Using Ignorance Wisely–From Spiritual Teachers to Parents or Managers

Ta-hui Tsung-kao (1089-1163) was a leading Zen Master of the Sung Dynasty. believed that each teaching must fit the person, time, and place.  His writings remain accessible.

Consider this excerpt from Swampland Flowers (Zen Sourcebook, Addiss et al editors, Hackett, Pg 124)

In the conduct of their daily activities sentient beings have no illumination.  If you go along with their ignorance, they’re happy; if you oppose their ignorance, they become vexed.  Buddhas and bodhisattvas are not this way: they make use of the ignorance, considering this the business of buddhas.  Since sentient beings make ignorance their home, to go against it amounts to breaking up their home; going with it is adapting to where they’re at to influence and guide them.

Here, Ta-hui is addressing the use of ignorance wisely as a tool to liberate beings from their attachments and move them in the direction of direct experience of their original nature.

Rephrasing makes it immediately helpful to improve situations at other levels:

. . . . Making use of ignorance, is the business of parents and managers.  Since people are comfortable with what they know, to go against it rankles them; going with it is adapting to where they’re at to influence and help them grow.

Or:

The obvious response to inappropriate action may not be the best.  If you can first recognize what people are thinking and address that, more appropriate actions can follow.

Often teachers, parents, managers impulsively oppose the behavior or ignorance of their students, children or employees, demanding compliance without understanding the situation.   Except in an emergency, that may not be the best action.

Examples of inappropriate, impulsive behavior abound, especially when you begin to look for them. (If this were a book for sale, there would be pages of anecdote examples—but see them for yourself.)

Observing inappropriate responses in situations around you is a good way develop awareness and skillfully use ignorance.

Begin to make the effort to better understand the new situations and then respond, rather than oppose then directly.  It takes some practice, but see for yourself if the results are improved.  (If this were a book for sale, there would be pages of anecdote examples—but who has time for this.)

When this teaching is used skillfully, it is not evident; When not used– a glaring omission.

One Response to Using Ignorance Wisely–From Spiritual Teachers to Parents or Managers

  1. gymfinity says:

    Well said. Thank you

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