Lack of awareness
In Yoga, avidya is crucial to understanding mental well-being. It is considered to be the core affliction that is the foundation for all other afflictions. It is the mental defect where one is unaware of what is most vital and essential. Patanjali says:
2.4: Avidya kshetram uttaresham
prasupta tanu vichchhinn odaranam
Only through avidya are the other afflictions
able to operate, whether they are latent, budding,
fully expressed or overwhelming.
What is avidya? It is usually translated into English as ignorance or lack of knowledge, but here Patanjali is not writing about the knowledge acquired by learning facts or even through past experience. Actually, accumulating knowledge is only going to complicate rather than purify consciousness. Real vidya comes with purity, with the removal of beliefs, prejudices and clutter in the mind. A better translation of avidya is lack of awareness, as vidya is possible when there is a pure canvas of consciousness upon which awareness and perception can work as a witness. In essence, anything that takes us away from centeredness is avidya and anything that aids us in moving towards our center is vidya.
Avidya is the lack of awareness resulting from a limited consciousness. So the next question is: What limits consciousness? The coverings of samskaras that cloud the purity of our consciousness. And there are two things that are largely responsible for this process of accumulating samskaras: desire and ego.
Desire comes from our mental process of judging things according to what we like and want, or dislike and don’t want. Desire also arises due to a feeling of lack of things (abhav), and due to the overwhelming impressions (prabhav) that things create in us. Desire de-centers us from our main nature (swabhav).
Ego is the function of our mind that identifies with and attaches to “possession.” When the ego is desireless, i.e. it has no likes and dislikes, when it is only identified with the higher Self, then its purpose is to take us to our ultimate destination, and it is one of our greatest instrument in fulfilling our duty or dharma. But most of us identify with other things – our body, mind, work, children, spouse, culture, country, religion, reputation, and even with material things like our house and car.
In essence, anything that takes us away from
centeredness is avidya and anything that
aids us in moving towards our center is vidya.
It is by becoming conscious of desires and ego, and the role they play in creating mental afflictions, that we start to understand mental well-being. In a simplistic way, we can say that during our spiritual journey, the yatra, we learn to master desires in the Heart Region, and master the ego associated with the Mind Region. In fact the play of desires can create drama even if you are traversing through the Mind Region and likewise the ego can display many of its thorny sides while we are in the Heart Region.
So the process of going from avidya to vidya is the process of divesting all identifications, likes and dislikes, in order to return back to simplicity.
Self-study makes us aware of our intentions and actions,
shining a light on our thoughts and feelings.
We refine our character by bringing those habits
and tendencies to light that limit our personalities.
Rather than being judgmental, swadhyaya is done
with self-compassion and is used for continuous improvement.
Avidya can manifest at any time, even in experienced yogis, because of cultural beliefs and lifestyle. For example, even the wisest and most open-minded of us may still hold beliefs because of our backgrounds and cultural experiences at an early age. So it helps to be vigilant about Patanjali’s first two limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, Yama and Niyama, especially the fourth Niyama of swadhyaya or self-study. Self-study makes us aware of our intentions and actions, shining a light on our thoughts and feelings. We refine our character by bringing those habits and tendencies to light that limit our personalities. Rather than being judgmental, swadhyaya is done with self-compassion and is used for continuous improvement.
Heartfulness facilitates self-study in a number of ways:
Through Meditation we learn to become the witness to our inner universe. A few minutes of daily Meditation makes us more and more meditative, the effect of which percolates into our mundane day-to-day activities.
Whenever any inner stir arises, we are quickly aware and can do what is necessary to remove it through the process of Cleaning. We don’t need to be entangled in the emotions of what we see in ourselves.
We are encouraged to write a journal, so as to sensitize ourselves to our inner world. Through this practice we become a better and better witness, with self-acceptance and self-compassion, and we are able to change more easily.
Through Prayerful Connection with our higher Self, we listen to our heart and honor its higher wisdom.
Through the practice of Constant Remembrance, we remain constantly connected with the wisdom of the higher Self. This provides an inner canvas of consciousness that remains immune to samskara formation.
2.5: Anitya ashuchi duhkha anatmasu
nitya shuchi sukha atmakhyatir avidya
Avidya is mistaking the temporal
to be eternal, the impure to be pure,
the painful to be pleasurable, and the lower self
to be the higher Self, the soul or Atman.
Rather than identifying so heavily with the peripheral transitory aspects of life – the body, other ego identifications, behavioral patterns and emotional afflictions – we learn to identify with the inner aspect of our existence, the eternal soul, the source of all joy and pure consciousness. Awareness allows us to see Reality.
The practices of Heartfulness are designed to do exactly that – to uncover our original state of purity and balance. This is why Yoga has never looked at psychology from the perspective of pathology, because it has always focused on the positive approach of attaining the healthiest mental state possible for human beings, that of Samadhi. That is our focus in Yoga.
Article by KAMLESH PATEL
December 03, 2019
December 03, 2019
December 03, 2019