Avidyā is a Sanskrit word whose literal meaning is ignorance, misconceptions, misunderstandings, incorrect knowledge, and it is the opposite of Vidya.
My physical vision is changing and I notice myself seeing things that aren’t really there. This got me thinking about the more esoteric concepts of incorrect knowledge and misconceptions.
My experience of myself and observing others is that Avidya is often running the show, orchestrating events and interactions, encouraging assumptions. Our egos eat this up like chips and dip. You can’t eat just one! The false knowledge then gains momentum and before we know it we are in a house of mirrors. Where is the truth? What do I believe? How do I know for certain??? Crazy making.
Truth is subjective to each individual’s perspective. The ant perched in front of an elephant sees the trunk and has difficulty seeing anything else. The other ant hanging out behind the elephant sees the rear legs and tail and has no awareness of the trunk. Both of these ants have their own perspective and truth, and it most likely would be very difficult to convince them of anything else without willingness on their part.
I was sure I saw a bear the other day on my walk in the woods. I heard snuffling, too (snuffling is the tell-tale sign of bears of course). I slowed my pace and held my breath, feeling my fight or flight (Flight. Duh). I slowly proceeded on the path, getting closer to the bear when greater awareness revealed that it was a decaying tree stump. Initially, my senses perfunctorily responded with my “truth” that I was confronting a bear. Closer inspection changed my “truth” to confronting a decaying tree stump. All that changed was my awareness.
Often in yoga there is a common parable when teaching students about Avidya. The story involves a serpent that greater awareness reveals as a coiled hose. Being open to see beyond our initial reactions requires willingness to see what’s on the other side of what we feel is truth. This feels risky as shit sometimes but my experience has shown me it’s well worth the effort.
Our world is bombarded with closed minds and fixed ideas and most of us have our own if we’re honest with ourselves.
How willing are you to see something different? How willing am I?
I wonder what would happen if we allowed a bit more space into what we think we know and feel as truth.