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Spiritual Ignorance


Mar 12, 2009


Spiritual ignorance is the shore less ocean of darkness, with no light at the end of the tunnel. The belief in the philosopher’s stone, the jewel in the serpent’s head, alchemy, and miracles is all a matter of ignorance. Those engaged in the worship of idols, symbols, materialism, gods, goddesses, in fasting, uttering blessings and curses, are all living in spiritual ignorance. By reciting Sabd Guru’s hymns without understanding, even a good person cannot find acceptance by Akal Purkh. Without reflecting on the message of the AGGS or applying them in life, no wandering mind can find stability.

Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, or a willful lack of desire to improve the efficiency, merit, effectiveness or usefulness of one's actions. Ignorance is also a "state of being ignorant" or remaining unaware or uninformed.

Spiritual ignorance is a very serious matter. It is said that "What you don't know won't hurt you". We all know that is incorrect and yet it seems that many people have adopted that philosophy toward spiritual matters. Many people are destroyed for lack of spiritual knowledge. Spiritual ignorance is not merely the lack of knowledge, but also the self-destructive turning away from the truth in all areas of life. To be ignorant of one's ignorance is a further malady of the ignorant. Due to spiritual ignorance the practice of any faith is quite inconsistent with the tenets of that faith.

ਅਸੰਖ ਮੂਰਖ ਅੰਧ ਘੋਰ ॥

Asankh Moorkh Andh Ghor.

Countless fools are blinded by ignorance. -----Japji, AGGS, Page, 4-3

Despite the admonition in some faiths that ignorance is bliss, Sikhism is particularly adamant that ignorance does more harm than good.

If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy?

ਗਿਆਨ ਹੀਣੰ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਪੂਜਾ॥ ਔਧ ਵਰਤਾਵਾ ਭਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ॥

Giaan HeeNan Agiaan Poojaa, Andh Vartaavaa Bhaou Doojaa.

Without spiritual wisdom, people worship ignorance. They grope in the dark, in the love of duality. -----Guru Nanak, Sloke Vaaran To Vadheek, AGGS, Page, 1412-4

Spiritual ignorance is the absence of the divine knowledge, of the perception which gives us the sight of the supra-mental Truth. It is the non-perceiving principle of our consciousness as opposed to the truth-perceiving conscious vision and knowledge. To find that truth one needs the help of Sabd Guru at present.

ਮਾਈ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਫਿਰਤ ਬਿਲਲਾਤੇ ਮਿਲਤ ਨਹੀ ਗੋਸਾਈਐ ॥

Maa-ee Gur Bin Giaan Na Paaee-ai, Anik Parkaar Firat Billaatay Milat Nahee Gosaa-ee-ai.

O mother, without the Guru, Divine knowledge is not obtained. They wander around, weeping and crying out in various ways, but the Akal Purkh of the World does not meet them. -----Guru Arjan, Raag Devgandhari, AGGS, Page, 532-11

Ignorance is caused by the separation of mind from its spiritual and supra-mental basis. The spiritual ignorance referred here is not lack of information but a deep seated misperception of reality.

Ignorance is a self-limiting knowledge confined to an exclusive concentration in a single field. The Ignorance, in Matter and Life, has its primacy in the nature of the Mind. It measures, limits, particularizes, and divides. Mind also is an offshoot of the Universal Principle, of the Supreme. Universal Force/Principle has the tendency to unify and universalize. Mind becomes ignorant when it loses connection with this Absolute Principle. Its ignorance is because of its being controlled by emotions of lower human instincts such as anger. Guru Arjan refers to it in Raag Suhi;

ਬਸਇ ਕਰੋਧੁ ਸਰੀਰਿ ਚੰਡਾਰਾ ॥ ਅਗਿਆਨਿ ਨ ਸੂਝੈ ਮਹਾ ਗੁਬਾਰਾ ॥

Bas-i KaroDh Sareer Chandaaraa, Agiaan Na Soojhai Maha Gubara.

Anger is the outcaste which hides within his body; and keeps the individual in utter darkness of ignorance, with out understanding. -----Guru Arjan, Raag Suhi, AGGS, Page, 759-14

Ignorance is grounded in falsehood, wrong and evil intentions. These selves are embedded in the consciousness of the individual or limited consciousness. This grows out of a personal attachment to the limitation born of falsity. It is further aggravated by consciousness governed by the life-ego veiling the Divine Knowledge.

