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This question arises from this previous post. The questioner seems perplexed that a person should suffer for not knowing or possessing certain knowledge i.e. simply for being unaware. While there is an active component in desire (us wanting or craving) and aversion (us disliking or hating). However, ignorance is not something we can control or actively avoid.

So, my question is there an active component in ignorance i.e. do we intentionally ignore and/or indulge in ignorance? Perhaps, by understanding this process better, we can also answer this question on how to get rid of it.

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AN 10.61 says the food/nutriment of ignorance is the five hindrances and the food/nutriment of the five hindrances is the three unskillful actions (of body, speech & mind).

Bhikkhus, this is said: ‘A first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, is not seen such that before this there was no ignorance and afterward it came into being.’ Still, ignorance is seen to have a specific condition. I say, bhikkhus, that ignorance has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for ignorance? It should be said: the five hindrances. The five hindrances, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the five hindrances? It should be said: the three kinds of misconduct. The three kinds of misconduct, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the three kinds of misconduct? It should be said: non-restraint of the sense faculties. Non-restraint of the sense faculties, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for non-restraint of the sense faculties? It should be said: lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension. Lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension? It should be said: careless attention. Careless attention, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for careless attention? It should be said: lack of faith. Lack of faith, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for lack of faith? It should be said: not hearing the good Dhamma. Not hearing the good Dhamma, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for not hearing the good Dhamma? It should be said: not associating with good persons.

The word 'nutriment' ('ahara') above does not mean 'cause' ('hetu') because ending the five hindrances does not necessarily cause ignorance to end. The word 'ahara' ('nutriment') is used because the five hindrances feed/maintain the inherent ignorance (rather than create it). For example, the suttas about the 'nutriments' say nutriment (ahara) maintains the delusion of the view of 'beings/self':

Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be. What four? The nutriment edible food, gross or subtle; second, contact; third, mental volition; fourth, consciousness.

SN 12.63

If we remain in doubt/ignorant (due to not associating with good persons), SN 23.2 and SN 5.10 literally explain "beings" are attachments & views rather than conscious organisms (i.e., 'sentient beings').

In summary, we (i.e. the mind) indulge in ignorance when there is the mental volition to indulge in the five hindrances and the three unskillful actions. In the teaching of Dependent Origination, this mental volition to indulge in the five hindrances & unskillful thoughts or, otherwise, reject the five hindrances & the unskillful thoughts [refer to MN 19], occurs at the nama-rupa condition.

And what, bhikkhus, is name-and-form? Feeling, perception, volition, contact, attention: this is called name. The four great elements and the form derived from the four great elements: this is called form. Thus this name and this form are together called name-and-form.

SN 12.2

Note: again, the term 'sankhara' in Dependent Origination does not mean 'choices' or 'volitional formations', which again are mainstream Abhidhammic & Visuddhimagga translations by untrue persons (asappurisasa). 'Sankhara' in Dependent Origination refers to the breathing (kayasankharo), thoughts (vacisankharo) and perceptions & feelings (citta) stirred up by ignorance &/or the five hindrances.

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Active indulgence in ignorance is found. Ignorance takes birth because there is attachment to food, fame , money, father, mother, children, knowledge, house, clothes, internet, etc. As long as there is attachment there is becoming, as long as there is becoming there will be birth, ageing, death of sorrow, lamentation, pain, disgust, sadness and the whole mass of suffering. Attachment runs deep. Very deep.

Why is there attachment? Because there is clinging. Why is there clinging? Because there is craving. Why is there craving? Because there is feeling. Why is there feeling? Because there is contact. Why is there contact? Because there is combination of six senses. Why is there a combination of six senses? Because there is name and form. Why is there name and form? Because there is consciousness. Why is there consciousness? Because there is volitional or mental formations. Why is there volitional formations? Because there is ignorance.

Ignorance is at the root of attachment and attachment is at the root of ignorance. Get rid of attachments, ignorance will vanish. Renunciation of phenomena recognising it as impermanent results in cessation of ignorance. For example - By giving up house, family, kids, wealth, internet, etc, slowly but surely, ignorance can be removed. Ignorance can not only be avoided but removed.

We should restrict our attachment to Dhamma talks but as Buddha said after achieving Nibbana even teachings should also be given up (just like after crossing the river, raft is abandoned as in the Raft Simile).

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Yes we do, and not just not knowing, but also not wanting to know. and here is why:

AN4.5 - with the stream

It’s a person who doesn’t take part in sensual pleasures or do bad deeds. They live the full and pure spiritual life in pain and sadness, weeping, with tearful faces.

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The following is about whether we always indulge when we take an action based on ignorance or if there are some situations where indulgence is not a part.

You walk into your kitchen from a scorching hot day and see a tall glass full of a clear liquid. Thinking your mom must have left it out on the counter for you - as she is known to do in the past - you drink the liquid quickly to satisfy your thirst. After you do so you notice an ill-taste and you turn the glass around in your hand only to discover a large poison sticker.

Your mom was preparing to clean her kitchen and the glass full of liquid was not intended for you. You drank it out of sheer ignorance without even the slightest intent to poison yourself.

Is this an example of not indulging in ignorance, but an action taken based on ignorance nonetheless?

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  • In the example, depending upon ignorance of the glass as poison, the accident occurred
    – user13375
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 18:23
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    ignorance is "a lack of knowledge" -> tinyurl.com/bdeyr879
    – user13375
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 18:24
  • Like most situations, there was uncertainty in the person involved. Why didn't the person clarify their doubts instead of plunging ahead? There is a certain recklessness and heedlessness. It is indulging in ignorance in the sense that the person just assumed they knew what is going on. The truth is we know nuts about reality. That should be the default mode of assumption. Sadly, this is NOT the case for most people.
    – Desmon
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 3:06
  • Actually, it's not just the person but their mother too is rather recklessness by putting poisonous liquid in the open assuming all will be fine. Although, the example is a bit contrived...my point is that there appears to be a default mode of thinking that is very prevalent i.e. that we know with certainty when we don't.
    – Desmon
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 7:17

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