Avijjā: I gnorance, nescience, the blindness of not knowing, is synonymous with confusion moha (see mūla ), is the primary & deepest root of all evil and suffering in the world, veiling man’s mental eyes and preventing him from seeing the true nature of things. It is the confusion that fools beings by making life appear to them as permanent, happy, substantial and beautiful and preventing them from seeing that everything in reality is impermanent, liable to suffering, void of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, and basically impure see: vipallāsa. Ignorance is defined as not knowing the Four Noble Truths, namely, suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the way to its ceasing see: S. XII, 4.
As ignorance is the foundation of all life-maintaining actions, and the root of all evil and suffering, it therefore stands first in the formula of Dependent Origination paticca - samuppāda. But for that reason, says Vis.M XVII, 36f ignorance should not be regarded as the causeless root-cause of the world, since is not causeless. The cause of it is stated thus: With the arising of mental fermentations āsava there is the arising of ignorance M. 9. But there is a figurative way in which it can be treated as a root-cause; namely, when it is made to serve as a starting point in an exposition of the Round of Existence… As it is said: No first beginning of ignorance can be perceived, Bhikkhus, before which ignorance was not, and after which it came to be. But it can be perceived that ignorance has its specific causal condition idappaccaya A. X, 61. The same statement is made A. X, 62 about the craving for existence bhava-tanhā (see tanhā ). Craving and ignorance are called the outstanding causes or creators of the kamma that lead to unhappy and happy destinies Vis.M XVII, 38.
As ignorance still exists though in a very refined way until the attainment of Arahatship, it is counted as the last of the 10 mental chains samyojana, which bind beings to the cycle of rebirths. As the first two roots of evil, greed and hate (see: mūla ), are on their part rooted in ignorance, consequently all disadvantageous states of mind are inseparably bound up with ignorance. Ignorance or confusion is the most obstinate, dense, deep, subtle, hidden and fearsome of the three roots of evil.
Ignorance is one of the fermentations āsava and latent tendencies anusaya. It is often called a hindrance nīvarana e.g. in S. XV, 3; A. X, 61 but does not appear together with the usual list of five hindrances. It is however immanent in them all, yet especially dominant in doubt & uncertainty vicikicchā.