A lack of self-knowledge leads to all suffering, at least this is what the ancient yogic texts say and I believe it holds some truth. This concept is known in sanskrit as “avidya” which is defined as an ignorance about oneself or a lack of self-knowledge. It is experienced in four different ways which include “asmita”, “raga”, “dvesa” and “abhinivesa”.
Asmita is the sanskrit word that translates to ego or the “I am…” We often identify ourselves with something that is temporary, something that might change. By creating this identity we create self-suffering. Instead, we need to realize that everything is temporary. What we have or what we do today may no longer be the case tomorrow. We should try to let go of the ego and get out of that part of the mind.
Raga is the sanskrit word that translates to desire. We often desire to have something whether we need it or not. We get greedy and feel as though we will only be happy if we get a better job or if we meet someone who is perfect for us or if we get a fancy car or…the list goes on. Rather than accepting where we are at in our life and being happy in the present moment we desire to have more and more. This will lead us down the path of never being satisfied and feeling incomplete and unhappy.
Dvesa translates to aversion or refusing things out of hatred or pain usually created in past experiences. We automatically turn on a mindset that something or somewhere will be negative because of the past. Instead we must let go of the past and the things that no longer serve us and live for each moment as a new moment, a new day, a new experience.
Lastly is abhinivesa or fear which ultimately arises due to our misunderstanding of ourselves and our relationship with the world.
Consider a world where there was no such thing as an ego, you had no desire for more but instead were completely satisfied with what you have right now in your life, you had no aversion or hatred, and you had absolutely no fear. The yogic philosophy claims that once you are able to absolve all of these aspects of “avidya” you will rid yourself of all suffering. Well, now that is much easier said than done and even Patanjali who wrote the yoga sutras claims that fear exists even in the most wise of individuals.
However, as you become more aware of each of these factors and get to know yourself as an individual it becomes more visible when these different aspects of “avidya” cause suffering in your life. By becoming more aware rather than reacting to a situation that may cause you pain, you can slow down and recognize the emotions that arise and make a choice to respond in a way that limits or reduces your suffering. The different aspects of yoga help you to reduce all of the aspects of “avidya.” Everything we do in yoga whether it is practicing asana (poses), pranayama (breath) or meditation we are attempting to look inside, to learn more about ourselves, and to increase that self-knowledge. The more yoga we do the better we get to know ourselves and in turn the less hindered we are by “avidya.” It is a gradual process and it has ebbs and flows. Just because you may go for days or weeks feeling modest, fearless and openminded does not mean that the next day you won’t be struck with some form of ignorance resulting in suffering. Continue to practice yoga, in whichever form you choose, to continue to reap the benefits of self-knowledge. For more information on “avidya” and the components of it reference the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or shoot me a message! I would love to get into some discussion of how this effects you personally. Namaste –