Yoga Sutra 2.5: Four types of ignorance or veiling
(for more info)
2.5 Ignorance (avidya) is of four types: 1) regarding that which is
transient as eternal, 2) mistaking the impure for pure, 3) thinking
that which brings misery to bring happiness, and 4) taking that which
is not-self to be self.
Vidya is WITH knowledge: Vidya means knowledge, specifically the
knowledge of Truth. It is not a mere mental knowledge, but the
spiritual realization that is beyond the mind. When the "A" is put in
front of Vidya (to make it Avidya), the "A" means without.
Avidya is WITHOUT knowledge: Thus, Avidya means without Truth or
without knowledge. It is the first form of forgetting the spiritual
Reality. It is not just a thought pattern in the conventional sense of
a thought pattern. Rather, it is the very ground of losing touch with
the Reality of being one with the ocean of Oneness, of pure
Meaning of ignorance: Avidya is usually translated as ignorance,
which is a good word, so long as we keep in mind the subtlety of the
meaning. It is not a matter of gaining more knowledge, like going to
school, and having this add up to receiving a degree. Rather,
ignorance is something that is removed, like removing the clouds that
obstruct the view. Then, with the ignorance (or clouds) removed, we
see knowledge or Vidya clearly.
Even in English, this principle is in the word ignorance. Notice that
the word contains the root of ignore, which is an ability that is not
necessarily negative. The ability to ignore allows the ability to
focus. Imagine that you are in a busy restaurant, and are having a
conversation with your friend. To listen to your friend means both
focusing on listening, while also ignoring the other conversations
going on around you. However, in the path of Self-realization, we want
to see past the veil of ignorance, to no longer ignore, and to see
The four major forms of ignorance or avidya described in the Yoga
1. Seeing the temporary as eternal: For example, thinking that the
earth and moon are permanent, or behaving as if our possessions are
permanently ours, forgetting that all of them will go, and that our
so-called ownership is only relative.
2. Mistaking the impure for the pure: For example, believing that our
thoughts, emotions, opinions, or motives in relation to ourselves,
some other person, or situation are purely good, healthy, and
spiritual, when they are actually a mixture of tendencies or
3. Confusing the painful to be pleasureful: For example, in our
social, familial, and cultural settings there are many actions that
seem pleasure filled in the moment, only later to be found as painful
4. Thinking the not-self to be the self: For example, we may think of
our country, name, body, profession, or deep predispositions to be
"who I am," confusing these with who I really am at the deepest level,
the level of our eternal Self.
A mistake of direction: Avidya is a sort of mistake of direction (not
meaning that manifestation of people or the universe is a mistake).
One direction leads you into greater suffering, while the other leads
towards the eternal joy.