Avidya – Ignorance
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Our minds have gross and subtle thought patterns (vrittis). And these vrittis are either colored (klishta) or uncolored (aklishta). Because of these colored thought patterns we cannot see an object in its real form but through our mind’s modifications regarding that object.

These colored thought patterns are created because of avidya; because of our ignorance.

In sutra 2.5 Patanjali talks about the types of avidya. So a yogi can be aware of this thought patterns and avoid to create the klishta.

Sutra 2.5:

Avidya (ignorance) is of four types:

1. Regarding that which is transient as eternal

2. Mistaking the impure for pure

3. Thinking that which brings misery to bring happiness

4. Taking that which is not self to be self.

अनित्याशुचिदुःखानात्मसु नित्यशुचिसुखात्मख्यातिरविद्या॥५॥

– Antiya ashuchi duhkha anatmasu nitya shuchi sukha atman khyatih avidya

1. The first type of avidya (ignorance) is; regarding that which is transient as eternal.

We take the finite things in our life as they will never end. Think about the most important things in your life right now; they are probably the center of your life. But then think about the most important things in your life 10 years ago. Are they still that important; or do they still exist in your life? Everything we want, everything we experience has a beginning so they will have an ending. But because of avidya, we cannot see this and put all our effort in those objects like they will never end. It may seem like that right now but even we will end one day. Our bodies will end one day. We all know this but because we don’t really comprehend we continue living like everything is infinite.

But then why are we living all these experiences? To get rid of the avidya. To be able to see the real nature of objects, to see that everything has an ending. And with this understanding, you start to go beyond the finite and search for the infinite.

2. Second type of avidya (ignorance) is; mistaking the impure for pure

We think we see the objects (people, things etc.) the way they are, in their pure, real form. But in fact we see everything through the modifications created by our minds. It’s like we look at the world through a filter. Everything you see in this world, you see because of the modifications. If you look at a glass, it is there because of your mind. Your mind creates the glass. You can see the “real” forms of the objects when you reach a certain level in meditation. And to see the reality o the world, you need to reach samadhi.

3. Third type of avidya; thinking that which brings misery to bring happiness

We take the objects as the source for our happiness. We feel an emptiness inside and try to fill that with a new job, new house, new love etc. And after a while, these objects stop making us happy and we start looking for new objects to become happy again. And it continues like this; we keep looking for happiness but we keep ending up in pain. Because of avidya, we don’t realize that the objects in which we try to find happiness are the cause of the pain. Because of avidya we cannot realize how to reach happiness, how to fill that emptiness.

4. Fourth and the last type of avidya is; taking that which is not self to be self.

Because of avidya (ignorance) we take the modifications of our minds and identify ourselves as them. For instance; you are a teacher, you have 2 kids and you don’t like apples. These are all modifications created by your mind after your experiences in life. Now you think yourself as a teacher, a mother and as someone who doesn’t like apples. You combine all the modifications created by your mind until now and create this personality that you think is your true-self. Until you get rid of the avidya, until you become aware of these modifications and realize they are not really you, you will continue to live in this illusion. To find the truth, to become”one” with everything, you have to leave all these things which you considered as yourself, behind.

by Serra Sagra