My teachers have emphasized that it is much more useful to focus on understanding how ignorance works than to get lost in speculation about how it could have arisen in the first place. In his latest book, Uncommon Happiness, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche gives a wonderful explanation of how ignorance works:
“With the support of the perfect teacher and the teaching, when we study our mind, our pain, our habits, our self-cherishing and clinging, we can very clearly and intimately identify how pain and suffering are linked to the habits, how the habits are all linked to the disturbing emotions, the distrubing emotions are all linked to the cherishing and protecting of the self, the cherishing and protecting of the self is linked to the sense of clinging to a self, and finally the sense of clinging to a self is a product of confusion and ignorance.” (p.4)
Thus, we need to gain insight into this process of delusion through developing wisdom and we need to train our mind to change our unconscious deluded habits. One way to change the dynamic of self cherishing is to think of others. As Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche puts it:
“Unconscious ignorant mind operates by cherishing and protecting the self. From this develops the mess of disturbing emotions, the habits they provide, and all the subsequent pain. But the clear conscious mind that is steeped in the wisdom of the Buddha, instead of protecting and cherishing the self, has included cherishing and protecting all others.” (p. 6)
In this regard, the great 8th century Indian saint Shantideva said:
“All the suffering in the world comes from thinking of oneself. All the happiness in the world comes from thinking of others.”
Thus, the way to overcome ignorance and to find true and lasting freedom and happiness is through developing wisdom and compassion.