the great ignorance debate

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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby retrofuturist » Tue May 11, 2010 2:14 am

Greetings Nathan,

Excellent find, re: the Gunaratana quote. That makes a lot of sense and validates the unnerving discontent I had with regards to the treatment of moha as being synonymous to avijja.

You mention dependent origination, and whilst I'm normally the first to dive into a comparative discussion on the three-life/temporal/objective model versus the structural/subjective model of dependent origination, I might hold back just for a moment to pose the following question that seem more pertinent to the topic at hand...

A putthujana obviously possesses a degree of avijja (complete ignorance?) whereas at the other end of the spectrum an arahant has none. A sekha (non-arahant noble one) however, would presumably be somewhere in between. How does dependent origination apply to the sekha? Is there avijja sometimes, is there avijja in different degrees, or is it an all or nothing case of vijja and avijja, period? If it's something other than "always yes" or "always no", what implications does this have on our understanding of dependent origination, and the concept of avijja in general?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby nathan » Tue May 11, 2010 3:57 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Nathan,

Excellent find, re: the Gunaratana quote. That makes a lot of sense and validates the unnerving discontent I had with regards to the treatment of moha as being synonymous to avijja.

You mention dependent origination, and whilst I'm normally the first to dive into a comparative discussion on the three-life/temporal/objective model versus the structural/subjective model of dependent origination, I might hold back just for a moment to pose the following question that seem more pertinent to the topic at hand...

A putthujana obviously possesses a degree of avijja (complete ignorance?) whereas at the other end of the spectrum an arahant has none. A sekha (non-arahant noble one) however, would presumably be somewhere in between. How does dependent origination apply to the sekha? Is there avijja sometimes, is there avijja in different degrees, or is it an all or nothing case of vijja and avijja, period? If it's something other than "always yes" or "always no", what implications does this have on our understanding of dependent origination, and the concept of avijja in general?

Metta,
Retro. :)


hi Retro

Yeah, I would think that there are two terms for a reason but I have been away from the books for quite a while now and so it is going to be a while before pali starts to seem familiar again. I didn't have many books for quite a while and so I'm only now returning to study and most of my thinking for the last few years has been based in a much more hands on approach to the practice. So I'm not keen to jump into debating models of DO either. In the same way, while I could comment on your question, about what avijja is like for a sekha, from that same kind of hands on context I have become increasingly leery of making those kinds of comments because of the kinds of cans of worms that those kinds of statements lead to. Unfortunately, the only other alternative is to go research what the cannon and other commentators have to say about it.

I will continue to research it because I think the question relates to some of my own broader questions about the extent to which ignorance plays a role in how things are. If we take the much narrower definition of ignorance as specifically the ignorance of the 4NT then even in the case of the Arahat and the Buddha there is still quite a lot of other kinds of ignorance that could be said to persist about a great many aspects of the universe. I don't want to minimize the accomplishments of Arahats or Buddhas in any way but I would like to have a better sense of the extent of the ignorance that appears to be so much more prevalent in so many other ways. I don't want to dwell on ignorance to the point that it becomes counter productive, but I would like to make a more honest appraisal of the roles that ignorance actually plays in our lives.

My concern is that if ignorance is so easily mistaken for a sense of self then where else might we be similarly mistaking ignorance for something else. The specific case of avijja as ignorance of the 4NT may have all kinds of complex interrelationships with moha about ourselves and the universe we live in.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby retrofuturist » Tue May 11, 2010 4:11 am

Greetings Nathan,

nathan wrote:The specific case of avijja as ignorance of the 4NT may have all kinds of complex interrelationships with moha about ourselves and the universe we live in.

In the context of my earlier question, do you take avijja to be a 'real time' indicator of how one is interpreting their world in the present (i.e. with ignorance, with wisdom) or more broadly in the terms of one's sum of knowledge, which may or may not be front of mind in the present moment?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby appicchato » Tue May 11, 2010 5:08 am

nathan wrote:
appicchato wrote:
Maybe, maybe not.


One size fits all?...this applies to everything in life...


I applaud your pithy posts Venerable but in this case I am not really sure what you have been intending to say.


Hi Nathan...good to see you here...

The answer to your question (Does ignorance predominate in our individual lives and thoughts and/or in the state of affairs in the world, or not?), to me, is so self-evident that I wonder why it would even be presented as a question...hence my stating what I thought/think to be the obvious...after which you said 'Maybe, maybe not'...and this, to me, is also stage center in what is self-evident in every aspect of life...so...what's to discuss?...nothing is absolutely, verifiably, 100%, for certain (some might say that it's certain we're all going to die, but even that's up for grabs, no?)...and not to change the subject, but if you have an example that is (certifiably not 'Maybe, or maybe not', I would be interested...

