Ignorance
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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======

Ignorance

From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, Section CLIX
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Yudhishthira said: Thou hast said, O grandsire, that the foundation of all evils is covetousness. I wish, O sire, to hear of ignorance in detail.

Bhishma said: The person who commits sin through ignorance, who does not know that his end is at hand, and who always hates those that are of good behaviour, soon incurs infamy in the world. In consequence of ignorance one sinks into hell. Ignorance is the spring of misery. Through ignorance one suffers afflictions and incurs great danger.

Yudhishthira said: I desire O king, to hear in detail the origin, the place, the growth, the decay, the rise, the root, the inseparable attribute, the course, the time, the cause, and the consequence, of ignorance. The misery that is felt here is all born of ignorance.

[Note: The commentator explains that including the first, Yudhishthira puts altogether 12 questions.]

Bhishma said: Attachment, hate, loss of judgment, joy, sorrow, vanity, lust, anger, pride, procrastination, idleness, desire, aversion, jealousy, and all other sinful acts are all known by the common name of ignorance.

[Note: This is an answer to the first question viz., the general nature of ignorance.]

Hear now, O king, in detail, about its tendency, growth and other features after which thou enquirest. These two viz., ignorance and covetousness, know, O king, are the same (in substance). Both are productive of the same fruits and same faults, O Bharata! Ignorance has its origin in covetousness. As covetousness grows, ignorance also grows. Ignorance exists there where covetousness exists. As covetousness decreases, ignorance also decreases. It rises with the rise of covetousness. Manifold again is the course that it takes.

The root of covetousness is loss of judgment. Loss of judgment, again, is its inseparable attribute. Eternity is ignorance’s course. The time when ignorance appears is when objects of covetousness are not won. From one’s ignorance proceeds covetousness, and from the latter proceeds ignorance. (Covetousness, therefore, is both the cause and consequence of ignorance). Covetousness is productive of all. For these reasons, every one should avoid covetousness. Janaka, and Yuvanaswa and Vrishadarbhi, and Prasenajit, and other kings acquired heaven in consequence of their having repressed covetousness, O chief of the Kurus! Avoiding covetousness thou shalt obtain happiness both here and in the next world.

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Related articles:
Sin

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