It reminds me of the parable of the man walking outside during twilight. He shrieks at the sight of a coiled snake and runs, tripping on a stone and breaking his leg. A neighbor overhears his cries and comes out with a lantern. Holding the light up, it reveals not a serpent, but a pile of coiled rope.
The reactions of the resentful woman and the fearful man are both examples of avidya. The term is often translated into English as “ignorance.” More accurately, however, avidya means the “absence of correct knowledge.” In Sanskrit, “a-” means “absence of,” and “vidya” means “right knowledge.” In Buddhist teachings, this concept is called “wrong perception.” Our yoga teachings would have us explore this concept as the human tendency to believe a wrong perception.
A Western translation of ignorance implies knowing nothing at all. Avidya, however, suggests that we do know something, but that we have interpreted or understood it incorrectly. In the Yoga Sutra, Swami Satchidananda translates Sri Patanjali’s teachings on avidya as “when we are convinced the impermanent is permanent, the impure is pure, the painful is pleasant, and the non-Self is Self.”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Teachers Share Works - They Read at the End of Class
Shine by Andrea Gibson
Calm Amid The Storm
Physician and yoga therapist Ingrid Yang has been serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since it began. Her preferred prescription? Pranayama
Serving up JOY
Ayurvedic ambassador and plant-based chef Radhi Devlukia-Shetty on her constant pursuit of a purposeful life.
Lose Weight, Feel Great
Nutrition expert’s advise on how to lose weight with a healthy shake
How Learning Bharatanatyam Classical Dance Helped Expand My Understanding of Yoga
Before last spring, I had a well-established yoga routine: my own daily practice, teaching three classes a week at a nearby community center, and a volunteer gig teaching inmates at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.
I Measured My Brain Performance. Here's Why You Might Do the Same.
I'm sitting on a leather couch in an unassuming warehouse in Denver. There's a Ping-Pong table behind me, but I'm not at a party—I'm having my brain scanned.
STRETCHING TOWARD GOLD
How Olympians Turn to Yoga to Benefit Their Minds and Bodies
Avidya: The Absence of Right Knowledge
I was recently watching a TV sitcom where a character had been deeply offended by her friend. After a full day of nursing her resentment, the character realized the rude event never happened—she had only dreamed that it had
Free Your Pelvis to Find Your Best Twist
One day when I was practicing Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), I stretched to one side. I firmly anchored my pelvis, keeping my sitting bones on the floor, then I twisted toward my left leg and reached for my left foot with both hands.
Dancing with Fire: Flow through Pitta Season's Heat with Ease
According to Ayurveda, we're in pitta season, which brings warmth and activity. The summer's fiery energy fuels your desire to get out there and do things—like picnics, camping, and pool parties.