Bit of a ramble here, I admit...just trying to explain my thought on the matter...
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby Pannapetar » Tue May 11, 2010 5:32 am

I think I have to agree with Ven. Appicchato on this one. The question is a good example of a so-called no-brainer. No offense. It's just so glaringly obvious. The more interesting question is whether we as a species are on a threshold of development where knowledge makes a difference, or perhaps phrased more clearly: do we have the capacity to free ourselves out of the mire of ignorance? The very occurrence of a Buddha would suggest this. I doubt therefore that Buddhists can deny this without contradicting the dhamma, but what about non-Buddhists? There are a good number of people who believe we are doomed one or another way.

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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby retrofuturist » Tue May 11, 2010 5:42 am

Greetings Pannapetar ,

I don't see how it's a 'no brainer'... at least not until you define vijja and avijja.

How would you answer this question - viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4317&start=20#p65013

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby Pannapetar » Tue May 11, 2010 6:14 am

retrofuturist wrote:I don't see how it's a 'no brainer'...


I was referring to the OP's original question: Does ignorance predominate in our individual lives and thoughts and/or in the state of affairs in the world, or not?

retrofuturist wrote:How would you answer this question - viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4317&start=20#p65013


I'd say that the question is not phrased properly. Avijja is not an 'indicator', but the root cause. Avijja isn't always read easily in others and it is very very difficult to detect in oneself, hence it is not an 'indicator'.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby PeterB » Tue May 11, 2010 6:33 am

You havent understood Avijja. Avijja isnt read in others. Its a given, just as dukkha antta and anicca are givens. What we cant assess in others and only in part in ourselves is Moha.
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby retrofuturist » Tue May 11, 2010 6:39 am

Greetings Peter,

PeterB wrote:Its a given, just as dukkha antta and anicca are givens. What we cant assess in others and only in part in ourselves is Moha.

I realise this wasn't directed at me, but I'm interested to know by what definition/logic you consider avijja to be "a given"? (Therefore, I'll now ask you this question too...)

Do you take avijja to be a 'real time' measure of how one is interpreting their world in the present (i.e. with ignorance, or with wisdom) or more broadly in the terms of one's sum of knowledge, which may or may not be front of mind in the present moment?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby PeterB » Tue May 11, 2010 6:49 am

A given in that as long as we are not enlightened our perception/cognitions will always have their origin in Avijja. It is an a priori. The first link in paticcasamuppada.
Which I think answers the second bit too.

:anjali:
Last edited by PeterB on Tue May 11, 2010 6:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby cooran » Tue May 11, 2010 6:57 am

Hello Peter,

Yes.

with metta
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby nathan » Tue May 11, 2010 6:57 am

appicchato wrote:The answer to your question (Does ignorance predominate in our individual lives and thoughts and/or in the state of affairs in the world, or not?), to me, is so self-evident that I wonder why it would even be presented as a question...hence my stating what I thought/think to be the obvious...after which you said 'Maybe, maybe not'...and this, to me, is also stage center in what is self-evident in every aspect of life...so...what's to discuss?...nothing is absolutely, verifiably, 100%, for certain (some might say that it's certain we're all going to die, but even that's up for grabs, no?)...and not to change the subject, but if you have an example that is (certifiably not 'Maybe, or maybe not', I would be interested...

Bit of a ramble here, I admit...just trying to explain my thought on the matter...[/i]
Ok Venerable, I think I understand you to be saying that without question ignorance does play a large role in many aspects of our lives, thoughts and in the world at large and that this is something you readily observe. If that is what you are saying then I am compelled to agree with you as it is also something that I think I observe more often than not.

That is what I have been angling at with this discussion. When I look a bit more closely at the common contemporary sense that we have about knowing a lot about many things, for me that frequently gives way to the insight that in actuality there is a lot more ignorance about things than we are comfortable admitting to ourselves about many of those same things. It seems to me that in many ways the implicit tendency is to consider modern people as relatively knowledgeable compared to people in the past and that this knowledge we have about things is much more significant than the ignorance that this same knowledge so commonly obscures. That's the kind of stuff that gets me questioning all kinds of so called knowledge and makes me curious about just how significant the role of ignorance is. The questions I posed are not specifically important, I'm just fishing for people's input on the topic of ignorance in general. I'm curious if other people think about ignorance and what they might think.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby nathan » Tue May 11, 2010 7:13 am

PeterB wrote:A given in that as long as we are not enlightened our perception/cognitions will always have their origin in Avijja. It is an a priori. The first link in paticcasamuppada.
Which I think answers the second bit too.

