What is the nature of my ignorance of Japanese? I don’t know. What is the type of ignorance of Finnish? I don’t know. What is the quality of my ignorance of my true nature? I don’t know. The uniform answer we may get when questioning anybody about their ignorance of something is, “I don’t know!” This “I don’t know” thought is the cause for the existence of the subtle body, which in turn manufactures our own gross body in the mother’s womb. It is this piece of ignorance that travels up to the tomb.
This is called the causal body as it is the cause for the other two parts of our being—subtle and gross. It cannot be explained in any words. To describe ignorance is like trying to describe darkness. You can only say darkness is darkness is darkness! When did my “I don’t know Japanese begin?” The answer again will be “I don’t know!” Ignorance has always been there and hence it is called beginningless. The causal body is the form of ignorance. “I don’t know.” This thought is the very cause of our independent existence in this universe.
Everything in the universe exists. Table exists. Laptop exists. Trees exist. Animals exist. Fish exist. Oceans exist. Mountains exist. People exist. Celebrations exist. Mind exists. Intellect exists. While the table, laptop, trees, animals, fish, oceans, mountains, people, celebrations, mind and intellect are all different things, existence of all this is one. There is only one existence. Not knowing this one existence is called ignorance. This has got nothing to do with the bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees we may have. Not knowing the real thing that exists is ignorance.
Ignorance too is called nirvikalpa. Vikalpa means change and modification. Nirvikalpa means changeless. The ignorance of mathematics and the ignorance of geography or history are not different types of ignorance. They are the same. This ignorance is the causal body.
Why does Sri Adi Sankaracharya explain this so much in detail in Tatwa Bodha? It is to say that my self, the seer, is different from this ignorance too. The description is given to make it clear that this ignorance is not me and I have to discover my true nature which is
Continuing from the earlier definition of the self as that which is beyond the three states of consciousness, the Master describes them as the waking, dream and deep sleep states. The waking world is gross experience felt by the sense organs of perception and action, the dream world is subtle and in the deep sleep world I experience an absence of all experiences.