Non-delusion (mental element 52, NDe)
Non-delusion is known as the wisdom element, as it removes the subtlest of all impurities (ignorance, ego, I-ness) and thereby makes the mind perfect. Both the subtlest and the most powerful of all the mental elements, it permeates and conditions all beneficial mental activities.
Non-delusion is the ultimate root cause of all that is spiritually profitable in the world. Non-delusion illuminates the totality of reality and eradicates illusion. When non-delusion is present, no subject-object separation remains because it illuminates the phenomenological nature of experience. The illusion of a seer separate from the scenery, a thinker separate from the thought, or an experiencer separate from that which is being experienced dissolves.
Non-delusion does not allow consciousness to be deluded by the senses and the unwholesome mind. It is like a light that does not allow darkness to exist. It is like an extremely sharp laser that can penetrate all layers of delusion, such as identity derived from race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, region, social stature, gender or gender preference, parental or familial roles, physical appearance or strength, mental competence and ability, and states of consciousness. Ultimately, the penetrative power of non-delusion exposes the real nature of the self so that nothing remains to be exposed about it. Non-delusion is that by means of which we can expose the ultimate essence of all things. Therefore, it is known as the destroyer of ignorance and the builder of wisdom.
Non-delusion is the subtlest of mental elements. It can only be arrived at by removing layer after layer of delusion, a task much like peeling an onion to the core. This core, when arrived at, is found to be thoroughly empty. In this sense, non-delusion is the faculty of mind that eliminates mental confusion and bewilderment by guiding us to the core of nothingness, which means no thing-ness (such as I-ness), aka selflessness.
Non-delusion should not be understood merely as the absence of delusion. It also is the opposite of delusion, that by means of which we can rid ourselves of delusion. Non-delusion is an active parameter.
The mere absence of delusion does not make one wise. It requires both absence of delusion and presence of non-delusion to become wise. Similarly, mere absence of delusion does not result in the end of ignorance. It is due to the absence of delusion and the presence of non-delusion that one can destroy ignorance and attain freedom from all imperfections.
Non-delusion has its own intrinsic nature.
Psychologically, non-delusion means the absence of ego. Non-delusion manifests as knowing the self in terms of the phenomena of body-mind-consciousness or of materiality-mentality. Non-delusion makes you know yourself as you are and not as you appear to be. This knowing is principally different from the manners of perceiving and cognizing. This knowing is simply knowing, which is an extremely subtle state beyond mind-consciousness and at the same time not separate from it. This knowing is not always present in mind-consciousness, so it needs to be cultivated.
When we perceive a body, we know it as a male or female, short or tall, beautiful or ugly, and so on. Mere perception cannot know the deeper aspects of the body. When we go further and try to cognize human body, we penetrate the perceptual layer and experientially understand the body as an impermanent and impersonal phenomenon of matter. For cognition to occur, the body has to be experienced as a changing phenomenon of matter that is happening of its own accord without the control of any fixed entity. This happens through meditation and contemplation.
Mere cognition of change and non-self cannot arouse wisdom. Non-delusion arises when, and only when, the cognition of change and non-self manifests as wisdom. The arousal of wisdom is what the element of non-delusion is all about. The subtle difference between cognition and wisdom is that in cognition there is still a hidden cognizer, whereas in wisdom there is only awareness and understanding without a subtle feeling of being a self that is aware. Wisdom is pure understanding.
Wisdom is the act of knowing that is rooted in non-delusion. Such knowing is egoless knowing. It completely releases us from the subtlest knots of bondage of all ego-driven concepts, perceptions, and cognitions, and culminates in perfection. Non-delusion is ultimately responsible for the attainment of perfect intelligence.
Imagine that three people are looking at a vintage car: a perceiver, a cognizer, and a wise person. The perceiver simply perceives (knows) the car as an old vehicle. The cognizer knows the car as a vintage car—a collector’s car—that is a precious vehicle because he has experienced its value in the marketplace. The wise (non-deluded) person not only recognizes the car as a precious vehicle but also as a luxury sports vehicle having so much horsepower and so much fuel efficiency, and as being made of such-and-such materials by such-and-such carmaker with a certain reputation. A wise person understands the car by extending the penetration so deeply and thoroughly that nothing else remains to be known about the car.
Notwithstanding the preceding description, non-delusion should not be confused with thoroughness or material perfection. The example was a simple way of demonstrating the subtle difference between perceiving, cognizing, and understanding. Let us look at how these distinctions can help us in daily life.
You are driving through busy streets of a metropolis, running late, trying to reach your office on time. Suddenly you are overtaken by a speeding car, which cuts across your path just before the traffic lights turn red, thus forcing you to stop. If you look at this episode from the viewpoint of a perceptive mind, you will most likely feel frustrated and enraged, and burn with these feelings. If you look at it from the viewpoint of a cognitive mind, you will detect these unpleasant feelings and identify them as a reaction to the event.
If you apply the element of non-delusion to the same situation, you will realize the truth of your reaction and try to figure out what caused it. In addition you’ll wonder what prompted the other driver to speed up like that. Non-delusion creates an opportunity to investigate why someone would do such a thing. You might guess that the guy was in a hurry to take someone to the hospital or that he was running late and desperately needed to be somewhere, rather than deciding that the guy is a jerk who was put on Earth to ruin your morning. Due to the application of non-delusion, you will set aside your ego and try to understand.
Pragmatically speaking, non-delusion can be appreciated as a mental faculty that enables us to understand others and ourselves. Based on my own practice, I have come to value non-delusion as a force generating empathy and peace within my relationships.
Philosophically, non-delusion is pure knowledge. It can be identified as the purest state of awareness, meaning a state of consciousness that has been purified of all traces of ignorance.
Spiritually, non-delusion is the state of enlightenment. Being non-deluded simply means abiding in pure awareness.
Since non-delusion is the subtlest of all elements, it is the most powerful. The ultimate mental power that arises out of non-delusion is like nuclear power arising out of the ultimate core of matter.1 The only difference is that the ultimate power of non-delusion does not have any side effects. It is foolproof. It cannot be used for unwholesome purposes. It is thoroughly wholesome under all circumstances and in every situation. It is the prime root element, which is present to some degree in all states of wholesome consciousness.
If you want to set one goal for your entire life, the development of non-delusion would be my suggestion.