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Avidya: Primal Ignorance, the Source of Life’s Miseries

AvidyaSutras 4 and 5 of Book Two of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Read Yoga: Science of the Absolute)

4. Avidya is the source of those that are mentioned after it (see What Are the Kleshas?), whether they be in the dormant, attenuated, alternating or expanded condition.

This is why Shankara keeps insisting that jnana alone brings liberation.

5. Avidya is taking the non-eternal [anitya], impure [ashuchi], pain-producing [dukha] and non-Atman [anatman] to be eternal [nitya], pure [shuchi], pleasure-producing [sukha] and Atman respectively.

No comment is really needed for this sutra, just the definitions.

  • Anitya: Impermanent; transient.
  • Ashaucha: Impurity; uncleanness.
  • Dukha: Pain; suffering; misery; sorrow; grief; unhappiness; stress; that which is unsatisfactory.
  • Anatman: Not-Self; insentient.
  • Nitya: Eternal; permanent; unchanging; the ultimate Reality; the eternal Absolute.
  • Shaucha: Purity; cleanliness.
  • Sukha: Happiness; ease; joy; happy; pleasant; agreeable.
  • Atman: The individual spirit or Self that is one with Brahman. The true nature or identity (self).

The whole world is caught in this snare. The yogi must free himself from these illusions right away, even though he must struggle hard against the ignorance and conditionings of many past lives as well as those of this life.

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