Wikipedia describes ignorance and delusions. This appears to be academic and do not find examples that are easily related.

  • What is ignorance?
  • How is it different to delusions or are they the same?
  • What are real world examples of ignorance?

10 Answers 10


Ignorance in Buddhism is not knowing the the Four Noble Truths.It is not knowing the truth behind suffering.

"And what is ignorance,...Not knowing about dukkha. MN 9 (Ñanamoli/Bodhi, trans.).

Avijja, the Pali word for ignorance, is the opposite of vijja, which means not only "knowledge" but also "skill" — as in the skills of a doctor or animal-trainer. So when the Buddha focuses on the ignorance that causes stress and suffering, saying that people suffer from not knowing the four noble truths,... Ignorance by Thanissaro Bhikku

Ignorance is similar to delusion but with subtle differences.In order to find the difference between delusion and ignorance i will first provide a definition for 'delusion'.

a belief that is not true : a false idea Merriam-webster dictionary

Comparing this definition with 'ignorance' in the buddhist context,delusion is a view based on ignorance.Delusion is similar to wrong view and ignorance is the not knowing itself.

To give a real world example,a person drives a car badly but think he is driving a car well.The person is deluded.Why is the person deluded?Because the person doesn't know what is good driving and bad driving.(Ignorance).The lack of knowledge in itself is ignorance and the actions that stem from it is delusional.

  • Thanks. It is my understanding that ignorance gives rises to reaction, to which effect gives rises to consciousness. This is further elaborated at creative.sulekha.com/ignorance-motivating-thought_52851_blog. If the abolition of ignorance is the 4 noble truths, where does one start?
    – Motivated
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 6:55
  • 1
    @Motivated You have to start by developing the Fourth Noble Truth: Which is the Path to Cessation.The Eight Noble Path.Start with sila(virtue) then samadhi(concentration),then panna(wisdom).This is a more complete guide accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html
    – Orion
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 8:28
  • 1
    @Motivated i also have to add that the abolition of ignorance is the clear seeing or knowing of the four noble truths.Not the four noble truth in itself.As the four noble truths are just a fact on why we are suffering.It depends on our ability to see it.So i have to emphasise the importance of seeing clearly as that is what abolishes ignorance.
    – Orion
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 8:43
  • Thanks Orion. I have come across the articles at Access to insight however as with many texts, the description is overtly academic in my opinion. Is there a guide, book, literature that is written in a way that can be expressed as stories? For example, if i wished to share this with a child, it would be far simpler to give similar stories that encapsulate the knowledge.
    – Motivated
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 4:33
  • @Motivated I hope you are ok today! Joseph Goldstein mentioned in one of his Insight Hour talks that good stories are like a treasure. For some reason I would try reading tales of the world. I also like dhammatalk.org for a comprehensive list. Plenty of stories there, like the one about Hawk and Duck: dhammatalks.org/suttas/SN/SN47_6.html 🧘🏻‍♂️🌬🤲🏼🦋 Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 18:12

There are two types of ignorance:

  1. Ignorance of not knowing (such as explained by Orion; and there is also not knowing [about] karma, and so forth). As Tsongkhapa writes in the Middle-Length Lam Rim:

    Ignorance Ignorance is afflicted un-knowing due to a mind that is unclear with regard to the nature of the four truths, actions and their effects, and the Three Jewels.

  2. ignorance which is a mistaken mode of apprehension.

The entity of ignorance which is 'a mistaken mode of apprehension' vary depending Tenets. For instance, Prasangika-Madhyamikas tend to define it as the conception of inherent existence of person and phenomena.

Though, all Tenets posit this ignorance as:

  • An affliction. It is thus called 'afflicted ignorance'
  • The first of the twelve links of dependent-arising
  • The root of cyclic existence
  • The basis on which depend all other afflictions

    Likewise, through the darkness of ignorance obscuring the clear mode of subsistence of the aggregates, the deception regarding the aggregates as a self arises, and from that the other mental afflictions arise.

  • A wrong consciousness

  • A conceptual consciousness
  • Concealing reality
  • The exact opposite of the exalted wisdom directly realizing emptiness

    Although in general ignorance is posited as the mere opposite of knowledge, here it is the opposite of the knowledge realizing the lack of true existence

  • Superimposition of [a non-existent mode of existence, which vary in dependence of Tenets]

  • And so forth.

In Mahayana Buddhism "ignorance" has a special meaning. It's not just not knowing stuff, it's making generalizations and assumptions based on superficial observations.

It starts with us making a generalization about things we don't fully know. Once we have made this mistake we have set ourselves up for trouble. Indeed, if we operate based on flawed assumptions it's only a matter of time before we clash with things as they really are. Unfortunately, most of us keep on grasping to our assumptions even after they are proven to be false. We keep on craving for things to be as we imagine them and suffer when they don't agree. Thus it is said that craving is the immediate cause of suffering, grasping (or attachment) is its condition and ignorance is its ultimate root.

You can see this mechanism at play in most conflicts: from global political and religious confrontations to a kitchen argument between you and your teenage child. It is in the nature of the developing human mind to make observations and build assumptions, even if both are simplistic and flawed.


