Avidya – ignorance

“We all sense the presence of soul in our origin and our end.  Looking at the world around us, we are torn between feelings that “soul cannot be in this” and yet, “if the soul exists at all, it must be in this also”.   It’s existence is to be unlimited to our notions of space and time. It’s existence is not defined by or confined to the span of our years between cradle and grave.  It is democratic, if in us then equally in others. (The soul) is not personal; if anything, it is we who belong to it.

If we mistake this separate, necessary but temporary “I-awareness” for our true and abiding identity, if we confuse it with soul, we are in a cleft stick.  What we all most desire is to live and to be a part of life. By choosing to identify with a part of ourselves, that MUST die, we condemn ourselves to death.  By embracing a false identity, accepting the confusion at face value, man places himself in a position of almost unbearable tension. Yoga calls this state “ignorance” and sees it as our fundamental affliction…from our ignorant identification with our ego and its mortality arises  man’s creativity and his destructiveness.

…yet in innumerable ways we endeavor to perpetuate a part of ourselves whose days are numbered, or to comfort ourselves in advance for the coming loss.  

Consumerism cannot be the gateway to immortality.  It is an ineffective and temporary balm against mortality.

The endure the fears of impermanence and to struggle against the inevitable is a tiring business, so at the same time we long equally for loss of self, for fusion, for submergence and transcendence, for release from the burden of the ego.  The egoic self is an exhausting traveling companion, forever demanding that his caprices be pandered to, that his whims be obeyed (though they can never be satisfied), and his fears be calmed (though they never can be).

The lovely asmita, single awareness in single body, is thus, transformed into an insatiable, paranoid, vainglorious tyrant, although this is phenomenon we normally notice in other people.

The reason for this sad transformation is ignorance, the misperception whereby a part of us is taken for the whole.  Much of yoga practice is concerned with cutting the ego down to size and removing the veil of unknowing.”

BKS Iyengar.  Light on Life. pg 121-122.