:anjali:
I have been reading about avijja all day and it seems that there actually are a number of things that are the subject of debate or differences of thought on the subject. Here is something typical of my reading that demonstrates that the subject of avijja is not as cut and dried as you suggest in your post.


from:
http://www.buddhamind.info/leftside/tea ... -ay_ph.htm


Paticca Samuppada - Avijja

Avijja is the first link in the chain but should not in any way be thought of as the starting point, the 'causeless root-cause of the world.' The images of the circular chain and the wheel representing paticca samupada [P.S.] are useful as neither has a defined starting point. The conventional layout of the P.S. formula is intended for reflection, not as any kind of finite cosmological or psychological definition.
"No first-ignorance can be perceived, monks, before which ignorance was not, and after which it came to be. But it can be perceived that ignorance has its specific conditions." Anguttara X.61
So what are the 'specific conditions' that cause ignorance?
"With the arising of taints (asava) there is the arising of ignorance." Majjhima 9
And then we want to ask after the cause of the taints. Read the section on asava [ § ] but enough here to note that the standard list of four includes ignorance. Have we just gone in a circle here? Trying to position avijja creates a loop similar to the one we find in the eight-fold path: the first step is right view (of the Four Noble Truths) and the last of the Four Truths... is the eight-fold path. We will find many such loops in P.S. as we proceed. Nibbana (the end goal) can be defined as: "being perfect in knowledge (vijja)" and, "endowed with higher knowledge (te-vijja)." If nibbana is where we finish then we are clearly starting from "the absence of vijja," which is: a-vijja. So, avijja sits first on the list as representing a primary obstacle to liberation - and a primary cause of dukkha. The teaching of the Buddha has at its core the Four Noble Truths and, as a working summary, ignorance is not knowing the Four Noble Truths.
avijja = ignorance; unawareness; unknowing; obscured awareness; delusion about the nature of the mind. All unwholesome states of mind are inseparably bound up with it. The standard English translation, ignorance, has its roots in the Greek word 'gnosis' = (revealed) spiritual knowledge, and it is where the words diagnosis and prognosis come from. Ignorance is the state of not-knowing or, in the particular context of dhamma, non-wisdom. We tend to think of knowledge in terms of facts and information but the path to freedom (from the wheel of birth and death - the chains of P.S.) lies in the space of the mind, the non-positional 'knowing' that is the domain of awareness. And what does this awareness know? - the Four Noble Truths.
Underlying the Four Noble Truths is the teaching on not-self (anatta  § ) and an even more basic definition of avijja is the held belief that: I am the five khandhas. I believe that the five khandhas are me, that they are mine and that they constitute my-self. This parallels the the Buddha's summary definition of suffering as "the grasping of the five khandhas" [ § ].
We can also consider:
• ignorance of the 3 conditions [ § ]; the basic truth for all existance: that everything is impermanent, is dukkha (unsatisfactory) and is not-self.
• ignorance as confused thinking based on conjecture and imagination, conditioned by beliefs, fear, and accumulated character traits. This is the kind of mental 'squirrel in a cage' that most people experience. Not dukkha with a capital 'D' but just the everyday form of ignorance/confusion. Yes?
The overall thrust of the Buddha's teaching is "freedom from suffering" and where the Four Noble Truths presents the conditioned relationship of desire and dukkha we see P.S. offering avijja-dukkha. The purpose is the same: to understand the cause of dukkha is to have a key to be free from dukkha.
When the mind operates based entirely on avijja, it experiences all things as being independent, seperated, alien entities. The observation is one of me (here) holding various knowledges, views, etc. about all-that-stuff (out there). Even the body is seen as a kind of other-thing; it is my body - my thoughts, my children, my car and so forth. The apparent, or presumed point of observation is thought to be the centre, with all else peripheral - this is what it is to be ego-centric. Most of us suffer from this delusion but in the normal run of things are not so extremely positioned. I doubt you would be reading this if you were. There is hope :)
From this ego-centric position another ignorance that we fall prey to is that of continuity. This appears in two ways. The first is a presumed extension of existance. Of course we all know that everything is impermanent but our knowledge is largely of the factual, conceptual variety. I do know that I am going to die - but of course it is... when? certainly later - always at some other (later) time. I don't truely know the nature of impermance. It is often not until there is a close death or we get the terminal diagnosis that we really begin to investigate impermanence. The second, and related aspect of continuity is the creation of time - the past and... OF COURSE, the future - my future. It is the only way the first bit can work. If I had a past, and I am now, then I will most likely have a future. It is this ongoing (ignorant) attempt to sustain, this attempt to substantiate 'me' that is the conditioning factor for the next link - sankhara.
In terms of dealing with ignorance - in the context of liberation - we can use a very broad definition of avijja: not being familiar with your own mind. It is through this non-familiarity that we confuse our conditioned perceptions of the world, of reality, with the truth - the dhamma. We tend to regard the impermanent as permanent, the unpleasant (dukkha) as pleasant and the not-self as self. Part of the problem here is that there is much business in our lives and there is not a lot of stillness, not a lot of time to reflect on the nature of... well, nature. Too much of our effort to be free of suffering is focussed on attacking the shadow of suffering - we fail to see its actual form. Meditation is an effective technique - stop, look and listen.
So, a mind that is centered and still, gives rise to knowledge, wisdom. The cultivation of this knowledge is the path. All the things of this world that come parading before the senses for you to know are potential causes of suffering. Gaurd the mind against latching onto the preoccupations that appear in relation to those things. Let them be, let them just exist in line with their nature. Put your mind at ease. Don't fasten onto the formations of the mind or suppose these things to be this or that. As long as you suppose your-self, you're suffering, your awareness is obscured; there is avijja. When you can truly know this, penetrate this, the transcendent will arise within you -- the noblest good, the most exalted happiness a human being can know. These words of encouragement from Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo. 

