Maharaj: Yours is the naturalness of a born cripple. You may be unaware but it does not make you normal. What it means to be natural or normal you do not know, nor do you know that you do not know.
From A NOTE ON PAṬICCASAMUPPĀDA
24. We must now again ask the question of §17: 'What about the first item of the paticcasamuppāda formulation—since there is no item preceding it, is it therefore permanent?'. The first item is now avijjā, and the Buddha himself answers the question in a Sutta of the Anguttara Nikāya (X,vii,1 <A.v,113>). This answer is to the effect that avijjā depends upon not hearing and not practising the Dhamma. It is not, however, the only way of answering the question, as we may see from the Sammāditthisutta (Majjhima i,9 <M.i,54>). Here we find that avijjā depends upon āsavā, and āsavā depend upon avijjā. But one of the āsavā is, precisely, avijj'āsava, which seems to indicate that avijjā depends upon avijjā.[k] Let us see if this is so. We know that sankhārā depend upon avijjā—avijjāpaccayā sankhārā. But since something that something else depends upon is a sankhāra, it is evident that avijjā is a sankhāra. And, as before, sankhārā depend upon avijjā. Thus avijjā depends upon avijjā. Far from being a logical trick, this result reflects a structural feature of the first importance.[l] Before discussing it, however, we must note that this result leads us to expect that any condition upon which avijjā depends will itself involve avijjā implicitly or explicitly. (In terms of §23 the foregoing argument runs thus. Avijjāpaccayā sankhārā may be taken as 'with non-seeing of paticcasamuppāda as condition there is paticcasamuppāda'. But this itself is seen only when paticcasamuppāda is seen; for paticcasamuppāda cannot be seen as paticcasamuppanna before paticcasamuppāda is seen. To see avijjā or non-seeing, avijjā or non-seeing must cease. Avijjā therefore comes first; for, being its own condition, it can have no anterior term that does not itself involve avijjā.)
25. The faculty of self-observation or reflexion is inherent in the structure of our experience. Some degree of reflexion is almost never entirely absent in our waking life, and in the practice of mindfulness it is deliberately cultivated. To describe it simply, we may say that one part of our experience is immediately concerned with the world as its object, while at the same time another part of our experience is concerned with the immediate experience as its object. This second part we may call reflexive experience. (Reflexion is discussed in greater detail in Shorter Notes & FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE.) It will be clear that when there is avijjā there is avijjā in both parts of our experience, the immediate and the reflexive; for though, in reflexion, experience is divided within itself, it is still one single, even if complex, structure. The effect of this may be seen from the Sabbāsavasutta (Majjhima i,2 <M.i,8>) wherein certain wrong views are spoken of. Three of them are: Attanā va attānam sañjānāmī ti; Attanā va anattānam sañjānāmī ti; and Anattanā va attānam sañjānāmī ti. ('With self I perceive self; With self I perceive not-self; With not-self I perceive self.') A man with avijjā, practising reflexion, may identify 'self' with both reflexive and immediate experience, or with reflexive experience alone, or with immediate experience alone. He does not conclude that neither is 'self', and the reason is clear: it is not possible to get outside avijjā by means of reflexion alone; for however much a man may 'step back' from himself to observe himself he cannot help taking avijjā with him. There is just as much avijjā in the self-observer as there is in the self-observed. (See CETANĀ [b].) And this is the very reason why avijjā is so stable in spite of its being sankhatā.[m] Simply by reflexion the puthujjana can never observe avijjā and at the same time recognize it as avijjā; for in reflexion avijjā is the Judge as well as the Accused, and the verdict is always 'Not Guilty'. In order to put an end to avijjā, which is a matter of recognizing avijjā as avijjā, it is necessary to accept on trust from the Buddha a Teaching that contradicts the direct evidence of the puthujjana's reflexion. This is why the Dhamma is patisotagāmī (Majjhima iii,6 <M.i,168>), or 'going against the stream'. The Dhamma gives the puthujjana the outside view of avijjā, which is inherently unobtainable for him by unaided reflexion (in the ariyasāvaka this view has, as it were, 'taken' like a graft, and is perpetually available). Thus it will be seen that avijjā in reflexive experience (actual or potential) is the condition for avijjā in immediate experience. It is possible, also, to take a second step back and reflect upon reflexion; but there is still avijjā in this self-observation of self-observation, and we have a third layer of avijjā protecting the first two. And there is no reason in theory why we should stop here; but however far we go we shall not get beyond avijjā. The hierarchy of avijjā can also be seen from the Suttas in the following way.
But which, friends, is nescience?...
That which is non-knowledge of suffering,
non-knowledge of arising of suffering,
non-knowledge of ceasing of suffering,
non-knowledge of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering,
this, friends, is called nescience.
And which, monks, is the noble truth of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of arising of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of ceasing of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering?
Just this noble eight-factored path, that is to say: right view...
And which, monks, is right view?...
That which is knowledge of suffering,
knowledge of arising of suffering,
knowledge of ceasing of suffering,
knowledge of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering, this, monks, is called right view.
Avijjā is non-knowledge of the four noble truths. Sammāditthi is knowledge of the four noble truths. But sammāditthi is part of the four noble truths. Thus avijjā is non-knowledge of sammāditthi; that is to say, non-knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths. But since sammāditthi, which is knowledge of the four noble truths, is part of the four noble truths, so avijjā is non-knowledge of knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths. And so we can go on indefinitely. But the point to be noted is that each of these successive stages represents an additional layer of (potentially) reflexive avijjā. Non-knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths is non-knowledge of vijjā, and non-knowledge of vijjā is failure to recognize avijjā as avijjā. Conversely, it is evident that when avijjā is once recognized anywhere in this structure it must vanish everywhere; for knowledge of the four noble truths entails knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths, and vijjā ('science') replaces avijjā ('nescience') throughout.[n]