Delusion (mental element 16, De)
Delusion hides reality by putting a curtain in front of it. It blinds, tricks, and eludes the mind. It is the not knowing of the true nature of things. It is synonymous with ignorance because it prevents us from seeing everything in the world as impermanent, relative, and devoid of a separate self.
Greed and hatred, the twin roots of unwholesomeness, are both, in turn, rooted in delusion. Therefore, the undercurrent of all unwholesome mental activities is delusion. As an ultimate root, delusion is fundamentally responsible for all imperfections. In other words, all our imperfections (and our subsequent human suffering) arise ultimately as a consequence of delusion.
The strongest and most obstinate element is delusion. Its hold on the mind is so incredible that it is capable of resisting its removal until the last stage of enlightenment. Because delusion is the ultimate unwholesome root element, it provides the ultimate support to unwholesome consciousness and contributes most significantly to unwholesomeness. In the business of spiritual evolution, there is nothing more ultimately unprofitable than delusion.
Delusion is the grandparent of ego, the evilest of all evils. The ego is primarily rooted in delusion and secondarily rooted in greed and hatred. These three elements manifest as the ego, the ultimate human imperfection (see figure 12.2). Technically speaking, if you abolish not only greed and hatred, but also delusion, you are above and beyond holiness. You are enlightened: perfect.
Can we fight delusion (ignorance) to free ourselves from it? No. Just as we don’t fight greed or hatred, we don’t fight delusion. We simply dedicate ourselves to developing non-delusion (wisdom), which means we spend the rest of our life removing ignorance. We begin to see the fault in our perplexities, superficiality, guessing, superstition, and so on. We see the terror in mental darkness. As we begin to look down upon delusion we start developing a sincere inclination and a sense of urgency (vigor) to attain wisdom. Eventually, we start abiding in each moment, arousing, developing, and perfecting wisdom. In a way, this entire book, The Elements of Soul, revolves around the subject of how to accomplish this end.
The root cause of delusion is delusion itself. Delusion in this moment was caused by the delusion of the previous moment. Wise attention in the current moment is the most important activity for the eradication of delusion. A meditation practice that includes the element of wise attention is the foremost tool in the eradication of delusion. Not just any form of meditation is sufficient. Soul meditation, as taught in this book, therefore incorporates wise attention in addition to mindfulness, concentration, and non-reaction.
In addition to meditative practices, we need to stop ignoring, believing blindly, guessing, speculating, and superficially agreeing. We need to seclude ourselves from things that lead to greed and hatred. We need to minimize mental stiffness, sloth, torpor, laziness, and so on. Using the power of wise attention in daily life, we need to let things, situations, relationships, and experiences help us develop the sense of certainty (through understanding of reality) and abandon the sense of uncertainty.