avijjá: ‘ignorance,’ nescience, unknowing; synonymous with delusion (moha, s. múla), is the primary 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 delusion tricking 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 (s. vipallása). Ignorance is defined as ‘not knowing the four truths, namely, suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the way to its cessation’ (S. XII, 4).
This is a definition for avijja taken from a Buddhist Dictionary. It goes beyond what I wish to discuss here but it is mainly the first sentence I wish to use. The problem with ignorance is that it is susceptible to the claim that it is just your opinion. In the above definition, the second sentence is typical of this. Buddhists, including myself, believe impermanence, liable to suffering and void of I (Pali – anicca, dukkha and anatta), and therefore a Buddhist might say it is ignorant not to believe this.
Now in terms of science this question of belief is taken to extreme. Because belief is subjective then science rejects all beliefs or categorises them as belief and NOT science. This position is absolutely ludicrous as it therefore categorises as “NOT science” most of human experience. Science sets as the benchmark of that which is knowledge as all that can be proved by scientific method. Essentially this scientific method is proof by logical reasoning, but science in general does not examine the axioms upon which this reasoning is based, yet it claims to. There is also much that is dubious about the scientific proofs that come under the heading of qualitative research. I interpret this research as follows:-
Quantitative method is an incontrovertible method of proof (given that it is applied appropriately – and there are many cases in which it isn’t) based on numbers and objective measurement. However academics found this proof limiting when it came to the area that is not known as Science (maths, physics, chemistry etc.). Academics wished to introduce a method that would allow academic respectability for the social sciences, and they called this qualitative research. Such a methodology often based on case studies can often lead to useful conclusions but what it cannot give is incontrovertible proof as with quantitative research. Personally I don’t mind this, qualitative research is a useful indicator but it is not proof.
A friend, self-professed worshipper of reason, uses the word “verifiable”, I like this word as it does open the door to genuine knowledge, but academia does not wish to enter. First up is the need to discuss empirical evidence, and for me acupuncture is an excellent benchmark when it comes to considering whether academia respects empirical evidence. For thousands of years empirical knowledge, thousands of years of case studies, has led to that bank of medical knowledge that is known as acupuncture. Yet science rejects it. There is a simple explanation for this – money. The medical establishment has been subverted by the finances of Rockefeller etc. and allopathic medicine is the only medicine that can be accepted. Therefore acupuncture whether it has a verifiable basis or not will never be recognised by western academia.
Meditative method is the next empirical method that is worth considering. Somewhere His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) describes the method of meditation as a science. Basically all meditators gravitate to the same point of view. By my recollection he described the method of meditation used in Tibetan Buddhism as always leading to the same understanding, if that is true then there can be no better description of a science – scientific method.
I am not here attempting a proof by quantitative method, and as I assert that this is the only incontrovertible proof accepted by academia what I assert here is not science. However if one accepts that qualitative research through the empirical evidence of case study is actually science then everything I describe has a scientific basis. However I have no wish to contend this because quantitative proof is a misdirection and leads to limited understanding. What is needed is a different epistemology, and that theory for me is based around insight. This epistemology requires an education towards a belief and acceptance of insight, and the use of that skill of insight is the measure of science and the tool that breaks through the veil of ignorance. Of course western academia can never accept this. Whilst they can fool themselves that qualitative research is a substantive proof, they will never accept a subjective methodology such as insight.
But this is typical of the “axioms” of science, they are limited and often erroneous. This blog started with looking at Bruce Lipton’s examination of “genes maketh the man”, this might be true of denim (ha ha) it is certainly not true of people in general. In the last blog I promoted the notion of unity over separation as an axiom for understanding life. This axiom comes from insight, but not mine alone; it is a fundamental axiom of a number of religions and a number of peoples’ insights. At the same time insight brings into question the inadequate model that is separation. Quite obviously separation fits in with quantitative method and observation on an external level. Because of this obvious acceptance such a separation has become an axiom, we are fundamentally separate units as human beings. But the question then is “whilst we can observe bodies of separation, does that mean we as human beings are separate?” Once we start to investigate that question we can see that separation as an axiom is a big assumption. Various words immediately spring to mind to undermine this assumption, gestalt consciousness, collective unconscious, archetypes, etc.
Then we can start to examine Nature. What about ants? Quite clearly they have separate bodies but do they function as separate beings? That is open to question. What about the sea? When you look at the sea you see waves, but can you separate the wave from the sea? That is a ludicrous question. Can you separate individuals from unity for me is an equally ludicrous question? But unfortunately I am in a small minority who think so.
What is preventing science from seeing unity as the axiom? The consequences of the axiom of separation is beneficial to the established order – the 1%, as discussed in the last blog.
Here is an axiom that needs to work hand-in-hand with other axioms – compassion. If your axiom is not beneficial to humanity, and therefore by consequence, ONE planet, then your axiom is flawed. Should compassion be an axiom? Of course it is common sense that any axiom we adhere to has to be of benefit to us all. Measure Insight and Unity by Compassion. When I talk of Insight people argue like “what about Hitler’s insights? Are they insights?” Compassion floors Hitler’s insights.
Look at the consequences of the model of separation. We have competition, we have people “stabbing each other in the back”, and we have the actions of the 1% who think it is acceptable to exploit the 99%. Is this compassionate insight? Have you determined your axioms through insight measured by compassion?
Returning to the theme of ignorance we have some people living in a world where they think they are happy. Their happiness lacks compassion because their happiness is founded on exploitation of others. They lack insight because if they developed insight they could see the way they are. Maybe they look after their families but beyond this they lack humane compassion, and this lack of humanity can exist because they consider that we are all separate and therefore our individual lives matter irrespective of what happens to others. However in unity there has to be compassion, seeing ourselves as one means that compassion is integrated into our being; there is no question because our actions cause ourselves suffering or not. The ignorance of separation means that we cause ourselves suffering, and we delude ourselves that the suffering of others that we cause does not matter. But it is a delusion that it does not matter.
So in the end there is only compassionate insight.