Divine Knowledge is the awareness and understanding of facts, truths or information gained in the form of learning. The purpose of Divine knowledge is to find the Truth and develop inner cleanliness. It is developed by subjugating animal instincts and developing godly instincts or virtues.

ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਨਾਮੰ ਨਹ ਸਿਮਰੰਤਿ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਜਾਨੰਤਿ ਅਸਥਿਰੰ ॥ ਦੁਰਲਭ ਦੇਹ ਉਧਰੰਤ ਸਾਧ ਸਰਣ ਨਾਨਕ ॥ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰੇ ਜਪੰਤਿ ॥

Gobind Naman Neh Simrant Agiaani Jaananit Asthiran, Durlabh Dayh UDhrant SaaDh Saran Nanak, Har Har Har Har Har Haray Japant.

An ignorant person does not meditate in remembrance of the Akal Purkh of the Universe; he thinks that this body is permanent. This precious body is saved and redeemed in the Sanctuary of the Holy, O, Nanak, chanting the Name of the Eternal and Infinite Akal Purkh. -----Guru Arjan, Sahskriti Slokes, AGGS, Page, 1354-5

It is altogether a mistake to let ignorance dictate the policy of the truth at any time, but particularly so in an age when the truth has to contend with almost insurmountable difficulties. Ignorance is preferable to error. An individual is considered less remote from the truth if he believes in nothing than the one who believes what is wrong.

ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਮਾਨੁਖੁ ਭਇਆ ਜੋ ਨਾਹੀ ਸੋ ਲੋਰੈ ॥ ਰੈਣਿ ਅੰਧਾਰੀ ਕਾਰੀਆ ਕਵਨ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਜਿਤੁ ਭੋਰੈ ॥ਭ੍ਰਮਤੋ ਭ੍ਰਮਤੋ ਹਾਰਿਆ ਅਨਿਕ ਬਿਧੀ ਕਰਿ ਟੋਰੈ ॥ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਭਈ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਨਿਧਿ ਮੋਰੈ ॥

Agiani Manukh Bhaiaa Jo Nahin So Lorai, Rain AnDhaaree Kaaree-aa Kavan Jugat Jit Bhorai, Bharmato Bharmato Haari-aa Anik BiDhee Kar Torai, Kaho Nanak Kirpaa Bha-ee SaaDhsangat NiDh Morai.

Humanity is in spiritual ignorance; people see things that do not exist. The night is dark and gloomy; how will the morning dawn? Wandering, wandering all around, I have grown weary; trying all sorts of things, I have been searching. Says Nanak, Akal Purkh has shown mercy to me; I have found the treasure in the Company of the Holy.-----Guru Arjan, Raag Gauri, AGGS, Page, 212-11

Maya separates a human being from God, the Creator!

ਦੋਸੁ ਨਹੀ ਕਾਹੂ ਕਉ ਮੀਤਾ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹ ਬੰਧੁ ਪ੍ਰਭਿ ਕੀਤਾ ॥

Dos Nahee Kaahoo Ka-o Meetaa, Maya Moh Bandh Prabh Keetta.

No one is at fault, my friend. God created the bondage of emotional attachment to Maya.-----Guru Arjan, Raag Gauri, AGGS, Page, 257-12

What makes us believe half truth as the only Truth!! The limited intellectual knowledge gained through five senses prompts us in believing this World to be the only Truth. We have to penetrate the veil of Maya, Ignorance, inherent in every being.

ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ਹੈ ਤਿਸ ਦਾ ਨ ਦਿਸੈ ਉਰਵਾਰੁ ਨ ਪਾਰੁ ॥ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਮਹਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਦੇ ਡੁਬੇ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿ ॥ Maya Moh Gubaar Hai Tis Da Na Disai Ourvaar Na Paar, Manmukh Agiaanee Maha Dukh Paaeeday Dubay Har Naam Visaar.

The love of Maya has created darkness without any shores. The self willed persons are lost in useless pursuits forgetting Akal Purkh’s Name and are unsuccessful in crossing the worldly ocean. -----Guru Amardas, Siri Raag Var, AGGS, Page, 89-12

Spiritual ignorance is going to persist in individuals, who do not try to sharpen their mind without an active attempt in controlling and purifying it with the medicine of Truth. Once the mind is brought to a stand still, in between two thoughts, it could energize itself and qualify itself to receive Akal Purkh’s Grace and be blessed with Divine knowledge. Kabir proclaimed in Raag Gauri that the secrets of the three worlds can then be revealed to the mind.

ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਸਕਤੀ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਸੀਉ ॥ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਪੰਚ ਤਤ ਕੋ ਜੀਉ ॥ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਲੇ ਜਉ ਉਨਮਨਿ ਰਹੈ ॥ਤਉ ਤੀਨਿ ਲੋਕ ਕੀ ਬਾਤੈ ਕਹੈ ॥

Ayh Man Saktee Eh Man Seo, Eh Man Panj Tut Ko Jeo, Eh Man Lay Jaou Unman Rahay, Taou Teen Lok Ki Baatay Kahay.

This mind is Power; this mind is God. This mind is the life of the five elements. When this mind is channeled, and guided to enlightenment, it can describe the secrets of the three worlds. -----Kabir, Gauri Poorbi, AGGS, Page, 342-4

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. -----Martin Luther King Jr.

ਮੂਰਖ ਮੁਗਧ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਅਵੀਚਾਰੀ ॥ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਆਸ ਮਨਿ ਧਾਰੀ ॥ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਜਾਨਾ ਮਤਿ ਮੇਰੀ ਥੋਰੀ ॥ ਬਿਨਵਤਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਓਟ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤੋਰੀ ॥

Moorakh Mugdh Agiaann Aveechaari, Naam Teray Ki Aas Man Dhari. Kichoo Na Jana Mat Meri Thoree, Binvat Nanak Oat Prabh Toree.

I am foolish, stupid, ignorant and thoughtless; Your Name is my mind's only hope. I know nothing, and my intellect is inadequate. Prays Nanak, O God, You are my only Support. -----Guru Arjan, Raag Asa, AGGS, Page, 388-2&3

By remembering Akal Purkh’s Name and doing good deeds one is "spiritual awakened.” This may be accompanied by a sufficient change in one’s personality to bring about an understanding in many different forms of the "educational variety." Such a change may occur slowly over a period of time. The individual finally realizes that he has undergone a profound transformation in his reaction to life. He may realize that such a change could hardly have been brought about by him alone. What often takes place in a few months could seldom have been accomplished even through years of self-discipline. With a few exceptions these individuals tap an unsuspected inner resource, which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves. Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience and call it "God-consciousness."

ਅੰਤਰਿ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਗਵਾਈ ॥ ਜਿਸੁ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਤਿਸੁ ਮੇਲਿ ਲੈਹਿ ਸੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਈ ॥

Antar Agiaan Dukh Bharam Hai Gur Gian Gavaeya, Jis Kirpaa Karahi Tis Mayl Laihi So Naam Dhi-aa-ee.

Deep within, there is ignorance, suffering and doubt; through the spiritual wisdom of the Guru, they are eradicated. He alone meditates on the Naam, whom You unite with Yourself, in Your Mercy. -----Guru Nanak, AGGS, Page, 1291-17

ਮਨ ਆਵਣ ਜਾਣੁ ਨ ਸੁਝਈ ਨਾ ਸੁਝੈ ਦਰਬਾਰੁ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਪਲੇਟਿਆ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ॥ ਤਬ ਨਰੁ ਸੁਤਾ ਜਾਗਿਆ ਸਿਰਿ ਡੰਡੁ ਲਗਾ ਬਹੁ ਭਾਰੁ ॥

Man Aavan Jaan Na Sujh-ee Naa Sujhai Darbaar. Maya Mohi Palayti-aa Antar Agi-aan Bubaar, Tab Nar Sutaa Jaagi-aa Sir Dand Lagaa Baho Bhaar.

The mortal being does not understand the comings and goings; he does not see the Court of the Akal Purkh. He is wrapped up in emotional attachment and Maya, and within his being is the darkness of ignorance. The sleeping person wakes, only when he is hit on the head by a heavy club. -----Guru Amardas, AGGS, Page, 1418-2

It is the unknown fear, which is self-grasping ignorance leading to delusions of selfishness, attachment, anger, ego, and desire giving rise to unskillful actions motivated by those delusions.

