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Karma and Avidya or Ignorance

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Excerpted from the approximately 20 page article: Karma and the Sources of Actions, Speech, and Thoughts http://www.swamij.com/karma.htm (Includes useful
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27, 2005
      Excerpted from the approximately 20 page article:
      Karma and the Sources of Actions, Speech, and Thoughts
      (Includes useful graphics; scroll down for the Avidya section)

      AVIDYA/IGNORANCE: Avidya means ignorance, or to not see clearly.
      Ignorance does not mean stupid or lacking in intelligence, but refers
      to the root ability to ignore.

      WAVE FORGETS IT IS OCEAN: Imagine an ocean, which is an ocean of
      Consciousness, and that the wave forgets that its essential nature is
      that of the ocean itself. That forgetting, or ignoring, allows the
      wave to think that it is an individual, independent of the ocean. We
      humans do this too; we forget we are part of the whole, and
      declare, "I am so-and-so."

      See also Yoga Sutras on Avidya or Ignorance:

      Sutras 2.3-2.4 on five colorings
      Sutra 2.5 on four kinds of Avidya

      KINDS OF AVIDYA: The aspect of Avidya that has to do with our
      fundamental forgetting that we are part of the whole is an extremely
      subtle part of our being. However, this process also manifests in
      more surface ways as well. For example, Avidya (ignorance) sets the
      stage for us to confuse pain for pleasure, impure thoughts for pure
      thoughts, temporary for long lasting, and our actions as being our
      identity. You might want to read through Yoga Sutra 2.5 on types of

      OPENS THE DOOR TO KARMA: This primal forgetting or ignorance of
      Avidya allows for the possibility of the chains of Karma, or cause
      and effect. Imagine for a moment that you were a totally enlightened
      sage, and that you never, ever, lost touch with your eternal Self. If
      you were in that state, you would be free, at all times, even when
      actions were playing out! However, those who are not free, who do
      have Karma, are influenced by this foundation of Ignorance or Avidya.
      In forgetting our True Nature and falsely identifying ourselves with
      the objects of the world that are stored in the mind, we are subject
      to the playing out of the seemingly endless cycles of desires and
      actions, cause and effect. The whole process of Karma begins with, or
      rests on the foundation of Avidya or Ignorance.

      AVIDYA IS AN ABILITY: This Avidya or Ignorance is actually an ability
      or skill, in addition to being the most subtle obstacle; it is not
      all bad. While it is true that Avidya masks our True Nature, it also
      allows us to function in the world. Imagine that you did not have the
      ability to ignore all of the thoughts going on in your unconscious
      mind at a given moment. This could be a state of what psychologists
      calling flooding of unconscious material, which might be called
      psychosis. If we were masters of non-attachment (See Yoga Sutras 1.15-
      1.16), then we could be completely open, with no Avidya or Ignorance,
      and we would be unaffected by that flood of thoughts. That would be a
      state of complete freedom from the bondage of Karma, the bondage of
      thought, and the bondage of Avidya. However, in the meantime, it is
      good to see how Avidya sets the stage for the play of Karma, so we
      can do the practical work in our daily lives as spiritual aspirants.
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