Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Avidya - tinted window to the world

Clear perception of reality or the 'true nature' in any situation is an important goal in yoga practice. The ancient Yoga Sutras by Patanjali which form the theoretical basis of many modern forms of yoga discuss this point under the topic of avidya, the Sanskrit word अविद्या which translates to 'ignorance' or 'delusion'. Avidya is the opposite of vidya 'knowledge' and describes the misunderstanding and misperception of the nature of things, including ourselves.

Yoga philosophy assumes that there is an absolute reality behind the ever changing phenomena we observe. However, our perspective is limited not only by our human senses and intellect, but in addition by an individual veil of four types:

1) Asmita is translated as 'individuality' or 'egoism'. Asmita refers to how we see the world depending on who we think we are. At any given point this can be a range of limited and sometimes distorted perspectives such as the roles we choose or are given in terms of gender, nationality, within our family and professional lifes.

2) Raga is translated as 'attraction' or 'addiction'. What we hold dear, including past experiences, can cloud our view. Raga, as defined in the Yoga Sutras, does not refer to the act of enjoyment or pleasure as such, but the desire of the mind to repeat the very experience.

3) Dvesha is the opposite to raga and is translated as 'aversion'. Negative past experiences can be recalled in our memory and result in negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and stress. These emotions are then associated with similar objects and situations and limit your openness of approach to a new situation.

4) Abinivesha is the final veil of delusion and is translated as 'fear'. It is fear of loss of identity and continuation of life itself that often colours and constrains our vision by insisting on remaining within the identities that we have created for ourselves, including a limited set of ideologies and individual Weltanschauungen.

In yoga practice we aim to witness and thereby limit thought patterns that blind us from the true nature of things and ourselves.

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