There is a constant dichotomy in our world: good/ evil, useful/bad, pleasant/unfavorable, right/wrong, profitable/unfavorable, and so on. And from an absolute point of view, these concepts are very conventional. What in one situation will be poison for one person, for another will be a cure, and vice versa. The notions of good and evil, right and wrong often turn into dogmas that cause as much harm as the absence of any principles and rules at all.
In his philosophical treatise on yoga, Patanjali described such a phenomenon as “Viveka.” And this is the key to understanding how to distinguish between black and white. Moreover, it is the key to understanding that life is not a black-and-white film, and in addition to these two colors, there is a whole range of colors.
In Sanskrit, “Viveka” means ‘distinction.’ This concept is revealed in the sutra of Chapter 4, Chapter 24. The sutra sounds as follows: “For those who have reached the skill of discernment, the contradictions of the nature of the soul are softened. The point is that all contradictions exist only at the level of the mind. The soul itself is inherently pure and blissful, and knows exactly the absolute truth. And only Avidya (ignorance) forces the mind to be tormented by doubts and contradictions.
In the sutra of 24 Chapter 4, Patanjali reveals the key to eliminating all contradictions and doubts – one must establish oneself in perspicacity, or Viveka. The other facet of this sutra reveals the translation of Svensson: “He who has seen the difference no longer doubts the nature of the Atman. In other words, the one who has learned to correctly distinguish between reality and illusion has learned the nature of Atman as it is.
Another translation of this sutra reveals the essence of Viveka in more detail: “Those who see the difference between the mind and Purusha, stop contemplation of their own being. What does it mean, the contemplation of one’s own being stops? The one who knows the difference between a darkened mind and Purusha begins to realize the illusiveness of his personality, his Ego. He understands that this is just a set of Samskars (karmic imprints) and no more.
The consequences of acquiring Viveka
In sutra 25 of Chapter 4, Patanjali describes the fruits, or consequences, of Viveka. In Falkov’s translation, this sutra reads as follows: “And then the consciousness striving for recognition returns to its former freedom. In this way, Viveca makes it possible to distinguish between the Soul and the Ego, i.e., the true eternal reality and the illusory temporal reality.
Simply put, Viveca is the process of removing masks from one’s true face. And the deeper the Viveca takes root, the deeper the knowledge of one’s own “Ego” can be achieved. Viveka is also a cleaner, more unclouded view of reality.
Sometimes the term “Viveka” is interpreted as a conscience. The word conscience is interpreted as ‘joint news.’ Joint with whom? As one of the versions – joint news with higher consciousness. If we compare it with Patanjali’s interpretation, which describes Viveka as a distinction between “I” and “no-I,” we can notice some identity between these interpretations. As a “joint news” with higher awareness, conscience also gives an understanding of what is eternal and true, and what is temporal and illusory.
Thus, Viveka allows a person on a deep, intuitive level to distinguish between reality and illusion and have an idea of moral standards of behavior. Viveka, among other things, allows you to see the cause-and-effect relationship, and it gives a true understanding of what actions lead to what consequences. This allows you to do the right thing on an intuitive level and refrain from doing the wrong thing.