‘Landscape’ – Sergey Vasilkovsky – WikiArt
There is a truer, hidden reality lying just under the veneer of life. Don’t think that what you have is the real thing. It is not. This hidden reality is being covered by the thick blanket of our deceptive representation of reality, made of a whole array of thoughts, feelings, memories, worries, beliefs, conditionings, that have numbed our aliveness, blunted our sensitivity, and rendered our god-given natural endowment as if inexistant. This is why, in some religious traditions, man has been proclaimed ’ignorant’. This is a word that indicates that simple fact — the plain and unfortunate forgetting of a nature in us that has been temporarily hidden, and that craves in the background for our recognition, our remembering. This is why all men and women on this earth are seeking peace and happiness in one form or another.
This particular reality is the subject of countless religious books and spiritual traditions in the world. This was never about having many different beliefs like we sometimes think it is. It was about revealing this truer reality of ours. In the process of doing so, approaches may vary depending on the times and cultures where they arose, and misunderstandings have sprung proportionally, but the fact of our ignorance is the same for all, at all times, in all places. And the reality discovered behind its dispelling is not only the same for all, but is one whole and single reality present here and now as the rock-like experience of being in all beings — be they human or not. This is not a small affair to be pushed around and despised as being mere ‘beliefs’, but is the very core, substance, and meaning of our lives. So why is such an obvious reality being missed by so many of us? What has made it so commonly invisible, and inaccessible?
Humanity has been able to discover countless hidden formulas and facts of existence in every corners of the world, from the highest mountain peaks to the deep seas, in the form of countless living species, laws of nature, historical phenomenas, and astounding technological items. How has this same humanity been able to miss the one, most obvious, inescapable element and reality of hers, which is responsible for her very being, and is in fact not even deeply hidden from her? How did this happen? This indeed is the greatest marvel of all. For this reality is maybe the most extraordinary discovery yet to be made and implemented by humanity, that will give rise to a revolution of unfathomed dimension, and open our lives to new, unimaginable directions. Should we be kept ignorant of that? Should we make no effort — have no imagination — have not the required humility — to open ourselves to this ultimate knowledge contained in our humanity? How could the obvious be so blatantly ignored and overlooked? I will tell you. Listen carefully.
The ignoring of this reality has been made possible by a dumbfounding trick of divine mischievousness. For this reality was in fact never hidden. It is there in full view. You are now it to a point that is inconceivable at the moment of ignorance. This is why this revelation has been called illumination, enlightenment, awakening. This is how it can bring tears of joy and forgiveness when we hear its sudden whisper in our ears. This is how it can provoke laughs so loud that are like a thunder of infinite proportions in our lives — because the revelation of it comes as such a divine surprise and joke. It comes as the obvious answer to all our past and future problems of living. It comes as the long searched for solution of the divine riddle of existence, that can either be cracked in one single, definitive glimpse, or that can lead to tortuous paths of self-inflicted efforts, painstaking traditions and methods, that can produce ignorance within enlightenment, in as many ways that it could before hide enlightenment behind ignorance. For let’s not be fooled here: this riddle is a hard one to crack — at least it can be — though it doesn’t have to be — but it is — until it’s not. Such is the nature of this adventure. Not one for the faint-hearted.
Think only once of undertaking the journey, and you will be drawn to it like any mad adventurer is to an unclimbed mountain. It is indeed like discovering the last lost continent of this world, lost but already found a thousand times, unreachable but already unknowingly accessed every single day of our lives, ignored yet known by all, hidden but already revealed and eternally open to our gaze. The best way to hide something is to have it unseen before our eyes. The best way to ignore something is to know it unknowingly. For ignorance is never there, although we may think that it is. Where would darkness be when the light is fully on? Ignorance itself is an illusion, only a shy appearance, a lonely ghost that so believe in its strength and presence that it has made itself seemingly unavoidable. The reality of ignorance is no more than thin air in empty space. It has no intrinsic texture or solidity. It is a shadow within a shadow. The only reality present here is what it seemingly hides, which is the very fact of being and being aware. And the final and most cherished discovery is that this simple, taken for granted, fact of being is nothing less than god’s unnoticed yet radiant presence in our life.
‘Sunset over the Lake’ – Sergey Vasilkovsky – National Art Museum of Ukraine
Yet ignorance, in spite of its thin consistency, can be seen everywhere, its effects on every battlefield, on every surreptitious lie, in every tear of suffering, like an unfortunate obstacle producing a shadow from the sun’s dazzling light. Ignorance is made of a single, illusory thought that is so emphatic, so imbued with itself, that it has inflated to the proportions of a self, whose presence is rendering awareness as if nothing, as if negligible. Awareness is then taken to be unsubstantial and fleeting, a mere function of the body. So the apparent self and its concomitant ignorance act as an obstacle to the light of awareness, and projects on experience a shadow of suffering and confusion. But try to find ignorance in yourself and you won’t find it anymore than you can find a separate sense of self or person. The truth is that awareness is all there is. The truth is that awareness is flooding experience with itself, no matter how deeply ignorance has settled in. This is a hard thing to understand. It is as if the light is being veiled by itself. But light — even disguised as a shadow — can never truly veil light. Knowing — even disguised as ignorance — can never dim knowing. All is made of the light of awareness, to the point that there is nothing present that can obscure light. Knowing can never be ignored, except from the standpoint of a temporary, illusory, fabricated and ultimately non-existent sense of self.
