“The characteristic of the ignorant man is that he strives to be other than what he is…. To the enlightened one, there is none who are ignorant.” – Yoga Vasistha
Unfortunately, most of us tend to use the word ignorant as an insult, though the word has negative connotations only if we perceive it to have them. An ignorant person is simply someone who does not know something–for example, I am fairly ignorant when it comes to psychiatry, farming, aviation, and many other things. I would have no problem with being referred to as ignorant about flying an airplane. With that being said, Vasistha’s words here make sense–he is simply talking about “the characteristic of the person who is not enlightened.” But then he turns the idea on its head by saying that the enlightened person sees that no one is actually ignorant.
We go through much of life trying on different clothes in order to find out what fits. I am not an actuary, though I had an actuarial job for close to a year. Even though it seemed that I might have been trying to be something I was not, that was not the case–I was simply an actuarial trainee who was attempting to become an actuary. Likewise, I am not a football player, but I played football in high school and enjoyed it. Now I enjoy playing hockey, and am constantly learning new things about the sport and myself. Am I ignorant in trying to be something that I am not? Or am I just trying on different clothes for a while to find out what it feels like wearing them?
What Yoga is telling us here is that the enlightened person realizes that there really is no room for judgment. Even if this person is trying to be someone or something else, then that person is going through something that he or she needs to experience in life. Perhaps the person needs to learn about authenticity or dissatisfaction, and the best way for that person to learn is through such an experience. While it is easy for us to say, “You should be yourself,” if the other person has not yet discovered their self, then how are they supposed to do that?
People do some weird stuff in this world… I am a testament to this fact. Even though I had never skated on ice before, I bought hockey equipment at the age of 25 and joined a hockey league. Even though it eventually failed, I started my own political association several years back. It is true that trying to be something other than what we think we are is weird, but it also can be very valuable to our growth. And if we claim any sort of level of enlightenment at all, we must realize that it is not for us to judge what others are doing, for we have no idea what their path calls them to do.
Be open to your experiences in life today.
Questions to consider:
Why does it seem that so many people are trying to be something other than what they really are?
What does it mean to be enlightened?
How can trying to be something that we are not actually help us in life?
For further thought:
“If I could define enlightenment briefly I would say it is “the quiet acceptance of what is.” – Wayne Dyer