Each one of us must have heard the expression “Ignorance is bliss”. Now what does this mean? What is the context in which this expression is true? Let us see some situations in which this expression is likely to be true:
Avoidance of potentially bad news:
A patient has been diagnosed to be terminally ill and has only a few months to live. The doctor privately reveals the undesirable diagnosis to his close family members. The family members, after some discussion, conclude not to tell the patients about his illness. Their motive is that, by not knowing about the illness, the person would not get into depression and thus further accelerate his death. He would spend whatever time he has left being relatively happy.
Over time, society has become very specialized. We have doctors, engineers, business people, teachers, lawyers, various technicians, farmers, mill workers etc. Each one of us trains many years developing skills in a specific area. We are very good at what we do, but remain relatively ignorant of other areas of speciality. Most people are glad that they do not have to learn farming in order to feed their stomach. Likewise, its nice that we do not have to attend medical college to treat ourselves when we get sick. We can simply go to a doctor and he will take care of restoring our health. In the same way, business outsource what is not their core expertise to other businesses that can do the same work more efficiently and cheaply. They would rather have someone else do work that is not part of their core expertise – they are happy to remain ignorant of how that work is done, as long as the work meet their quality and budget requirements.
Thus in the above cases, we saw examples where not knowing something was preferable. It saved us unnecessary trouble from having to put effort in order to learn something, or the potential of emotional pain thanks to learning about some bad news. Despite these examples that justify being ignorant, most of us intuitively know that “Knowledge is power”. We would rather not be ignorant. Most of us has had past experiences where we have suffered thanks to not knowing something. Let us take examples of life areas, where “Ignorance leads to suffering, and knowledge leads to joy”
This is an area where each one of us would readily acknowledge that “Ignorance is bliss” is not true. Every employer is looking for the best in their employees. The more skilled and knowledgeable we are, the more we are likely to thrive in business, amidst cut-throat competition. A successful career requires years of training and continuous learning. The same goes for businesses. New products and services are launched each day, and a company that is not able to keep up with its competition eventually goes out of business.
For hundreds of years, smoking tobacco was very popular, until studies were published linking smoking to lung cancer. Since then, awareness of the harmful effects of smoking has increased, leading to a decline of the use of tobacco. Most people who suffered and died of lung cancer in unawareness of the harmful affects of smoking would have preferred to know about the harmful effects of cigarettes, rather than suffer and die in ignorance. They would readily agree that “Ignorance is not bliss”.
Also, thanks to advancement in medical technology, a blood test can now revel so much about our health than a 100 years back. The test results reveals valuable information that we can choose to act on, which we would have been completely ignorant some generations back. It is no wonder that with the advancement of medical technology, the overall life-expectancy of people is increasing. Knowledge thus leads to increased well-being.
Most of the problems we have in relationships is due to lack of skill in dealing with people. Ignorance of the psychology of the opposite sex leads to many issues in which people who were once in love make each other very miserable. People give themselves and others a lot of pain due to not knowing how to deal with their own emotions and with the people close to them. Most people, out of ignorance, start by blaming outside situations and people for their misery, until they learn the skills to form successful relationships, romantic or otherwise. Relationships is thus an area where ignorance brings a lot of pain, whereas knowledge brings a lot of joy.
Many people are ignorant about money in one or more ways. Some people leave money on the table despite having the desire to earn more, perhaps due to ignorance of their own market value or lack of negotiation skills. Some others are not able to spend what they earn wisely, causing financial problems. Some others are not good at investing and making it grow. Ignorance of financial skills thus tends to unfavorable situations, and knowledge eases the pain, and brings us the financial security that most people long for.
While we can outsource our work, we cannot outsource our life – no one else can live our life for us. Ignorance of our own self thus affects each one of us adversely. According to all religions and spiritual traditions, it is ignorance of our true nature that leads to suffering. According to all great spiritual masters, we think that we are the ego – a limited entity, identified with our body, our mind, our intellect, and with the things we do, things we possess, and what others think of us. This identification with our ego is one ignorance we all have, which leads to utmost suffering. The enlightened masters on the other hand, are forever in a state of bliss, thanks to being firmly established in the knowledge of the self. Clearly out here, it is knowledge, not ignorance that leads to bliss.
Although most of us may acknowledge that “Ignorance leads to suffering, and knowledge leads to joy”, the challenge is that we are ignorant of our ignorance! We do not know what we have yet to learn. Only someone who knows what we do not know can teach us what we are ignorant of, and that too only if we are humble enough to accept our ignorance and seek knowledge. How can we find out whether we are ignorant of something? One way to gauge our level of ignorance is to take a look at any life area and see how much suffering or joy we experience in that life area. If we are experiencing pain and suffering, chances are that there is something we have yet to learn, which if learnt, will remove the suffering in that area and bring us more joy. Knowledge thus is the only prescription that alleviates suffering.
Inspired by Sudhir Krishnan.
- Self-Improvement ~Two Basic Principles. (mediumsworld.wordpress.com)
- Why is my life not improving in spite of reading these inspirations? (joannewellington.wordpress.com)
We are creatures of habit. Our minds are conditioned by past impressions. We keep following in our old ways until the cycle of ignorance is broken by constant awareness of ourselves. This is why we need constant reminders. Knowledge needs to seep into our sub-conscious mind in order for it to become useful to us. This is precisely why in the Vedic scriptures, three levels of attaining knowledge are prescribed:
- Shravanam (Listening)
- Mananam (Contemplating upon knowledge)
- Nidhi Dhyasa (Practicing the knowledge)
A lot of people read/listen to inspirational material for the temporary relief that it brings. When you are feeling low, positive thoughts make you feel better. It gives you hope. Inspirational material asserts that the way you are currently looking at things is not the only way to look at it – that there is a much more positive solution to your problem out there, which you may not be seeing in this moment. However reading inspirational writings only to feel better is limiting the value you can derive from it – it is like using an aeroplane to drive around in your neighbourhood, which you could be flying to a neighbouring state!
