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To most of the questions about Nibbana, the easiest answer is "Avijja".

  • But what exactly this Avijja? Improper attention, ignorance?
  • What are we ignoring, and then what's the fact that we should not ignore or we should look in the world?
  • How can we uproot it?

I know Avijja can be easily answered in few words (e.g. with definitions, or some other synonyms) -- but why I'm asking this question is, it says that uprooting Avijja is the path to Enlightenment.

If we take an example:

  • If someone "ask how to be a mathematician?", an answer would be (I'm limiting the answer set in a way to explain the question), "you need to learn addition / subtraction, integration, differentiation, etc."
  • So what I'm asking is like "how to be enlightened?", an answer is "uproot the Avijja".
  • So now I'm asking "what is Avijja?" like "what is addition?".
  • I'm not expecting an answer like "the action or process of adding something to something else." Instead I'm expecting an answer like, how it is taught to us in elementary school (like using Abacus). Because for Buddhism most of us are like children -- if not we are Arhat by now.

Please I just try to explain the answer with these stories, but not to offend anyone. With Metta, I'm expecting a detailed answer from the wise people in the community.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Jun 7 at 14:23
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Maybe you've heard of the old South Indian Monkey Trap (from this article):

In Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig’s bonkers-but-brilliant philosophical novel that turns 40 this year, he describes “the old South Indian Monkey Trap”. ... The trap “consists of a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole”. The monkey’s hand fits through the hole, but his clenched fist can’t fit back out. “The monkey is suddenly trapped.” But not by anything physical. He’s trapped by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served him well – “when you see rice, hold on tight!” – has become lethal.

The monkey needs to let go of the rice in order to free himself from his suffering. The way to end his suffering, is to end his craving for rice.

But in order to end his craving for rice, he must first understand how his hand is stuck inside the coconut. When the monkey overcomes his ignorance about how the trap works, he would let go of his craving for rice, and release his clenched fist. With this, he would be free from his suffering.

Also you can say that the monkey's suffering originated with his ignorance of the trap.

Knowing how the trap works, i.e. gaining insight and wisdom into the nature of reality, is the way to overcome ignorance.

The old South Indian Monkey Trap (Illustration above: Paul Thurlby for the Guardian)

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But what exactly this Avijja? Improper attention, ignorance?

Its "ignorance" or "not-knowing"; as defined in the suttas. Its not "improper attention". "Improper attention" is attention polluted by ignorance. Compare this to water polluted by poison. The poison is one thing & the water is another thing. Similarly, the ignorance is one thing and the attention is another thing.

What are we ignoring, and then what's the fact that we should not ignore or we should look in the world?

It does not mean "ignoring". It appears you read "ignoring" on another answer, which used the word "ignore" incorrectly.

How can we uproot it?

It is uprooted by insight (vipassana).

I know Avijja can be easily answered in few words

It appears you do not "know". It is best to not say: "I know". "Ignorance" does not mean "ignoring". It does not mean "improper attention". Therefore, it is best to not claim "I know".

(e.g. with definitions, or some other synonyms) -- but why I'm asking this question is, it says that uprooting Avijja is the path to Enlightenment.

If someone "ask how to be a mathematician?", an answer would be (I'm limiting the answer set in a way to explain the question), "you need to learn addition / subtraction, integration, differentiation, etc." So what I'm asking is like "how to be enlightened?", an answer is "uproot the Avijja".

The above is illogical. To be a mathematician requires to learn addition / subtraction, integration, differentiation. To enlightened requires to learn four noble truths, three characteristics, dependent origination, emptiness, etc. We cannot say merely "uprooting ignorance".

So now I'm asking "what is Avijja?" like "what is addition?".

Ignorance is defined in the suttas as not knowing or not understanding the four noble truths & the three characteristics.

Please I just try to explain the answer with these stories, but not to offend anyone. With Metta, I'm expecting a detailed answer from the wise people in the community.

I am a wise person in the community. Study my answer if you are also wise.

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Not knowing Dukkha, Upasaka Isuru Gunawardana, not seeing Dukkha in all phenomenas around the senses, is avijjā.

Not giving proper attention to what gives birth (to avijjā), ignore Dukkha in all phenomenas around the senses, is avijjā.

Not uprooting the cause of avijja, not giving proper attention to what lies beyond the senses, not realizing Nibbana, is avijjā.

Not knowing the path that leads to the uprooting and ending of avijjā, not putting it into practice, is avijjā.

On how one can uproot avijjā, as the cause of suffering, to it's very end:

"It is just as if a man, traveling along a wilderness track, were to see an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by people of former times. He would follow it... And what is that ancient path, that ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times? Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration... I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of birth... becoming... clinging... craving... feeling... contact... the six sense media... name-&-form... consciousness, direct knowledge of the origination of consciousness, direct knowledge of the cessation of consciousness, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of consciousness. I followed that path.

And why does one not simply follow it? Because not knowing Dukkha, Upasaka Isuru Gunawardana, not seeing Dukkha in all phenomenas around the senses, avijjā stays present. So leaving home to meet it, to come accross the four devadūtas, before a forced breaking up with it, is a wise track.