"Monks, I don't envision even one other obstruction -- obstructed by which people go wandering & transmigrating on for a long, long time -- like the obstruction of ignorance. Obstructed with the obstruction of ignorance, people go wandering & transmigrating on for a long, long time." Itivuttaka I.14 

• avijja is synonomous with moha (delusion) the third of the three poisons
• it is one of the asava (taints, effluents, corruptions, out-flows)
• one of the anusaya (proclivities, inclinations, tendencies)
• one of the samyojana (fetters)
and.... needless to say it regularly figures as a prominent 'bad guy' in many other aspects of the teachings.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby PeterB » Tue May 11, 2010 7:16 am

Even if there is an overlap in our terminology it might be useful to distinguish between Avijja ( literally lack of seeing, a-vid ) and Moha (delusion ).
It may be useful to contemplate Avijja as the first universal link in D.O. and Moha as its corollory. Which is Avijja as experienced in an individual stream of Citta.
In reality of course there is no qualitative difference..ignorance gives rise to a false ego sense which gives rise to Dukkha.
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby Pannapetar » Tue May 11, 2010 7:20 am

PeterB wrote:You havent understood Avijja. Avijja isnt read in others. Its a given, just as dukkha antta and anicca are givens. What we cant assess in others and only in part in ourselves is Moha.


Peter, this is useless haggling over terminology.

Avijja translates pretty straightforward into "ignorance" or "not knowing". As such it can be read in others indirectly, namely by means of identifying wrong perceptions, erroneous views, delusional ideas, and so forth (i.e. "moha"). I trust that you as a psychiatrist are familiar with projection. That is a prime example of how avijja manifests. It is difficult to identify and correct.

Avijjja is also one of the three characteristics of samsara, as you correctly mentioned. This is a more narrow perspective of avijja, because it is only concerned with the metaphysics of samsara.

Avijja is also the root cause of all suffering and the first link of dependent origination.

But first and foremost, avijja is ignorance, a condition that Buddhist practice seeks to eradicate.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby PeterB » Tue May 11, 2010 7:27 am

nathan wrote:
PeterB wrote:A given in that as long as we are not enlightened our perception/cognitions will always have their origin in Avijja. It is an a priori. The first link in paticcasamuppada.
Which I think answers the second bit too.

