Ignorance – not so obvious!

Ignorance is a fundamental concept in Advaita and most people who call themselves Advaitins will believe that they understand what it is. After all, enlightenment is often equated to the gaining of Self-knowledge, which is equivalent to the removal of ignorance. Here is the definition of avidyA in John Grimes’ excellent ‘Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy’:

“It is the key concept in the Advaita Vedanta system. It serves as the cornerstone for Advaita Vedanta metaphysics, epistemology, and ethical disciplines; thus its role cannot be belittled. It is characterized by six marks: it is beginningless (anAdi); it is removed by right knowledge (j~nAna- nivartya); it is a positive entity of the nature of an existent (bhAva rUpa); it is indescribable (anirvachanIya); it has the two powers of concealment and projection which respectively represent the truth and suggest the false (AvaraNa and vikShepa); and its locus is either in the individual self (jIva) or in the Absolute (Brahman).”

And this is pretty much how most teachers and writers use the term. For example, in ‘Back to the Truth’, I said: “As long as the ignorance remains, there will be identification of one form or another and we will believe ourselves to be other than our true nature. The ignorance is said to be anAdi, without any beginning, and it will continue until it is removed by knowledge and enlightenment dawns.” This is backed up by shruti. The sarvopaniShad, for example, says (verse 1): “…this egoism is the bondage of the soul. The cessation of that egoism is mokSha, liberation. That which causes this egoism is avidyA, nescience.” Other, later scriptures echo this; e.g. the advaita bodha dIpaka: “Though the Self is Brahman, there is not the knowledge of the Self (being Brahman). That which obstructs the knowledge of the Self is Ignorance. Just as ignorance of the substratum, namely the rope, projects the illusion of the snake, so Ignorance of Brahman projects this world.” Continue reading

Seven Stages of Chidabhasa

chidAbhAsaGuest Author – Vijay Pargaonkar
Seven Stages of Chidabhasa

Based on Panchadasi by Vidyaranya Swami

Chapter 7.0 “Trupti Deepa”(marathi translation by Pundit Vishnu Shastry Bapat (1908) and hindi translation by Pundit Ramavatar Vidyapati (1912))

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4-4-12



“If a man knows the Self as “I am This” then desiring what and for whose sake will he suffer in the wake of the body.”
(The entire Trupti Deepa chapter of Panchadasi is based on this shruti mantra)

Kutastha, the pure Consciousness, is asanga (without any association) and avikari (immutable). This Kutastha is also the adhisthana (substratum) of “bhrama” (illusions- not to be confused with Brahman) of indriya-sharira (body- mind complex). When it gets associated (the association is only vyavaharic/transactional and not real) with mind through anyonya-adhyasa (mutual superimposition) it is known as Jiva. Kutastha’s reflection in mind “chidabhasa” alone cannot be the Jiva since it has no existence of its own without Kutastha – image in a mirror is not possible unless there is a face behind it. The mixture/combination of chidabhasa and Kutastha is also referred to as purusha in the the shruti above. Continue reading

Q. 358 – mAyA and avidyA

1) If Atman is perfect, how can it ever be deluded by mAyA?

2) What is the source of avidyA? If there is only brahman, how and why does avidyA exist?

Answers are provided by: Ted, Martin, Shuka, and Dennis.

A (Ted):
1) Atman (i.e. pure limitless awareness) is never really deluded by mAyA (i.e. ignorance), but rather only apparently so.  Given the non-dual nature of reality and, thus, the fact that Brahman-Atma is the only thing — though, of course, pure awareness cannot be said to be a “thing” at all due to its attributeless and unobjectifiable nature — that exists, mAyA is nothing other than Brahman-Atma itself.  That is, it is a power inherent in the very nature of Brahman-Atma.  Ironically, if Brahman-Atma, whose nature is limitless, were limited by the inability to apparently delude itself, it would not be limitless and, therefore, would not be Brahman-Atma :-). Continue reading