(Note that this is not given for trade, exchange, stacks or entertainment but as means to get out of the wheel caught here, and beyond)

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If it's like learning mathematics, an analogy might be that it's like a proof by "induction".

So:

  • Step 1 -- learn to apply the four noble truths.

    1. For example, experience dukkha, and (perhaps from personal experience but also from being taught the dhamma) understand it -- including understanding its cause.

    2. Understanding the cause of dukkha, "abandon" that.

    3. Having abandoned the cause, realise the cessation.

  • Step 2 -- like step 1

  • Step 3 -- like step 2

If it's like what's taught to children, then the suttas to Rahula (e.g. MN 61) might be on-topic.

When I was taught mathematics, the first half of the class was the teacher explaining theory, and the second half was the students each trying to apply that newly-learned theory to solving a new problem.

So I think experience comes from using doctrine (the Dhamma), to solve the actual problems you experience in your personal life.

When you are (and//or have been) able to do that, then you're already more fortunate than you would be if you didn't know (i.e. if you were completely ignorant about) how to.

I gather from reading about the Four stages of enlightenment that students eventually learn not just to solve problems but even to avoid them -- for example:

  • If the problem is dukkha caused by craving and attachment, the solution might be to cease the craving and attachment
  • But a more advanced practitioner might avoid even forming attachments in the first place, might uproot the "tendencies" or "effluents" (see e.g. here), maybe "guard the senses" to avoid "delighting" in sensual phenomena, and maybe pay more attention to what's more worthy.

    Taking morality (or "skilful virtue") as a guide means there's less or no cause for remorse.

Because for Buddhism most of us are like children -- if not we are Arhat by now.

I'm not sure, it might take some practice -- for example this says,

The monks, we believe, are the Olympic athletes of certain kinds of mental training," Davidson says. "These are individuals who have spent years in practice. To recruit individuals who have undergone more than 10,000 hours of training of their mind is not an easy task and there aren't that many of these individuals on the planet.

Given that it takes time and practice -- and, almost always, good teaching -- to learn a skill like mathematics.

It took a while for the Gautama Buddha to learn, didn't it.

I like to think it's possible to learn it, though, because the Buddha also discovered how to teach it.

  • If it's like what's taught to children, then the suttas to Rahula (e.g. MN 61) might be on-topic. Buddhism is for wise people, and that wiseness doesn't depend on age. What I meant by children is from the wiseness. If we are not in the path (at least not a stream entrant) we are children to the Nivana which Buddha showed. – follower Jun 10 at 14:54
  • I think that the Buddha adapted the way in which he spoke and taught, to suit/address the specific listener. And Rahula was, like, 7 years old or something -- so maybe that's a sutta anyone can understand. Whether they're willing, able to practice is another matter -- Rahula was, presumably, willing to make the necessary effort (and to live in a suitable community). – ChrisW Jun 10 at 14:59
  • Agree on that, but its based on the wiseness, not on age. Anyway as I've understood (based on the Sri Lankan canon), to become stream entrant, below points should be fulfilled. 1. Associate Sekha who is in the path to Nivana (on or above stream entrant level). 2. Listening to the correct Dhamma from him. 3. Deeply think on what's listened (not meditate) 4. Act in Dhamma. – follower Jun 10 at 15:04
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Avijja is the lack of total understanding of

And what, bhikkhus, is the dukkha ariyasacca? Jāti is dukkha, aging is dukkha (sickness is dukkha) maraṇa is dukkha, sorrow, lamentation, dukkha, domanassa and distress is dukkha, association with what is disliked is dukkha, dissociation from what is liked is dukkha, not to get what one wants is dukkha; in short, the five upādāna·k·khandhas are dukkha.

And what, bhikkhus, is the dukkha-samudaya ariyasacca? It is this taṇhā leading to rebirth, connected with desire and enjoyment, finding delight here or there, that is to say: kāma-taṇhā, bhava-taṇhā and vibhava-taṇhā. But this taṇhā, bhikkhus, when arising, where does it arise, and when settling [itself], where does it settle? In that in the world which seems pleasant and agreeable, that is where taṇhā, when arising, arises, where when settling, it settles.

And what, bhikkhus, is the dukkha-samudaya ariyasacca? It is this taṇhā leading to rebirth, connected with desire and enjoyment, finding delight here or there, that is to say: kāma-taṇhā, bhava-taṇhā and vibhava-taṇhā. But this taṇhā, bhikkhus, when abandoned, where is it abandoned, and when ceasing, where does it cease? In that in the world which seems pleasant and agreeable, that is where taṇhā, when abandoned, is abandoned, where when ceasing, it ceases.

And what, bhikkhus, is the dukkha·nirodha·gāminī paṭipadā ariyasacca? It is just this ariya aṭṭhaṅgika magga, that is to say sammādiṭṭhi, sammāsaṅkappo, sammāvācā, sammākammanto, sammā-ājīvo, sammāvāyāmo, sammāsati and sammāsamādhi.

http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/digha/dn22.html

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