It is the practicing of Truth by becoming one with and living it, in association of prayer, meditation in action on the Sabd by melting its essence in reflection at every step of one’s daily life through Akal Purkh’s Grace;

ਕਰਮੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਤਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਪਾਏ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਜਲਾਏ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਰਤਨੁ ਚਾਨਣੁ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਅੰਧੇਰੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥

Karam Hovai Taa Satgur Paa-ay, Ha-umai Mail Sabd Jalaa-ay, Man Nirmal Giaan Ratan Chaanan Agiaan Andhair Gavaaeyaa.

If God grants Its Grace, then one finds the True Guru. Through the Sabd, the filth of egotism is burned away the mind becomes immaculate, and the jewel of spiritual wisdom brings enlightenment. The darkness of spiritual ignorance is dispelled.-----Guru Amardas, Raag Maru, AGGS, Page, 1067-10

Kabir in Raag Asa refers to ignorance as being ugly, low caste wife with bad character;

ਪਹਿਲੀ ਕਰੂਪਿ ਕੁਜਾਤਿ ਕੁਲਖਨੀ ਸਾਹੁਰੈ ਪੇਈਐ ਬੁਰੀ ॥ਅਬ ਕੀ ਸਰੂਪਿ ਸੁਜਾਨਿ ਸੁਲਖਨੀ ਸਹਜੇ ਉਦਰਿ ਧਰੀ ॥ ਭਲੀ ਸਰੀ ਮੁਈ ਮੇਰੀ ਪਹਿਲੀ ਬਰੀ ॥ਜੁਗੁ ਜੁਗੁ ਜੀਵਉ ਮੇਰੀ ਅਬ ਕੀ ਧਰੀ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਬ ਲਹੁਰੀ ਆਈ ਬਡੀ ਕਾ ਸੁਹਾਗੁ ਟਰਿਓ ॥ਲਹੁਰੀ ਸੰਗਿ ਭਈ ਅਬ ਮੇਰੈ ਜੇਠੀ ਅਉਰੁ ਧਰਿਓ ॥

Pahilī karūp kujāṯ kulakẖnī sāhurai pė¬ī¬ai burī, Ab kī sarūp sujān sulakẖnī sehjė uḏar ḏẖarī. Bẖalī sarī mu¬ī mėrī pahilī barī, Jug jug jīva¬o mėrī ab kī ḏẖarī. Kaho Kabīr jab lahurī ā¬ī badī kā suhāg tari¬o, Lahurī sang bẖa¬ī ab mėrai jėṯẖī a¬or ḏẖari¬o.

My first wife, ignorance, was ugly, of low social status and bad character; she was evil in my home, and in her parents' home. My present bride, divine understanding, is beautiful, wise and well-behaved; I have taken her to my heart. It has turned out so well, that my first wife has died. May she, whom I have now married, live throughout the ages? Says Kabir, when the younger bride came, the elder one lost her husband. The younger bride is with me now, and the elder one has taken another husband. -----Kabir, Raag Asa, AGGS, Page, 483


Misapprehensions are enchanting only to the ignorant mind. Divine knowledge alone removes ignorance. Once ignorance is dispelled, all its misapprehensions end. That is, once the mind is purified of egoism and illumined with the spiritual wisdom, all its misapprehensions end. Upon attaining this state of direct vision or understanding of the self, non-apprehension of reality will not rise again. When the true wisdom is attained, the unreality vanishes. Only the pure, all-pervading consciousness remains. Fullness of divine knowledge always and necessarily means some understanding of our ignorance, which is always conducive to both humility and reverence.

ਨਾਮੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ਲੇਤੁ ਹੈ ਜੇਤੀ ਆਵਣ ਜਾਣੀ॥ ਜਾ ਤੁਧੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਤਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਹੋਰ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਫਿਰੈ ਇਆਣੀ ॥

Naam Tayraa Sabh Ko-ee Layt Hai Jaytee Aavan Jaanee, Jaa Tudh Bhavai Taa Gurmukh Boojhai Hoar Manmukh Firai Iaannee.

Everyone who comes and goes chants your name. When it is pleasing to your will and only then the Gurmukh understands. Otherwise, the self-willed Manmukh wanders in ignorance. -----Guru Amardas, Raag Asa, AGGS, Page, 423-4

Virinder S. Grewal
Williamston, MI