|Home > Buddhism > Ignorance and Suffering
What did Buddha really mean?When he said "Ignorance is a Cause of Suffering?
Buddha is one of the most remarkable men in recent history. He was born between 600 and 700 BC* and is renowned as the first person who clearly defined the nature of existence including the nature of suffering, then he described the steps to be taken to end suffering.
There are two primary levels of suffering, there is the individual suffering the doubt and confusion of one's own mind and emotions as well as the pain or discomfort in one's own body. Then there is a collective suffering that is experienced by communities.
The suffering that we experience within ourselves and the suffering experienced by our wider community, (including all the wars and famines in the world), is caused first by ignorance and secondly by greed.
Anything we do not know we are ignorant of
This means that in effect we are creating our own suffering because we do not have a proper understanding or perception of the world around us which includes our own bodies and minds.
The greater universe is a symbiotic living entity in which everything is interconnected. To bring that to a local scale, consider that as you breathe in, you are drawing in oxygen that the body requires to function. Then as you breathe out, the primary element is carbon dioxide that the body does not require. The other half of our lungs involves the trees, they breathe in the carbon dioxide and breathe out the oxygen and this is a symbiotic relationship between plants and animals.
In the past few thousands of years humans have been cutting down trees which has resulted in a reduction in atmospheric oxygen and a more dramatic increase in carbon dioxide. However the reduction in atmospheric oxygen is not as damaging to life on earth as the build-up of carbon dioxide.
Essentially we are ignorant of our relationship to our environment
When we are ignorant, we have no knowledge of the effects of our actions, and when we are ignorant of the facts of life, how can we possibly respect life? This means that while human beings have the greatest capacity for intelligent action on this planet, we are behaving like the most stupid creatures.
In our ignorance, we destroy the nature that gives us life and now scientists want to invent new forms of life (genetic engineering) in a futile attempt to replace some of what has been destroyed for profits.
In our ignorance humanity has lost most of its ability to reason, humanity has lost most of its ability to relate to and value the life which on which it depends and is the very reason that we exist.
Humanity has forgotten the fact that our bodies come from the earth beneath our feet. Plants grow, we eat the plants and within our bodies there is a creative process that converts food into our body. Because we overlook this fact and remain ignorant, we eat the wrong foods and make ourselves sick. We overlook the fact that we are in a symbiotic relationship with all life and we become isolated within our beliefs. This is in an ignorance that causes not only mental and emotional distress, it causes war and social suffering on an unprecedented scale.
It is through our ignorance that the world has become such a disaster and human life such a misery. Human ignorance is such that people have become antilife and life on earth is almost at termination point. It is time that humanity woke up and learned the truth of existence.
We will not find any truth by looking outwards at the world around us, we will only find truth by looking inside and initially this can be very uncomfortable, but it is the only way.
It is only by looking inside ourselves and recognising our inner nature that we can find peace. It is through inner peace and self-awareness that we create the space to appreciate and value life, and by appreciating the symbiotic relationship between all aspects of one's body and mind one can begin to make peace in the world.
This is what it will take to end human suffering. Gotama is one of a great many Buddha's, however he is the best known. Buddhahood is a state of being where one is perpetually blissful and that blissfulness comes out of itself without any external stimulus. This is the goal of human life, to wake up and to realise one's complete human potential which is available to every human being.
"It had been thought in the West that the shrine at Lumbini – an important pilgrimage site for half a billion Buddhists worldwide – marked the birthplace of the Buddha in the third century BC. But the timber structure revealed by archaeologists was radio-carbon-dated to the sixth century BC." ~ Telegraph. Some Indologists however argue that "Gautama Buddha actually lived between 1258-1178 BCE" ~ Dr. Raja Ram Mohan Roy