The real nature of ignorance is innocence.
It knows nothing; hence it is clean, pure, unpolluted.
Yung Chia is saying, “The real nature of ignorance is identical to the nature of enlightenment” – because the enlightened man also knows nothing. He is also innocent, just like a small child. A very strange statement…it can disturb many who think only intellectually. The question is bound to arise in their minds: if the real nature of enlightenment is the same as the real nature of ignorance, then why bother? You are already ignorant. Now meditating and contemplating and concentrating, and standing on your head, and doing yoga postures, and fasting, and going to the caves and to the Himalayas, renouncing the world…Why do this whole circus if the nature of enlightenment is just the same as the nature of ignorance? In a way it is the same; in a way it is not.
As far as innocence is concerned, it is the same. But the child’s innocence is corruptible, and the enlightened man’s innocence is incorruptible – there is the difference. The child will become knowledgeable; he cannot resist. There is no way to keep the child continuously ignorant. The child’s innocence will soon be lost. In fact every effort is being made so that he will soon become knowledgeable and adult, mature.
But the sage has passed through all those stages of knowledge, maturity; he has come round the whole circle. He is incorruptible. Now nobody can tell him, “You should try to know something.” He has known everything and dropped it. He has not only dropped knowledge, he has dropped the very faculty of knowing: the mind. He has seen that the whole game is simply futile; his innocence is now incorruptible. So there is a similarity – and there is a great unbridgeable difference.
Ta Hui is quoting this great statement, but I don’t have the feeling, looking at the following statements, that he has understood it. If you think like this he says…It is not a thinking. You cannot think like this. Thinking always leads to knowledge, never to innocence. So the moment he says, If you think like this, he misses the whole point. And you can see how very intellectual people can behave in a very stupid way.
Listen to the whole sentence: If you think like this, suddenly, in the place where thought cannot reach…and he is asking you to think, and to think about a place where thought cannot reach….. you will see the body of reality in which there is not a single thing – this is the place for you to get out of birth and death. One does not get out of birth and death; one simply becomes awakened, and one is out of death, out of birth.
It is not a question of first becoming aware…and then you have to do something to get out of the circle of birth and death. No, the moment you are aware, you are out of it. They are simultaneous.