning of ignorance can be perceived, Bhikkhus, before which ignorance was not, and after which it came to be. But it can be perceived that ignorance has its specific condition (idappaccaya)” (AN 10.61). The same statement is made (AN 10.62) about the craving for existence (bhava-taṇhā; see taṇhā). The latter and ignorance are called “the outstanding causes of kamma that lead to unhappy and happy destinies” (Visuddhi Magga XVII, 38).
As ignorance still exists - though in a very refined way until the attainment of Arahatship or Holiness, it is counted as the last of the 10 fetters (see saṅyojana) which bind beings to the cycle of rebirths. As the first two roots of evil, greed and hate (see mūla), are on their part rooted in ignorance, consequently all unwholesome states of mind are inseparably bound up with it.
Ignorance (or delusion) is the most obstinate of the three roots of evil.
Ignorance is one of the cankers (see āsava) and proclivities (see anusaya). It is often called a hindrance (nīvaraṇa; e.g. in SN 15; AN 10.61) but does not appear together with the usual list of five hindrances.
by the Pali Text Society:
by Ven. Thanissaro Maha Thera:
by Ven. Varado Maha Thera:
Ignorance: extraordinary consensus
Avijjā has been called ‘ignorance’ at least since 1875 when Childers’ dictionary appeared. Even today this word is universally accepted. The consensus is extraordinary.
What is missing: insight
‘Ignorance’ means lack of knowledge or education that is abandoned through knowledge and education. But avijjā is abandoned through transcendent insight (abhiññā pahātabbā AN ii 247). What is missing in avijjā is not knowledge but insight.
Channa’s stumbling block: lack of insight
The difference between knowledge and insight is illustrated in the case of Venerable Channa who knew the teaching but did not see the nature of reality (dhammaṁ passato hoti). Although he understood the theory of anicca, he lacked insight. So he asked Venerable Ānanda to explain the teaching in such a way that he might see the nature of reality (dhammaṁ passeyyan ti) (SN iii 133). Channa’s stumbling block was not knowledge, so he was not ‘ignorant’.
Overcoming avijjā: a matter of insight
With enlightenment, when avijjā is dispelled and vijjā arises (avijjā vihatā vijjā uppannā) ‘darkness is banished, and light arises’ (tamo vihato āloko uppanno) (MN i 248). One knows and sees (evaṁ jānato evaṁ passato) the four noble truths as clearly as if one were looking at fish in a crystal clear pond (DN i 84). Overcoming avijjā is therefore a matter of insight not knowledge. Other quotations below make the same point.
Which things must be abandoned through transcendent insight?
Katame ca bhikkhave dhammā abhiññā pahātabbā?
Uninsightfulness into reality and craving for states of individual existence.
Avijjā ca bhavataṇhā ca. (AN ii 247)
This uninsightfulness into reality is indeed undiscernment of reality whereby this wandering the round of birth and death goes on for a long time.
Avijjā hāyaṁ mahāmoho yenidaṁ saṁsitaṁ ciraṁ
But whatever beings have insight into reality, they do not come to renewed states of individual existence.
Vijjāgatā va ye sattā nāgacchanti punabbhavan ti. (Snp 729-730)
Camouflaged by skin, the body is not seen according to reality.
Chaviyā kāyo paṭicchanno yathābhūtaṁ na dissati.
The fool, led on by uninsightfulness into reality, thinks it exquisite.
Subhato naṁ maññati bālo avijjāya purakkhato.
However, having heard the Buddha’s word, the bhikkhu here possessed of knowledge [of things according to reality] profoundly understands [the body], for he perceives it according to reality.
bhikkhu paññāṇavā idha so kho naṁ pajānāti yathābhūtaṁ hi passati.
Whoever would think to be swelled-headed because of such a body, or would disparage another, what is this except not seeing it [according to reality]?
kimaññatra adassanā ti. (Snp 194; 199; 202; 206)
The ignorant Everyman does not discern according to reality the origination of, vanishing of, sweetness of, wretchedness of, and deliverance from the five aggregates.
assutavā puthujjano rūpassa… viññāṇassa samudayañca atthaṅgamañca assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṁ nappajānāti.
This is called uninsightfulness into reality
ayaṁ vuccatāvuso avijjā
The learned noble disciple discerns this according to reality
sutavā ariyasāvako rūpassa… viññāṇassa assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṁ pajānāti
This is called insightfulness into reality
Ayaṁ vuccatāvuso vijjā. (SN iii 173-4)
When a bhikkhu knows and sees the visual sense as unlasting, uninsightfulness into reality is abandoned and insightfulness into reality arises.
cakkhuṁ kho bhikkhu aniccato jānato passato bhikkhuno avijjā pahīyati vijjā uppajjati. (SN iv 49-50)
Bhikkhus, ignorance of suffering [according to reality], the origin of suffering, the ending of suffering, the practice leading to the ending of suffering, is called uninsightfulness into reality, and it is on account of this quality that one lacks insight into reality.
