Avidya: what is it

19:07, 5 October 2020
Yoga 'Avidya: what is it
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Suffering. All living creatures, one way or another, experience it. There are rough and subtle forms of suffering, but suffering is an integral part of the cycle of rebirth. According to “Yoga Sutras Patanjali, there are five causes of suffering, or five “Klesh: ignorance, selfishness, attachment, disgust, lust for life. “Klesh” in Sanskrit translates as ‘suffering. Because the cause of suffering is inseparable from suffering itself and inseparable from it. Therefore, to eliminate suffering, it is necessary to eliminate the cause of suffering.

Avidya, or ignorance, is considered the root, that is, the root cause of all suffering. And already ignorance, in turn, generates another suffering. Patanjali himself wrote about this in the fourth sutra of the second chapter. In the version of the translation of this sutra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, ignorance is called the “field for the next Klesh,” no matter what state these Klesh are in. Kleshs, in one form or another, are present in every mind. They may be asleep or active, or in intermediate states – weakened or depressed.

For example, anger is also one of the Klesh, and the intensity of its manifestation depends on the degree of ignorance in which a living creature resides. Here we should consider what is meant by the term “Avidya” itself. It is not a question of low intellect or lack of education. The concept of ‘Avidya’ should be understood as a fundamental misconception about oneself and the world around us. The term “Avidya” itself is indicative.

The word “Vidya” is translated as “knowledge,” prefix “a” is denial; that is, the absence of this quality. Thus, Avidia is a lack of knowledge. This is explained in more detail by Patanjali himself in the fifth Sutra of the second chapter.

In the translation by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, “Avidya” is interpreted as “the erroneous acceptance of not eternal, impure evil and non-atman for eternal, pure, good and atman. The term “atman” in yoga refers to the soul, the highest “I” of a living being. An eternal, immortal spiritual essence that is not born does not die; it exists forever, changing bodies in the process of reincarnation.

In the “Bhagavad Gita,” the process of reincarnation is compared with the change of old clothes to new ones. In the same way, the soul changes bodies, gaining experience. And Avidya is, first of all, a delusion based on identification with the body. In contrast, the body is only a temporary shell of the soul, which the soul acquires according to the accumulated karma.

The term “non-atman” means Ego – a kind of superstructure over the true “I” of a living being, which is formed in the process of accumulation of karma. Thus, a non-atman is an accumulation of karmic imprints, or Samskar, created by past actions or formed by the environment. The collection of these karmic imprints creates the illusion that a living being, because of ignorance, perceives his personality as his “I.

Avidia causes all other sufferings, because if a living being perceives his Ego as his own “Ego,” then he is doomed to act solely under the influence of karma, realizing his karmically determined desires and aspirations. Only if a person can realize himself as an immortal soul, or at least theoretically assume this, there is an opportunity to get out of the influence of his karma partially.

By getting out from under the influence of karma, in this case, we mean not the absence of retribution for past actions, but a certain degree of freedom from karmic conditionality in thoughts and actions. And this allows us to change the vector of development.

When there is a self-awareness process as an eternal, immortal soul, not only Avidia, but all the other Kleshas are destroyed, and as a result, all suffering stops. With the destruction of Avidia comes a state, which Patanjali described as yoga’s goal – citta vritti nirodha. “Chitta translates as ‘mind’ or ‘consciousness,’ Vritti translates as ‘hesitation’ or ‘anxiety.’ And ‘Nirodha’ is ‘cessation.’ That is, one version of the translation is ‘cessation of anxiety in mind’.

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