:anjali:
I have been reading about avijja all day and it seems that there actually are a number of things that are the subject of debate or differences of thought on the subject. Here is something typical of my reading that demonstrates that the subject of avijja is not as cut and dried as you suggest in your post.


from:
http://www.buddhamind.info/leftside/tea ... -ay_ph.htm


Paticca Samuppada - Avijja

Avijja is the first link in the chain but should not in any way be thought of as the starting point, the 'causeless root-cause of the world.' The images of the circular chain and the wheel representing paticca samupada [P.S.] are useful as neither has a defined starting point. The conventional layout of the P.S. formula is intended for reflection, not as any kind of finite cosmological or psychological definition.
"No first-ignorance can be perceived, monks, before which ignorance was not, and after which it came to be. But it can be perceived that ignorance has its specific conditions." Anguttara X.61
So what are the 'specific conditions' that cause ignorance?
"With the arising of taints (asava) there is the arising of ignorance." Majjhima 9
And then we want to ask after the cause of the taints. Read the section on asava [ § ] but enough here to note that the standard list of four includes ignorance. Have we just gone in a circle here? Trying to position avijja creates a loop similar to the one we find in the eight-fold path: the first step is right view (of the Four Noble Truths) and the last of the Four Truths... is the eight-fold path. We will find many such loops in P.S. as we proceed. Nibbana (the end goal) can be defined as: "being perfect in knowledge (vijja)" and, "endowed with higher knowledge (te-vijja)." If nibbana is where we finish then we are clearly starting from "the absence of vijja," which is: a-vijja. So, avijja sits first on the list as representing a primary obstacle to liberation - and a primary cause of dukkha. The teaching of the Buddha has at its core the Four Noble Truths and, as a working summary, ignorance is not knowing the Four Noble Truths.
avijja = ignorance; unawareness; unknowing; obscured awareness; delusion about the nature of the mind. All unwholesome states of mind are inseparably bound up with it. The standard English translation, ignorance, has its roots in the Greek word 'gnosis' = (revealed) spiritual knowledge, and it is where the words diagnosis and prognosis come from. Ignorance is the state of not-knowing or, in the particular context of dhamma, non-wisdom. We tend to think of knowledge in terms of facts and information but the path to freedom (from the wheel of birth and death - the chains of P.S.) lies in the space of the mind, the non-positional 'knowing' that is the domain of awareness. And what does this awareness know? - the Four Noble Truths.
Underlying the Four Noble Truths is the teaching on not-self (anatta  § ) and an even more basic definition of avijja is the held belief that: I am the five khandhas. I believe that the five khandhas are me, that they are mine and that they constitute my-self. This parallels the the Buddha's summary definition of suffering as "the grasping of the five khandhas" [ § ].
We can also consider:
• ignorance of the 3 conditions [ § ]; the basic truth for all existance: that everything is impermanent, is dukkha (unsatisfactory) and is not-self.
• ignorance as confused thinking based on conjecture and imagination, conditioned by beliefs, fear, and accumulated character traits. This is the kind of mental 'squirrel in a cage' that most people experience. Not dukkha with a capital 'D' but just the everyday form of ignorance/confusion. Yes?
The overall thrust of the Buddha's teaching is "freedom from suffering" and where the Four Noble Truths presents the conditioned relationship of desire and dukkha we see P.S. offering avijja-dukkha. The purpose is the same: to understand the cause of dukkha is to have a key to be free from dukkha.
When the mind operates based entirely on avijja, it experiences all things as being independent, seperated, alien entities. The observation is one of me (here) holding various knowledges, views, etc. about all-that-stuff (out there). Even the body is seen as a kind of other-thing; it is my body - my thoughts, my children, my car and so forth. The apparent, or presumed point of observation is thought to be the centre, with all else peripheral - this is what it is to be ego-centric. Most of us suffer from this delusion but in the normal run of things are not so extremely positioned. I doubt you would be reading this if you were. There is hope :)
From this ego-centric position another ignorance that we fall prey to is that of continuity. This appears in two ways. The first is a presumed extension of existance. Of course we all know that everything is impermanent but our knowledge is largely of the factual, conceptual variety. I do know that I am going to die - but of course it is... when? certainly later - always at some other (later) time. I don't truely know the nature of impermance. It is often not until there is a close death or we get the terminal diagnosis that we really begin to investigate impermanence. The second, and related aspect of continuity is the creation of time - the past and... OF COURSE, the future - my future. It is the only way the first bit can work. If I had a past, and I am now, then I will most likely have a future. It is this ongoing (ignorant) attempt to sustain, this attempt to substantiate 'me' that is the conditioning factor for the next link - sankhara.
In terms of dealing with ignorance - in the context of liberation - we can use a very broad definition of avijja: not being familiar with your own mind. It is through this non-familiarity that we confuse our conditioned perceptions of the world, of reality, with the truth - the dhamma. We tend to regard the impermanent as permanent, the unpleasant (dukkha) as pleasant and the not-self as self. Part of the problem here is that there is much business in our lives and there is not a lot of stillness, not a lot of time to reflect on the nature of... well, nature. Too much of our effort to be free of suffering is focussed on attacking the shadow of suffering - we fail to see its actual form. Meditation is an effective technique - stop, look and listen.
So, a mind that is centered and still, gives rise to knowledge, wisdom. The cultivation of this knowledge is the path. All the things of this world that come parading before the senses for you to know are potential causes of suffering. Gaurd the mind against latching onto the preoccupations that appear in relation to those things. Let them be, let them just exist in line with their nature. Put your mind at ease. Don't fasten onto the formations of the mind or suppose these things to be this or that. As long as you suppose your-self, you're suffering, your awareness is obscured; there is avijja. When you can truly know this, penetrate this, the transcendent will arise within you -- the noblest good, the most exalted happiness a human being can know. These words of encouragement from Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo. 