Yaṁ kho bhikkhu dukkhe aññāṇaṁ dukkhasamudaye aññāṇaṁ dukkhanirodhe aññāṇaṁ dukkhanirodhagāminiyā paṭipadāya aññāṇaṁ ayaṁ vuccati bhikkhu avijjā ettāvatā ca avijjāgato hoti.
Bhikkhus, whatsoever is the knowledge of suffering [according to reality], of the origin of suffering, the ending of suffering, and of the practice leading to the ending of suffering, is called insightfulness into reality, and it is on these grounds that one is possessed of insight into reality.
Yaṁ kho bhikkhu dukkhe ñāṇaṁ dukkhasamudaye ñāṇaṁ dukkhanirodhe ñāṇaṁ dukkhanirodhagāminiyā paṭipadāya ñāṇaṁ ayaṁ vuccati bhikkhu vijjā ettāvatā ca vijjāgato hoti. (SN v 430)
What is the condition that nourishes uninsightfulness into reality? The five hindrances, one should reply.
ko cāhāro avijjāya? Pañca nīvaraṇā tissa vacanīyaṁ.
Magnifying the five hindrances magnifies uninsightfulness into reality.
Pañcanīvaraṇā paripūrā avijjaṁ paripūrenti. (AN v 116)
‘Bhante, when, in regard to those who are not perfectly enlightened, the view arises that they are in fact perfectly enlightened, due to what is this view to be discerned?’
asammāsambuddhesu sammā sambuddhā ti. Ayaṁ nu kho bhante diṭṭhi kiṁ paṭicca paññāyatī ti
‘Mighty, Kaccāna, is this phenomenon, namely the phenomenon of uninsightfulness into reality’
mahati kho esā kaccāna dhātu yadidaṁ avijjādhātu. (SN ii 153)
• Bhante, how should a bhikkhu know, how should he see, for uninsightfulness into reality to be abandoned by him and insightfulness into reality to arise?”
kathaṁ pana bhante jānato kathaṁ passato avijjā pahīyati vijjā uppajjatī ti?
• In this regard, bhikkhu, a bhikkhu has heard that all things are unsuited to stubborn attachment.’
sabbe dhammā nālaṁ abhinivesāyā ti.
… When a bhikkhu has heard that all things are unsuited to stubborn attachment he fully understands the whole teaching,
so sabbaṁ dhammaṁ abhijānāti
… Through fully understanding the whole teaching, he profoundly understands the whole teaching.
sabbaṁ dhammaṁ parijānāti
… Through profoundly understanding the whole teaching, he perceives all phenomena differently.
sabbanimittāni aññato passati
… When, bhikkhu, a bhikkhu knows and sees thus, uninsightfulness into reality is abandoned by him and insightfulness into reality arises.”
evaṁ kho bhikkhu jānato evaṁ passato bhikkhuno avijjā pahīyati vijjā uppajjatī ti. (SN iv 49-50)
For an ignorant person void of insight into reality, wrong view [of reality] arises.
avijjāgatassa bhikkhave aviddasuno micchādiṭṭhi pahoti
For an intelligent person with insight into reality, right perception [of reality] arises.
vijjāgatassa bhikkhave viddasuno sammādiṭṭhi pahoti. (SN v 1)
Illustration: avijjaṁ, uninsightfulness into reality
When the perception of the unlastingness [of the five aggregates] is developed and cultivated, it destroys all uninsightfulness into reality
Aniccasaññā bhikkhave bhāvitā bahulīkatā… sabbaṁ avijjaṁ pariyādiyati. (SN iii 155)
Illustration: vijjā, insightfulness into reality
The seven factors of enlightenment, when developed and cultivated, bring to perfection insightfulness into reality and liberation [from perceptually obscuring states].
satta bojjhaṅgā bhāvitā bahulīkatā vijjāvimuttiṁ paripūrenti. (SN v 329)
Illustration: vijjā, insightfulness
‘This is sense impression’: in regard to profound truths not heard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge [of things according to reality], penetrative discernment, insightfulness, and illumination.
Imā vedanā ti me bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi. (SN iv 233)
Illustration: avijjāyogo, uninsightfulness into reality
What is the bondage [to individual existence] that arises from uninsightfulness into reality?
avijjāyogo ca kathaṁ hoti?
In this regard, some person does not discern according to reality the origination of, vanishing of, sweetness of, wretchedness of, and deliverance from the six senses.
idha bhikkhave ekacco channaṁ phassāyatanānaṁ samudayañca atthaṅgamañca assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṁ nappajānāti
For him who does not discern according to reality the origination of, vanishing of, sweetness of, wretchedness of, and deliverance from the six senses.
Tassa channaṁ phassāyatanānaṁ samudayañca atthaṅgamañca assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṁ appajānato
the uninsightfulness and ignorance regarding the six senses that lurk within him: this is called the bondage [to individual existence] that arises from uninsightfulness into reality.
yā chasu phassāyatanesu avijjā aññāṇaṁ sānuseti ayaṁ vuccati bhikkhave avijjāyogo. (AN ii 10)