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Ignorance is disconnection from the Truth

In the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras, the Sadhana Pada, Patanjali outlines “the means to liberation.” Within these key principles we find the five kleshas, or obstacles: ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and clinging to life. Sutra 2.2 introduces the subject very clearly: “The goal of Yoga is not to obtain something that is lacking: it is the realization of an already present reality. Yoga practice removes the obstacles that obstruct the experience of samadhi, or the state of complete absorption” (Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras). He then explains how each obstacle can be resolved in Sutras 2.3 through 2.11. I discuss all five obstacles below and offer easy ways to identify and approach them. I suggest you read one at a time and work on them gradually, so your mind and body can come to understand them. Only through understanding are we able to grow and shed unnecessary habits. Have fun!

Avidya, asmita, raga, dvesa, abhynivesah klesha

These five mental modifications are ignorance, I-ness, attachment, aversion, clinging to life.

Avidya or Ignorance

Ignorance is the lack of awareness and disconnection from the Truth. Wisdom is hence covered by the veil of ignorance in form of thought formations that mislead one away from truth. Avidya is the ground on which all the klesha’s thrive off of. Because of our ignorance we mistake the unreal for the real, we become attached to this reality we create, we identify with it and we suffer because of it. The 'Yoga Vashista' a beautiful text on yoga, talks extensively on this topic. The text is conversation between Rama, Valmiki and Vashista. In one conversation between Rama and Vashista, Vashista reminds Rama: "countless have been the universes that have come into being and that have been dissolved. In fact, even the countless universes that exist at this moment are impossible to conceive of. All this can immediately be realised in one’s own heart, for these universes are the creation of the desires that arise in the heart, like castles built in the air. The living being conjures up this world in his heart and while he is alive he strengthens this illusion; when he passes away he conjures up the world beyond and experiences it—thus there arise worlds within worlds just as there are layers within layers in a plantain stem. Neither the world of matter nor the modes of creation are truly real; yet the living and the dead think and feel they are real. Ignorance of this truth keeps up the appearance."

To be aware and mindful is the opposite of being ignorant. To cultivate awareness, consider how often you do the following

–Mistaking the impermanent for the permanent:

In case you haven’t yet noticed, everything in life tends to change. Take a moment to look back on your life and see all the things you thought you could never live without… but something happened and you managed to readjust! That is mistaking the unreal with the real, the impermanent with permanent.

– Mistaking the impure for the pure:

Find a picture of you as baby! That is Pure, and we all have that inside. I like to have a picture of me as a baby on my night table. I look at it when I feel out of contact with my Truth. Looking at myself in my pure state, before life added layers to me, gives me a sense of direction. Your innocence and purity is always within you; remind yourself of this.

– Mistaking pain for pleasure:

How many times do we need to get burned before we know the nature of fire? While it is sometimes necessary to get burned it is good to know the boundary between what is healthy and serving to your soul, and what is creating pain and separation from your soul.

– Mistaking the non self as the Self:

“To see beauty is to see unity. To perceive unity is to sense the presence of the absolute.” – Lady Ruth Lauer-Manenti

Who are you underneath your clothes? Without your job? Your possessions? Attainments? Hobbies? Get in touch with your eternal Self by stripping away all outer identifications.

More next week...stay tuned :)

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