"Monks, I don't envision even one other obstruction -- obstructed by which people go wandering & transmigrating on for a long, long time -- like the obstruction of ignorance. Obstructed with the obstruction of ignorance, people go wandering & transmigrating on for a long, long time." Itivuttaka I.14 

• avijja is synonomous with moha (delusion) the third of the three poisons
• it is one of the asava (taints, effluents, corruptions, out-flows)
• one of the anusaya (proclivities, inclinations, tendencies)
• one of the samyojana (fetters)
and.... needless to say it regularly figures as a prominent 'bad guy' in many other aspects of the teachings.

No of course nathan . One is forced to use conventions of temporality.
This in fact ties in nicely with the Rebirth thread.
We , in order to have any understanding intellectually of processes that ultimately transcend concepts have to posit hypothesis' that in the end break down. The whole Rebirth debate as much as this current debate is generally expressed in terms of a conventional idea of sequential time.
Having accepted that convention we then "forget" that it a convention and start to concretise it.
In reality if we follow Buddhadasa for example there is no starting point in D.O. because time arises dependantly too.
I have used the analogy before but it is the same problem as " What preceded the BIg Bang ?" Answer the question does not arise because " before" does not compute. Time came into being with the Big Bang. Just so sequential time is a product of D.O. Not its ground.
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby PeterB » Tue May 11, 2010 7:29 am

Pannapetar wrote:
PeterB wrote:You havent understood Avijja. Avijja isnt read in others. Its a given, just as dukkha antta and anicca are givens. What we cant assess in others and only in part in ourselves is Moha.


Peter, this is useless haggling over terminology.

Avijja translates pretty straightforward into "ignorance" or "not knowing". As such it can be read in others indirectly, namely by means of identifying wrong perceptions, erroneous views, delusional ideas, and so forth (i.e. "moha"). I trust that you as a psychiatrist are familiar with projection. That is a prime example of how avijja manifests. It is difficult to identify and correct.

Avijjja is also one of the three characteristics of samsara, as you correctly mentioned. This is a more narrow perspective of avijja, because it is only concerned with the metaphysics of samsara.

Avijja is also the root cause of all suffering and the first link of dependent origination.

But first and foremost, avijja is ignorance, a condition that Buddhist practice seeks to eradicate.

Cheers, Thomas

How is a negative eradicated ?
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby PeterB » Tue May 11, 2010 7:45 am

To answer my own question...which in the end is what Buddhism can do for us and no more..Avijja is not simply an absence of concepts, or a presence of wrong concepts..although it includes those. Avijja is something that we actively do. Avijja is what arises until and to the degree that Insight has not arisen.
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby nathan » Tue May 11, 2010 8:11 am

PeterB wrote: One is forced to use conventions of temporality.


For the record, here is an example of someone who does not think they are forced to use conventions of temporality.

http://nanavira.110mb.com/sn-patic.htm
Notes on Dhamma
PATICCASAMUPPÁDA

In spite of the venerable tradition, starting with the Patisambhidámagga (or perhaps the Abhidhamma Pitaka) and continued in all the Commentaries (see Anguttara V,viii,9 <A.iii,107,§4>), paticcasamuppáda has nothing to do with temporal succession (cause-and-effect). Precedence in paticcasamuppáda is structural, not temporal: paticcasamuppáda is not the description of a process. For as long as paticcasamuppáda is thought to involve temporal succession (as it is, notably, in the traditional 'three-life' interpretation), so long is it liable to be regarded as some kind of hypothesis (that there is re-birth and that it is caused by avijjá) to be verified (or not) in the course of time (like any hypothesis of the natural sciences), and so long are people liable to think that the necessary and sufficient criterion of a 'Buddhist'[a] is the acceptance of this hypothesis on trust (for no hypothesis can be known to be certainly true, since upon the next occasion it may fail to verify itself). But the Buddha tells us (Majjhima iv,8 <M.i,265>) that paticcasamuppáda is 
 
sanditthiko akáliko ehipassiko opanayiko paccattam veditabbo viññúhi.
immediate, timeless, evident, leading, to be known privately by the wise.