Ignorance is not seeing things as they are due to clouding by our perception, views, unskilled nature scattered nature of our mind. In relation to unsatisfactory nature of existence, it is not seeing the 3 marks of existence, the 4 noble truths and dependent origination.

Delusion can be the perception and view itself.


Avijja is uneducation about causes and effects, that arise and banish, or ariseless (NIBBANA).


The Pali term for ignorance is avijja. Avijja is sometimes equated to delusion (moha). But this is obviously a mistake because delusion involves false belief whereas ignorance is a lack of belief. There is a vast difference between false belief and the lack of belief. There is at least some hope in finding our false beliefs because they show up when we find relevant true beliefs. But lack of belief leaves us blind. Intellectually, of course, we can find new truths (such as the Dharma) that deal with intellectual ignorance. But that is not what avijja is about. Avijja is about a lack of awareness or perceptual knowledge. Without the appropriate awareness, a person remains ignorant in the sense meant by avijja. Knowing the Buddhist teachings is a good start, but only mindfulness meditation can deal with avijja. In my own practice of 50 years of mindfulness meditation, I can look back at earlier times and realize that, even though I was very familiar with Buddhadharma, my avijja was vast. And now, even though I am now aware of the foundations of the Teachings, I know that, on the level of awareness, the universe I have yet to explore is vast. Such is the nature of avijja.


What is ignorance? Answer: Not knowing the law of cause and effect.

How is it different to delusions or are they the same? Answer: A delusion is based upon ignorance.
Delusion is a thought that comes about by poor interpretation of input we come into contact with.
For example: you smile at a person or see a person and that person believes there is a deep relationship.

What are real world examples of ignorance?

  • speeding in a 35mph zone unaware of the sign
  • not knowing the time at a given moment
  • not being aware of some important phenomena such as a storm in another town.

Deluded belief is when a person does something wrong and knows that it's wrong but does it anyway. (Or knows something is wrong, etc. Or Believes something wrong and knows that it's wrong but continues with wrong belief).


Will add:

Ignorance is:

  • ignoring the neurobiological tendency of the mind to get "addicted" to pleasurable things with several repetitions: "whatever we often think and ponder upon, that becomes the inclination of the mind".
  • ignoring the negative, afflictive, repulsive, aversive in our minds, like the greed people, wanting only good stuff. As everything changes, we get good AND bad (although ultimately there is no good or bad, just THIS HAPPENING)

For me, the above was a personal insight and helped relate to he already mentioned Four Noble Truths 🔷️ and the noble Eight-Fold Path ♾️



Ignorance or avijja, in the context of dependent origination, is the force of nature that gives rise to the mind-body phenomena, and also gives rise to the underlying tendencies that drive us towards craving. It's the natural or evolutionary instinct that drives us towards survival, sensual enjoyment and individual existence. And, according to the second noble truth, the cause of suffering is craving.

Delusion or moha, in the context of the three poisons, is a state of mind that clouds the mind from seeing things clearly and be stuck in manifesting one or both of the other two poisons - greed or lust (raga) and aversion or hate (dosa).


I liked Tenzin Dorje's answer to this question. In it, he mentions two types of ignorance. The first is ignorance of various kinds of knowledge. The second type of ignorance seems to refer to a specific misunderstanding arrived at as a result of ignorance.  That second type of ignorance dovetails nicely with this footnote from Ajaan Maha Boowa in his bio of Ajaan Mun. He calls it fundamental ignorance. I found it insightful, and worth sharing:

  1. Here Ãcariya Mun contrasts relative, conventional reality (sammuti) with Absolute Freedom (vimutti).

The citta, the mind’s essential knowing nature, has been dominated by fundamental ignorance (avijjã) since time immemorial. This fundamental ignorance has created within the citta a center or focal point of the knower. The existence of that false center engenders an individual perspective which is the nucleus of self-identity. This “self” forms perceptions of duality (the knower and the known) and from there awareness flows out to produce the world of the 5 khandhas and of all sensory experience, which in turn reinforce the knower’s sense of individuality. It all begins with the currents of the citta, which flow out to create the entire sensory world, the world of conditioned phenomena. Because of this, it is said that all physical and mental phenomena are relative, conventional realities (sammuti). They exist only relative to the knower, the one who perceives them. As such they are merely conventions that the citta has brought into being and given a subjective identity to in order to experience its own manifestations. In turn, these manifestations become incorporated into the citta’s sense of its own identity. Thus the known becomes indistinguishable from the knower, and duality comes full circle, trapping the citta in a web of self-delusion. The citta is reduced to depending on its manifestations to assess the nature of its own existence.

When fundamental ignorance has been destroyed, the focal point of the knower disintegrates, which causes the “self” perspective to disappear from the citta altogether. With the disappearance of self-identity, all manifestations of the citta, all relative, conventional realities, are divested of their power to deceive and no longer appear within the citta. Although they do continue to play a role, in the form of the 5 khandhas, as long as the Arahant remains alive, they are no longer incorporated into the citta’s identity and have no part in conditioning its outlook. This is called vimutti – absolute freedom from all conditions. No conditions whatsoever exist for this freedom.

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