This article consists of 6 chapters
- Introduction – let your seed sprout! – uncover your impurities!
- Avidya: ignorance
- Asmita: I feeling – the ego
- Raga: attachment to pleasure
- Dwesha: aversion
- Abhinivesah: fear of death + conclusion
Today you can read part 2:
Avidya – ignorance
YS 2.4 Avidya is the root cause
As discussed earlier in this article, avidya is the mother of all kleshas. Avidya is the source of asmita, raga, dwesha and abhinivesha. Just as the seed is the cause of a whole tree, so is avidya the source of the other kleshas. Avidya you can understand by seeing yourself as you are. In avidya you examen your thought patterns and perceptions.
Feeding fear and insecurity on a motorbike
The main way of transport here in Goa is a scooter or motorbike. As I’m from the Netherlands I’m very used to riding a bike but NOT a motorbike. The first few days of my stay here, I felt quite fearful of all those motors coming and going when I found myself walking on the main route. I felt a lack of confidence in the drivers and had fear of being run over. Also, just for a moment thoughts like “ I am a scared, little and insecure person” came into my mind.
Being conscious about the label I gave myself, I decided to work on this feeling. The first time I was invited to have a cup of tea at a friends house and had to jump on the back of his motorbike, it was quite a test to overcome my fear. But yes! I wanted to share a cup of tea and a good chat, so the only thing I could do was brake boundaries in my mind and jump on that motorbike. Now, analysing this situation, I review my fear is related with two things: trust (confidence in the driver’s driving qualities) and surrendering (to the situation).
Funny thing is, whenever I am on the backside of a motorbike and I feel fear, yoga can be quite helpful to surrender to the situation. I concentrate on my two sitting bones and relax my buttocks. Then I lengthen my spine and concentrate on my breath. Doing this helps me to trust the driver’s qualities. Also realizing that a driver usually doesn’t want to end up in a hospital thus drives safely, helps me to build trust.
And yes! Practice, doing things again and again really helps to overcome fear. The last week I jumped on the backside of a motorbike almost every day and I must say driving becomes chill and joyful.
YS 2.5 Avidya is to mistake the non-eternal, impure, evil and noumenon for the eternal, pure, good and atman (respectively)
This sutra gives the most classical definition of avidya. Ordinarily, avidya means ignorance; which has to do with disconnection, self-doubt and/ or lack of self-confidence. In this sutra avidya means something different. It is related to in-separateness.
Who do I think I am?
From a yogic point of view, the feeling of groundlessness is actually an invitation to look seriously at the question: who do I think I am? The Sanskrit word for vidya means wisdom or knowledge – the wisdom earned through deep practice and experience.
In yogic sense, avidya means something that goes far beyond ordinary ignorance. Avidya is a fundamental blindness to reality. The core ignorance we call avidya isn’t a lack of information, but the inability to experience your deep connection to others, to the source of your being and to you true Self. Avidya has many layers and levels, which operate in different ways. We see it threaded in different aspects of our lives: in our survival strategies, relationships, cultural prejudices, the things we hunger for and fear. All forms of cluelessness and fogged perception are forms of avidya. Behind each of avidya manifestations is the failure to recognise – essentially we are – I prefer to call it: ‘light’, others call it ‘spirit’ and others ‘soul’.
A common way in which you can see avidya in action is the habit of thinking that other people should treat you better or that you need someone’s approval to feel good about yourself.
An example: About a year ago I had an injury in the knee, which took a long time to heal. When I went to the doctor I discovered that I had to stop moving so much during the yoga classes I was teaching. Either I had to stay on the mat and practice with my students; either I had to walk around and adjust the students. No longer I could do both on the same time. For me, this triggered a little identity crisis. Since I can remember, my body is an important source of my well being, it’s part of my self-esteem and as I work as a yoga teacher, my income. I remember the first classes I teached, I was a little scared my students wouldn’t like my quality of teaching anymore and would stop coming. But actually doing it, I realised my intentions of guiding a class were the same. Only the way of realising these intentions changed. So…yes! I managed, my students kept coming and I actually discovered new, interesting and inspiring ways of instructing yoga. 🙂
The ‘non seeing’
In the end Avidya is about the ‘non seeing’. Avidya the yoga sutra says: “ is to mistake the impermanent for the eternal, the impure for the pure, sorrow for happiness and the not Self for the true Self.”
YS 2.5 Anityasuchidukhanatmasu nityasuchisukhatmakhyatiravidya
Anitya: non eternal; asuchi: impure; dukha:pain; anatmasu: non-atman; nitya:eternal; suchi: pure; sukha: happiness; atma: self; khyati: knowledge; avidya: avidya
Avidya is to mistake the non-eternal, impure, evil and noumenon for the eternal, pure, good and atman (respectively)
In his book, ‘Four chapters of freedom’, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, comments on this sutra, saying the following: ‘Avidya is the divine illusion, a kind of veil, a morphic dose, a defect of physic vision. Due to avidya we misunderstand our relations with people, just as we mistake a rope for a snake. The error conditions our brain and thoughts. Avidya is a negative aspect; it is an absence of a positive state. Just as we do have to fight with darkness in order to remove it – darkness can be removed by light. In the same way avidya can be removed by viveka; that is enlightenment.’
From personal experience and also from observance of others, I remark people suffer most in relationships. While being in a relationship people can be in avidya, in a divine illusion, in a state of ‘ non seeing’. In relationships people continuously are having expectations of how other people should feel, be or act. Also they can be frustrated because they want things to work out but actually they come to the conclusion it doesn’t work out the way the want.
Also individuals have conscious and unconscious ideas of how they should be, feel or act in certain situations. When you aren’t true to yourself; you actually live in an illusion and sooner or later will become ill (mentally or physically).
Would you like to do a small exercise with me? Take a moment to look on your life. Now concentrate on something or a situation in the past when you felt fear. Than actually something happened and you managed to release your fear and deal with it. Hold that acknowledgement, that sense of ‘ I can’ at hand. See? With this awareness change is less scary!
Another exercise: This exercise you can do whenever you feel disconnected, full of self -doubt or you have a lack of confidence. Close your eyes for a moment. Put one hand on the heart area and one hand on the lower belly. Concentrate on your breath. On every exhale you exhale in direction of your lower belly and concentrate on letting go of the feeling which is bothering you. Every inhale you move the attention towards the heart center and refresh yourself with new air, new energy and positive thoughts. Get in touch with your eternal Self by stripping away the things in mind that are bothering you.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Four chapters on freedom, Yoga publication trust – Bihar. India.
Picture 1: www.omkarrayoga.com
Picture 2: painting by Sophie Nusselder