How can a non-existing ignorance produce such evil objects as war, cruelty, ugliness, etc. It does it in the same way awareness can produce — through the agency of a self — a divine piece of music or a painting that radiates beauty. Objects are receptive, obedient. Since the nature of consciousness is love or beauty itself, its productions at the level of objects will radiate with an equal shine of beauty or love. If awareness is being veiled by ignorance, its productions or actions through a particular self will lack love or beauty proportionally. Therefore, our illusory ignorance has direct effects on objects only at the level of its veiling the qualities of awareness from which it is borrowing its existence. Evil, or sin, or ugliness, are only deduced from the veiling of consciousness in our lives, but are never directly implemented by an ignorance that would be a thing in itself, or the true nature of an independently existing being. This is how a non-existing thing can acquire potency. Potency in life is the making of the only thing that is truly present, which is the one aware reality of pure consciousness, from which we derive our being and existence, and our potency as the giver of beauty or ugliness, of love or evilness, of silence or confusion. But with one difference though: Beauty, love, silence are the true nature of our being. Ugliness, evilness, or confusion are only added beliefs, or veiling thoughts, that bear no consequences on the incorruptible nature of consciousness.
Ignorance is a turning away from the light of awareness. It is a refusal to have an illusion taken away from ourself. Ignorance is of our own making. We are fabricating it at every moment. And it is a full time job on our part. We hold on to it as if a life-giving thing. We cling to this ignorance of ours with the desperation of somebody who doesn’t want to die. We have spent a lifetime fabricating a fictitious and non existent personage out of our life experiences and traumas. We don’t want to let it go. Ignorance is the very structure of our self after all, and we have fabricated it with all the cunningness required. It is our happiness insurance. Yet ignorance is only a belief and an illusion. It is not viable in the long run, promised to death, but in the meantime feeding suffering in our life. This is where it finds its blatant reality — in this suffering. But it can be seen through at every moment. Stop producing a shadow by putting your apparent self as an obstacle in front of the sun. The sun — this dazzling light of awareness — is the only true self there is. Not the ignorant hazy sense of self that we have put together with some random thoughts and feelings passing by.
Ignorance is therefore not a state. It is a verb. It is, as its etymology conveys, the refusal to know. It is the refusal to die, and by this refusal, the prevention, that we have ourself implemented, to truly live. We come to live the absurdity that by refusing to die, we happen to die to our true and only self as consciousness. We come to the understanding that the only way ignorance can find a reality is through borrowing its reality to the reality of awareness. In other words, we are made ignorant through knowing. God veils itself with itself. But the good thing about it is that knowing can then pierce through ignorance like the light of the sun can pass through transparent glass, revealing its fragile and powerless nature and structure.
‘Sunset on the Dnieper’ – Sergey Vasilkovsky
Knowing has the capacity to lose itself within experience. This form of ignorance is necessary to function in our life. But it is an enlightened ignorance, present only to perform a particular action at the level of relative existence. But we need not being fooled by this. Knowing is never truly veiled, as is the case when ignorance is experienced unknowingly. Its power may be temporarily dimmed, but we never lose where we exactly stand, and where is our true home, which is in awareness and as awareness. So there is an importance in knowing ignorance. Awareness of ignorance, as Socrates once formulated, is therefore the only true shield against our ignorance of awareness. But how is one aware of ignorance? Can an illusion be seen or observed? It seems to me that an illusion can only be seen through, but never truly seen as an object. Dispelling ignorance is of the utmost importance if we are to realise our true nature. But ignorance is not to be eroded like a thing, as you would erode a piece of rock. Ignorance dispels itself through its already achieved non-existence, a little bit like a fog clears itself off through its airy, unsubstantial nature. This is why ignorance can never stand when it is searched for. It just disappears in front of our eyes, replaced by the space of infinite awareness.
To be truly aware of anything is to be free of it. To be aware of ignorance is like a death warrant. Ignorance disappears, revealed as being awareness itself. Its shaky existence gone with the wind of awareness. Because ignorance was never there, at least not as something real by nature. It was an illusion, a mistake, a distortion, only effective when we are in it, rendering us blind to the presence of the real self. At the moment of ignorance, we don’t see that we are ignorant. And the seeing of our ignorance, is the seeing of the absence of ignorance. So no matter what, ignorance is never there. It is a ghostly cloud. Look closely at your life from the vantage point of awareness, and you will suddenly realise its intrinsic perfection. The effects of ignorance will fade consequently, and proportionally to our being aware. All our problems will seem to disappear as if they had never been there in the first place. Ignorant life is like a vast virtual game. All our wars and tears, all our desperations and violent stands, our broken history, all gone in one single glimpse of awareness, replaced by the only existing thing at work, which is awareness itself. The presence of awareness devours every passing expression of ignorance. This is how Lord Krishna could, in the Bhagavad Gita, advise Arjuna to participate in a war. It is from this divine, illumined standpoint. But ignore the space of awareness for a second, and you are back in the battlefield of life — its confusion, its ugliness, its evilness.
Text by Alain Joly
Paintings by Sergey Vasilkovsky (1854-1917)
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