Chapter 8: The Grass Grows by Itself
The first question:
What exactly do you mean by “conscious ignorance”? Is it the recognition that one is ultimately, fundamentally ignorant? Or is there more to it?
Conscious ignorance is not ignorance at all. It is the ultimate state of consciousness - how can it be ignorant? It is pure knowing. Of course, there is no knowledge, hence it is called ignorance. But there is knowing, utter knowing, clarity, transparency. No knowledge is gathered, but all is known.
Conscious ignorance means innocence and conscious. If innocence is unconscious, sooner or later it will be corrupted by knowledge. Unconscious mind is always ready to be corrupted, polluted, distracted.
Consciousness means centering, awareness - you cannot be distracted. You remain in your knowing, but you don’t accumulate knowledge. Knowledge is always of the past: knowing is in the present, is of the present. Like a mirror: the mirror reflects if something comes before it, but when it passes the mirror is empty again. This is conscious ignorance - not that the mirror does not reflect: it reflects, but it doesn’t gather. It is not like a photo plate.
A photo plate becomes knowledgeable. The moment something is reflected in it, it catches hold of it. It becomes attached to it. The mirror remains unattached - available, open, vulnerable, unprotected, with no defense, yet always virgin. This is virginity: when nothing corrupts you. Things come and pass.
You ask me: “What exactly do you mean by ‘conscious ignorance’?”
It is consciousness, knowing consciousness. Ignorant I am calling it because it cannot claim any knowledge - that’s why. It cannot say “I know.”
When the Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, “Who are you?” he simply said, “I don’t know.”
This is conscious ignorance. We misunderstood him. He thought, “Then what is the point? If you don’t even know who you are, then what is the difference between me and you? I also don’t know who I am.”
We are simply ignorant. Bodhidharma is consciously ignorant. And that word consciousness makes all the difference - all the difference that there is in the world. It transforms the whole quality of ignorance. Ignorance becomes luminous. It is full of light - not full of knowledge but full of light.
You ask: “Is it the recognition that one is ultimately, fundamentally ignorant?”
No. One is not, so how can one be fundamentally and ultimately ignorant? To think that one is you have already gathered knowledge, you have already claimed. You have already declared to the world that “I am!”