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Avidya – Ignorance – As explained By Sage Patanali In Yoga Sutras

Avidya, as elucidated by Sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, holds a central place in the philosophical framework of yoga. Patanjali, who is believed to have lived around 200 BCE, expounds the concept of avidya in verses 2.3 to 2.5 of the Yoga Sutras, classifying it as one of the five kleshas or afflictions that hinder spiritual progress. Furthermore, Patanjali identifies avidya as the foundational affliction, giving rise to the others.

In the context of the Yoga Sutras, avidya is a term used to describe a fundamental ignorance or misconception about reality. It is the misunderstanding that leads individuals to perceive the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure, suffering as happiness, and the non-self as the true Self. Avidya, therefore, distorts our perception of the world and ourselves, creating a veil of ignorance that obstructs the realization of our true nature.

Patanjali proposes that the removal of avidya is essential for spiritual liberation and self-realization. He introduces the concept of viveka-khyati, which translates to the discriminating knowledge or discernment that arises through wisdom. According to Patanjali, it is only through viveka-khyati that one can recognize the stark distinction between the pure consciousness of the Self and the inert, insentient nature of prakriti (the material world).

The process of eliminating avidya involves cultivating a deep understanding of the Self as distinct from the external world and recognizing the impermanence and illusory nature of material phenomena. Through dedicated practice, self-inquiry, and the development of discernment, individuals can gradually dispel the ignorance that binds them to the cycle of suffering and rebirth.

In essence, avidya in the context of the Yoga Sutras serves as a critical concept that highlights the importance of self-awareness, discrimination, and the pursuit of true knowledge for achieving spiritual liberation and realizing one's inherent connection to the infinite consciousness.