The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Moha (Sanskrit, Pali; Tibetan phonetic: timuk) is a Buddhist term commonly translated as "ignorance", "delusion", "bewilderment", "stupidity", etc. In the Theravada tradition, moha is considered to be a fundamental ignorance of the nature of reality. In the Mahayana tradition, moha is defined as a sub-category of this fundamental ignorance, that is a dumbfounded state of not knowing what to do–a state of being deeply clouded, in which the mind is not clear.
- Ignorance (avijja) is actually identical in nature with the unwholesome root "delusion" (moha). When the Buddha speaks in a psychological context about mental factors, he generally uses the word "delusion"; when he speaks about the causal basis of samsara, he uses the word "ignorance" (avijja).
Nina van Gorkom explains:
- When there is moha we live in darkness. It was the Buddha's great compassion which moved him to teach people Dhamma. Dhamma is the light which can dispel darkness. If we do not know Dhamma we are ignorant about the world, about ourselves; we are ignorant about good and ill deeds and their results; we are ignorant about the eradication of defilements.
- 'Delusion' (moha) has the characteristic of blindness or opposition to knowledge; the essence of non-penetration or the function of covering the intrinsic nature of the object; the manifestation of being opposed to right conduct or causing blindness; the proximate cause of unwise attention; and it should be regarded as the root of all akusala....
Nina van Gorkom explains:
- There are many degrees of moha. When we study Dhamma we become less ignorant about realities; we understand more about paramattha Dhammas, about kamma and vipaka. However, this does not mean that we can already eradicate moha. Moha cannot be eradicated merely by thinking about the truth; it can only be eradicated by developing the wisdom which knows 'the world in the ariyan sense': eye-sense, visible object, seeing-consciousness, ear-sense, sound, hearing-consciousness, and all realities appearing through the six doors.
In the Mahayana tradition, moha is considered to be a subcategory of avidya. Whereas avidya is defined as a fundamental ignorance, moha is defined as an ignorance of cause and effect or of reality that accompanies only destructive states of mind or behavior. Moha is sometimes replaced by avidya in lists of the three poisons. In contemporary explanations of the three poisons, teachers are likely to emphasize the fundamental ignorance of avidya rather than moha.
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche writes:
- While ignorance (avidya) is simply the state of not knowing, stupidity [timuk] is the state of mind that allows us to repeat the same thing over and over again despite its negative consequences. Stupidity shares a partnership with other disturbing emotions, for instance in the way we get burnt again and again by our own aggression or the way, when coupled with attachment, stupidity supports its addictions. The persistent indifference and murkiness of stupidity allow us to continually re-create our mistakes, even if they make us sick.
Chögyam Trungpa writes:
- The klesha of ignorance (timuk) is just superficial ignorance. In contrast, fundamental ignorance (avidya) is the refusal to relate at all with the totality of suffering. You want to boycott the whole situation.
- Naivety (moha) is the confusion, either about cause and effect or about reality, that accompanies destructive behavior and thought. Such confusion may arise because of not knowing about these things or because of apprehending them in an inverted manner.
- bewilderment (Jeffrey Hopkins)
- delusion (Jeffrey Hopkins)
- ignorance (Chogyam Trunpa)
- mental dullness
- naivety (Alexander Berzin)
- stupidity (Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche)