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Chapter 7: dancing on ignorance - The Good Heart Project

He who knows not and knows not that he knows not; he is a fool - shun him! He who knows not and knows that he knows not; he is simple - teach him! He who knows and knows not that he knows; he is asleep - wake him! He who knows and knows that he knows; he is wise - follow him! - Isabel Lady Burton 1831-1896 From time to time, I feel a need to surrender to the wisdom of mythological stories. One of these I encountered recently, when my sisters told me about Shiva dancing on the demon of ignorance, and the story became more relevant, when I decided to start learning Bharatnatyam, one of the oldest classical dance traditions in India. The dance form is described in the Hindu scriptures and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, also known as Nataraja. There is a famous depiction of Lord Shiva, where he is dancing and standing with one leg on a small person. The small person is called Apasmaara. He is a demon that represents ignorance, selfishness, and laziness. Mostly referred to as a dwarf, he is most likely be have been intended to be a person in the body of a child, reflecting small-mindedness and immaturity. The story goes, that Apasmaara was spreading its impact on the world with ignorance. In order to subdue the spread of ignorance Shiva had to subdue Apasmaara's influence. This is the moment, where Lord Shiva is believed to have adopted the form of Nataraja. In the form of Nataraja, he performed the cosmic dance of Tandava and during this dance, he suppressed Apasmaara, subduing him and his ignorance with his right foot. The belief, is that that Apasmaara had to be subdued, not killed. Why? Just imagine, what would happen if ignorance was killed: Wisdom would be freely accessible, and with everything that is freely and widely available, it loses value. To preserve the value and the need to attain spiritual knowledge, Lord Shiva had to make sure the balance between wisdom and ignorance is maintained. And this could only be done by subduing Apasmaara. Lord Shiva then adopted the form of Nataraja, and danced the cosmic dance of Tandava, while suppressing ignorance. It had never occurred to me before hand that the entire world's evil can be concluded down to ignorance. My previous superior once told me, for every disagreement, you can assume that both sides do not have the same information. This really gives you perspective in any argument you might have. And this understanding helps you gain perspective, which keeps you calm within the realm of the discussion - because you know: both parties don't have the same information. I do often find myself jumping from one learning curve to the next learning curve. Each learning curve having different levels of ignorance, and its associated impact on competency and confidence. I loved the below illustration showing the Dunning Kruger Effect demonstrating the various levels of competency.

The difficult phases are those filled with confidence and flooded with an unconscious incompetence. One day we suddenly realize how less we know, and that's where progress happens - the beginning of conscious incompetence. Another interesting framework were the 5 orders of ignorance. 1 - Lack of Ignorance: when I (probably) know something. 2 - Lack of Knowledge: when I don't know something. 3 - Lack of Awareness: when I don't know that I don't know something. 4 - Lack of Process: when I don't know a suitably efficient way to find out I don't know that I don't know something. 5 - Meta-ignorance: when I don't know about the Five Orders of Ignorance. Reading Swami Vivekananda's book called "Atmabodha", I stumbled open a different take on the definition of ignorance. Swami Vivekananda describes it on a more abstract level: "Ignorance is termed as indescribable because if it is real, it cannot be destroyed by knowledge; and if it is unreal, it cannot create this world. So it is neither real nor unreal. Hence we call it indescribable." Whichever space you find yourself in right now, remember that ignorance will always be there. It's just our responsibility to identify it and proactively engage in knowledge to subdue ignorance whenever we identify it. And another thing that is important - appreciate and be grateful for moments in life that teach you where your unconscious incompetency's lie, because that's where we can focus our attention on an truly progress. Join me on this journey to let go of fear both within us and within others while embracing the connection to your own good heart. Let's unleash the goodness in our hearts! With love, Ushma

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