What is Ignorance?

Back on the End of Suffering, I quoted the Yoga Sutra on ignorance.

2v5: Ignorance is perceiving the non-eternal as eternal, the impure as pure, suffering as happiness, and the non-Self as the Self.

The short way of saying this is ignorance of our true nature or ignorance of reality.

But another way to say ignorance is lack of knowledge, lack of direct experience of our true nature. This leads to the mistakes in the sutra.

In other words, ignorance is an absence. It’s a shadow. It doesn’t actually exist. In fact, it’s lack of awareness of our true existence as the infinite.

The light of consciousness removes the shadow and brings us knowledge of our true nature. And that is the end of ignorance.
Davidya

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5 Responses to What is Ignorance?

  1. Share says:

    What about that wonderful quote from the Vedas:
    Brahman says, “My indestructible maya!”

  2. Share says:

    With the end of ignorance, is there still any laishavidya, remains of ignorance?

  3. Davidya says:

    Hi Share
    Maya is a distinct topic. Maya means to build. It’s a name used for the experience of creation. Our own experience of it is dependent on the dominant guna.

    When tamas is dominant, we’ll experience the world as a covering over the truth, so ignorance will be more likely.

    When rajas is dominant, we’ll experience the world as an illusion or veil (how Maya is typically understood).

    When sattva becomes dominant, then the nature of Maya becomes known.

    However, we don’t have to wait for sattva to have the direct experience of reality and thus begin to correct ignorance. That will in turn tend to shift the guna and thus the experience.

    When ignorance ceases to dominate, creation is seen as Lila, the divine play.

    The quote you reference is beyond this in development, Brahman. It refers to Maya coming to be seen as a direct expression of reality and thus having a concreteness beyond anything known prior.

    The Upanishads offer a related quote: All this is That – this is at first a recognition that all is nothing but that. But later it is more fully embodied in the experience, as above.
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  4. Davidya says:

    Regarding the remains of ignorance, we could say there are layers to ignorance.

    The ignorance described in the Sutra above is resolved with Self Realization. However, it is common for rajas to still be prominent (per the previous comment) and thus the world seems an illusion. We could call this a more subtle type of ignorance.

    Still more subtle, in Unity we go through a whole series of ‘experience and become’. With each uniting, another layer of ignorance is gone and our oneness becomes progressively greater.

    However, it is common for some “faint remains of ignorance” to be sustained for various reasons. It might be a conscious choice to hold some distinction with ones object of devotion. There are always things that have not yet arisen to be united. And there is the simple act of living in the world that apparently requires some distinctions to function.

    I suspect there is the possibility of complete absence of ignorance if there is enough time to do the refinement but such a person would have an astonishing presence with no barriers to being.
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