What temporal succession is akálika? (See CITTA [a].) For an ariyasávaka, paticcasamuppáda is a matter of direct reflexive certainty: the ariyasávaka has direct, certain, reflexive knowledge of the condition upon which birth depends. He has no such knowledge about re-birth, which is quite a different matter. He knows for himself that avijjá is the condition for birth; but he does not know for himself that when there is avijjá there is re-birth. (That there is re-birth, i.e. samsára, may remain, even for the ariyasávaka, a matter of trust in the Buddha.) The ariyasávaka knows for himself that even in this very life the arahat is, actually, not to be found (cf. Khandha Samy. ix,3 <S.iii,109-15> and see PARAMATTHA SACCA [a]), and that it is wrong to say that the arahat 'was born' or 'will die'. With sakkáyanirodha there is no longer any 'somebody' (or a person -- sakkáya, q.v.) to whom the words birth and death can apply. They apply, however, to the puthujjana, who still 'is somebody'.[b] But to endow his birth with a condition in the past -- i.e. a cause -- is to accept this 'somebody' at its face value as a permanent 'self'; for cessation of birth requires cessation of its condition, which, being safely past (in the preceding life), cannot now be brought to an end; and this 'somebody' cannot therefore now cease. Introduction of this idea into paticcasamuppáda infects the samudayasacca with sassataditthi and the nirodhasacca with ucchedaditthi. Not surprisingly, the result is hardly coherent. And to make matters worse, most of the terms -- and notably sankhára (q.v.) -- have been misconceived by the Visuddhimagga.
It is sometimes thought possible to modify this interpretation of paticcasamuppáda, confining its application to the present life. Instead of temporal succession we have continuous becoming, conceived as a flux, where the effect cannot be clearly distinguished from the cause -- the cause becomes the effect. But this does not get rid of the temporal element, and the concept of a flux raises its own difficulties.[c]
The problem lies in the present, which is always with us; and any attempt to consider past or future without first settling the present problem can only beg the question -- 'self' is either asserted or denied, or both, or both assertion and denial are denied, all of which take it for granted (see NA CA SO). Any interpretation of paticcasamuppáda that involves time is an attempt to resolve the present problem by referring to past or future, and is therefore necessarily mistaken. The argument that both past and future exist in the present (which, in a certain sense, is correct) does not lead to the resolution of the problem.


Footnotes:
[a] To be a follower of the Buddha it is certainly necessary to accept on trust that for one who is not rid of avijjá at his death there is re-birth, but it is by no means sufficient. What is sufficient is to see paticcasamuppáda -- 
 
Yo paticcasamuppádam passati so dhammam passati
He who sees dependent arising sees the Teaching.
(Majjhima iii,8 <M.i,191>). For those who cannot now see the re-birth that is at every moment awaiting beings with avijjá, the dependence of re-birth on avijjá must be accepted on trust. They cannot get beyond temporal succession in this matter and must take it on trust that it is a question of dependence (and not of cause-and-effect) -- i.e. that it is not a hypothesis at all, but (for the Buddha) a matter of certainty. But accepting this on trust is not the same as seeing paticcasamuppáda. (Past and future only make their appearance with anvaye ñánam [see NA CA SO [a]), not with dhamme ñánam. 'As it is, so it was, so it will be.' Paticcasamuppáda is just 'As it is' -- i.e. the present structure of dependence.) [Back to text]
[b] So long as there are the thoughts 'I was born', 'I shall die', there is birth and death: so long as the five khandhá are sa-upádáná, 'somebody' becomes manifest and breaks up. [Back to text]
[c] The notion of flux can be expressed thus: A = B, B = C, A  C, where A, B, and C, are consecutive (Poincaré's definition of continuity). This contradiction can only be concealed by verbal legerdemain. (The origin of this misleading notion, as of so many others in the traditional interpretation, seems to be the Milindapañha, which, to judge by its simile of the flame, intends its formula na ca so na ca añño to be understood as describing continuous change.) The misunderstanding arises from failure to see that change at any given level of generality must be discontinuous and absolute, and that there must be different levels of generality. When these are taken together, any desired approximation to 'continuous change' can be obtained without contradiction. But change, as marking 'the passage of time', is no more than change of aspect or orientation: change of substance is not necessary, nor is movement. (See ANICCA [a], CITTA [a], & FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE.) Kierkegaard (op. cit., p. 277) points out that Heraclitus, who summed up his doctrine of universal flux in the celebrated dictum that one cannot pass through the same river twice, had a disciple who remarked that one cannot pass through the same river even once. If everything is changing, there is no change at all.
The assumption of a single absolute time, conceived as a uniform continuity (or flux) of instants, leads at once to a very common misconception of the Dhamma: 
 
