Confession to Being Human
According to the Buddhist “Great Vows for All”, “greed, hatred and ignorance arise constantly “ in us. When I first heard this vow I thought it was a pretty negative assessment of human beings (me). But with more practice paying attention I can acknowledge its truth. Greed—the craving for more regardless of what I really need and in disregard for the needs of others—yes, I have that. Hatred—a hardened aversion to someone that becomes a personal well of poison—check, got that too. But ignorance is the one I have been slower to recognize, because, duh, I am too ignorant to even see it! What exactly is this ignorance that I have now vowed over and over to renounce?
Ignorance is overlooking, disregarding and remaining blind to the consequences of my actions—whether willfully or innocently. Ignorance is my plea when I say something unkind because I didn’t think through how it might affect someone else. Ignorance keeps me from noticing and correcting my error. Ignorance allows me to reject facts I’d rather not face. It covers reality with a layer of quicklime so I won’t see the rot going on underneath. Ignorance is denial, avoidance and the embrace of lies.
To renounce ignorance I have to look at reality as it is which is sometimes quite painful. Sometimes I just don’t want to do it. But after a time of looking deeply into my relationship to the material world I always encounter Compassion. Not just for innocents who suffer such as the children of migrants trapped in detention centers or the animals going to slaughter, but for the people who must guard the children and the laborers who must slaughter the animals. And I feel compassion for myself. I am the prisoner and the guard, the butcher and the lamb. I am the arrogant one, the know it all and the fool. It is only in the moment that I can renounce my ignorance and enter into compassion. In that moment I can see what is, accept what is and embrace the wisdom. But only for a moment, because the next wave of ignorance is arising…