Ignorance May Be Bliss...
If you are reading this it is likely that you are a meditator, or have meditated in the past, or you are considering meditation. If you are already a meditator you probably remember what it was like when you first sat on the cushion and closed your eyes...
In his advice to beginner meditators ("Meditation Takes Gumption") Bhante Henepola Gunaratana gives this warning:
Somewhere in this process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way, and you just never noticed. You are also no crazier than everybody else around you. The only real difference is that you have confronted the situation; they have not. So they still feel relatively comfortable. That does not mean that they are better off. Ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation. So don’t let this realization unsettle you. It is a milestone actually, a sign of real progress. The very fact that you have looked at the problem straight in the eye means that you are on your way up and out of it.
I love the humor and candor that Bhante uses here, and you can probably more than identify with what he says. The 'monkey mind' that he describes is familiar to all of us, and even though practice helps us tame it, it sometimes makes a re-appearance, often at the most inconvenient times.
However, the part of Bhante's advice I want to focus on here is this:
You are also no crazier than everybody else around you. The only real difference is that you have confronted the situation; they have not. So they still feel relatively comfortable. That does not mean that they are better off. Ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation.
The point here is that right from day one - from the very first time we choose to sit to meditate, we start to peel away the delusion and ignorance that we have embraced.
As we progress on our path we continue to strip away at this delusion. Sometimes it is bit by bit, sometimes it is through a major revelation when the 'penny drops.'
This realization - that from the very beginning of our meditation journey we have been working on removing our delusion - is an important one. Wherever you are on your journey this continues to be our endeavor. Ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation.
PS: For those of you who live in the area and who join our Sunday night group note that we will not be meeting on October 31st (Halloween) as I will be out of town.
PPS: This also means that there won't be a Metta Letter next week - I will send the next one in two weeks' time
PPPS: I have linked below a fully guided thirty minute meditation on this passage from Bhante Gunaratana - please feel free to use it in your own practice in whatever way helps.
"Meditation Takes Gumption" by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana|, September 15, 2020,
Photo by Simon Infanger on Unsplash