A.
Even if I now perceive things as self-identically persisting in time, my present perception is only one out of a flux or continuous succession of perceptions, and there is no guarantee that I continue to perceive the same self-identities for two successive instants. All I am therefore entitled to say is that there appear to be self-identities persisting in time; but whether it is so or not in reality I am quite unable to discover.
B.
The Buddha's teachings of impermanence and not-self answer this question in the negative: In reality no things exist, and if they appear to do so that is because of my ignorance of these teachings (which is avijjá).

But we may remark: (i) That A is the result of taking presumptively the rational view of time, and using it to question the validity of direct reflexive experience. But the rational view of time is itself derived, ultimately, from direct reflexive experience -- how can we know about time at all, if not from experience? --, and it is quite illegitimate to use it to dig away its own foundations. The fault is in the act of rationalization, in the attempt to see time from a point outside it; and the result -- a continuous succession of isolated instants each of no duration and without past or future (from a timeless point of view they are all present) -- is a monster. The distinction in A (as everywhere else) between 'appearance' and 'reality' is wholly spurious. (ii) That since our knowledge of time comes only from perception of change, the nature of change must be determined before we can know the structure of time. We have, therefore, no antecedent reason -- if we do not actually encounter the thing itself -- for entertaining the self-contradictory idea (see Poincaré above) of continuous change. (iii) That, whether or not we do actually perceive continuous change, we certainly perceive discontinuous changes (so much is admitted by A), and there is thus a prima-facie case at least in favour of the latter. (iv) That the experiments of the Gestalt psychologists indicate that, in fact, we perceive only discontinuous changes, not continuous change (cf. Sartre, op. cit., p. 190). (v) That if, nevertheless, we say that we do at times and in the normal way have intuitive experience, distinct and unambiguous, of continuous change, and if we also say that continuous change, in accordance with B, is what is meant by the teaching of impermanence, then it will follow that at such times we must enjoy a direct view of 'reality' and be free from avijjá. Why, then, should we need a Buddha to tell us these things? But if we reject the first premiss we shall have no longer any grounds for having to assert a uniformly continuous time, and if we reject the second we shall have no longer any grounds for wishing to assert it. (On the question of self-identity, see ATTÁ.)
Our undeniable experience of movement and similar things (e.g. the fading of lights) will no doubt be adduced as evidence of continuous change -- indeed, it will be said that they are continuous change. That movement is evidence of what it is, is quite certain; but it is not so certain that it is evidence of continuous change. We may understand movement as, at each level of generality, a succession of contiguous fixed finite trajectories (to borrow Sartre's expression), and each such trajectory, at the next lower level, as a relatively faster succession of lesser trajectories, and so on indefinitely. But, as discussed in FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE [h], our ability to perceive distinctions is limited, and this hierarchy of trajectories is anomalously apprehended as a series of discrete continuities of displacement -- which is, precisely, what we are accustomed to call movement. In other words, it is only where our power of discrimination leaves off that we start talking about 'continuous change'. (Consideration of the mechanism of the cinematograph -- see the foregoing reference -- is enough to show that continuous change cannot safely be inferred from the experience of movement; but it must not be supposed that the structure of movement can be reduced simply to the structure of the cinematograph film. See also FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE [m].) [Back to text] 
 
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: the great ignorance debate

Postby retrofuturist » Tue May 11, 2010 8:40 am

Greetings Peter,

I'm trying to reconcile these two perspectives...

PeterB wrote:(Avijja is) A given in that as long as we are not enlightened our perception/cognitions will always have their origin in Avijja. It is an a priori. The first link in paticcasamuppada.


PeterB wrote:Avijja is something that we actively do. Avijja is what arises until and to the degree that Insight has not arisen.


When you say enlightened, are you talking about one who is a sekha or an asekha?

What about the degree to which insight has arisen? How does that factor into dependent origination?

(Sorry if any of these questions have in fact been answered above)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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