Mananam (Contemplating upon the knowledge)
Contemplating upon the knowledge means reflecting upon the knowledge to see how it is applicable in the context of our lives. Contemplating of knowledge is understanding the intricacies of the knowledge, and making the knowledge ours. Without contemplation, we are less likely to fully appreciate the real power of the piece of wisdom being discussed.
Nidhi Dhyasa (Practicing the knowledge)
Then, you may find that some people are able to speak beautifully about a certain piece of wisdom. They have understood it really well. They can analyse it, discuss it with others, and even challenge opposing views. However the appreciation of the knowledge is only from an intellectual perspective. They may not have made any effort to apply the knowledge in their own lives. This is akin to a doctor who advises his patients on the ill effects of smoking, but is a chain smoker himself.
Why does a person who fully understands a piece of wisdom unable to apply it in his life?
One possibility is that the person learnt the knowledge only to derive some intellectual pleasure from it. He had no real thirst for self-improvement. The second possibility is that his mind, thanks to various past habits, is rebelling against his own intellect and making him incapable of applying the knowledge he knows very well. For example – the person knows that reacting in anger does not help. However this knowlege comes to him only after he has already reacted in anger and then later regrets his act. This is why, in addition to just gaining knowledge, it is also necessary to quieten the mind with meditation. A quiet mind can grasp the knowledge better and is more capable of applying the knowledge when it is needed. Meditation also helps the mind to become more contemplative.
It takes regular and continuous effort to put something new that we learn to practice – as our own mind rebels against us and wants to keep going about it’s old and comfortable ways. However all the effort we put into ourselves comes with a big payoff. There comes a stage where the application of knowledge becomes natural and effortless, and brings about a positive, lasting transformation within us.
~ Sudhir krihnan
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.
“Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back”. – Chinese Proverb
Realize that in every moment or event is a chance to improve and advance our knowledge. The more information we gather, the more we broaden our mind. Learning is an infinite journey. Yet we should never pretend to know everything or to understand what we do not. All this does is limit us, narrows our options, and destroys an opportunity for growth. Always embrace the chance to learn. By opening ourselves up to advice, ideas, or input from others, we allow ourselves to expand our knowledge, skills, and expertise. This is not to say that you need to agree or accept everything or anything at face value, but be open to it. Examine and explore everything with the realization that, regardless of how far you have come, there is still so much more to learn and experience. Emerson wrote, “In every man there is something wherein I may learn, and in that I am his pupil.” This perceptive quote is a tribute to all people and events—that in each one, there is something to gain, discover or take away, sometimes as the pupil and others, as the teacher. This approach will help you experience life at its fullest, increase your options, and foster success.
Each day brings challenges to strengthen our resolve and opportunities to thrive, but we need to reach out for them. Never be discouraged or feel uncomfortable because you do not know something. Adopt that as an opportunity to learn. Ask questions, be inquisitive, and always keep your mind prepared for new ideas or possibilities. Anything you encounter in your daily routine, whether meeting someone new, or collecting information, is a chance to grow and learn. Daniel Bell wrote, “The most important attitude that can be formed is that of the desire to go on learning.” The second we believe we are complete or have reached our potential, there is nowhere to go. The moment you think you know everything, understand you know relatively nothing—knowledge and information are infinite. If we consider ourselves green, we will grow; if we consider ourselves ripe, we will rot. Continually challenge and feed your mind with different ideas and insights.
George Matthew Adams wrote, “You are your greatest investment. The more you store in that mind of yours, the more you enrich your experience, the more people you meet, the more books you read, the more places you visit, the greater is that investment in all that you are. Everything that you add to our peace of mind, and to your outlook upon life, is added capital that no one but yourself can dissipate.”
Knowledge is omnipresent, all around us to gather and share. Lord Chesterfield wrote, “There is hardly any place or any company where you may not gain knowledge.” A great conversation is one that is equality balanced. Similar to a tennis match, it is a balanced exchange of ideas and information, sincere listening and giving—not a fencing match. Learn the power in being the pupil; one who seeks to learn and understand. When at school, spend some one-on-one time with the professors. Take advantage of their office hours to collect invaluable insight into a subject. Inquire about a topic and gain a more in-depth understanding. At work, find someone who specializes in a different field of interest and initiate conversations. In essence, make an opportunity to learn something new every day. Family or friends hold an abundance of interesting facts, stories, and events that can enliven our minds and nourish our intellect. Imagine what could be accomplished with just an hour a day on a topic or subject.
Never develop a negative attitude or allow life to become redundant. Learn to challenge yourself daily and be open to new thoughts or discoveries. Find the power in even the smallest things. Life is extraordinary, if you work at it. Clutch onto the myriad of opportunities that are around us. Create a mindset to look for something interesting or informative daily. Learn a new subject, a language, or skill. Spend time reading about an issue or studying an interesting topic. Visit the library where you can get books, music, DVDs or books on tape to listen to in the car. With so much to achieve in the world, never allow yourself to become narrow minded or bogged down with excuses. Be receptive to others; for there is power in perception and amazing opportunity. Keep moving forward and take in everything you can. Momentum is vital in becoming stronger, smarter, and accomplishing your goals. Always learning and growing is an attitude—a forceful approach and mature outlook for conquering life, not being conquered by it.
Written by Joanne Wellington for Mediums World
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