avidya (was Re: message to my friends)

Charles Wikner WIKNER at NACDH4.NAC.AC.ZA
Fri Aug 14 04:14:54 CDT 1998

Gummuluru, I have followed Ravi's lead in changing the subject line.

Underlying all that we see is saccidAnanda (or asti-bhAti-priya) which
is real; added to this are the transient qualities of nAma and rUpa
(PD 13:92, DDV 20).  And avidyA is a confusion of the real and the
transient by mutual superimposition (Shankara's Intro to BSB is always
worth re-examining).  For example, superimposing the intelligence of
the Self upon the mind, and superimposing the movement of the mind
upon the Self, leads to the experience "I think".  The remedy of course,
is discrimination between the real and the transient.

There is nothing new in that; it is merely a convenient summary against
which to measure what follows.

The key to understanding avidyA is to appreciate that it is *subjective*:
it is not out "there" somewhere, it affects the Seer Himself, as it were.

On Thu, 13 Aug 1998, Gummuluru Murthy wrote:

> On Thu, 13 Aug 1998, Charles Wikner wrote:
> > On Tue, 11 Aug 1998, Gummuluru Murthy wrote:
> >
> > > Intellectual understandingwise, if avidyA is anAdi, must it not
> > > also be anantam ?
> >
> > Answer #1: NO.  For how many millions of embidiments have you not
> > known the contents of this post?  Now that ignorance is at an end.
> >
> > Answer #2: YES. Ignorance has neither beginning nor end.  It doesn't
> > have a middle either!  (unless you are fooled by appearances :-)
> >
> > The first answer is slick sophistry (there is no specific cause for
> > that particular ignorance); the second is advaita (GK 2:6, 4:31).
> I like your answer # 2. Adau ante ca yAn nAsti, vartamAnepi tat tathA.
> This applies not only to avidya, but to everything, all jeevas etc {If we
> take all jeevas as part of avidyA, then that implies with what we see in
> vyavahArika is all avidyA).

It is not that the object of vision is avidyA, but that the vision
itself is coloured by avidyA.  The Self sees the play of the guNa-s;
we see chaos, and impose our own ideas of order upon it.

> That is, avidyA is never there; there is only jnAnam.
> But people may argue this is paramArtha view and not intellectual
> understanding.

Granted, but any intellectual understanding is itself coloured by
avidyA.  Provided that there is a movement towards viveka, it does
not matter what that intellectual understanding is.  The only
useful function of intellectual understanding is to remove doubts
and such like that detract from viveka.

> I see the answer # 1 as the lower knowledge (as per MuNDAka upanishhad
> classification of para and apara). When you say "...Now, that ignorance
> is at an end...", I take it what was obtained there is the lower
> knowledge.

Yes, not important.  That so-called knowledge is just information -- a
formation in the mind.

> Answer which we have got to see as part of us is answer # 2.

We cannot see avidyA because the vision itself is distorted by avidyA.
The Self cannot see it either, because when the vision is clear there
is no distortion of avidyA.  It is anirvacanIya.

> Then, is it necessary at all to say that avidyA is anAdi (even
> intellectually) ? I am using the word anAdi here in the colloquial way
> that is used in parts of south India meaning from time immemorial.

It is said that avidyA is anAdi in order to prevent wasting time and
effort attempting the impossible, namely finding the source of avidyA.
If avidyA itself cannot be seen, there is no possibility whatever of
tracing its source!

The expression "from time immemorial" refers to the beginning of time,
i.e. the start of creation: from the perspective of time, avidyA is
the mixing up and confusion of what is before the beginning with what
is after.  The phrase "before the beginning" shows the intellectual
problem: the mind cannot analyse the phrase, it can only analyse and
comment upon what is after the beginning (when there is language and
logic and other tools to use), and therefore misses the Real which is
before, during, and after, time.

On Thu, 13 Aug Ravisankar S. Mayavaram wrote:

> On Thu, 13 Aug 1998, Charles Wikner wrote:
> > Answer #2: YES. Ignorance has neither beginning nor end.  It doesn't
> > have a middle either!  (unless you are fooled by appearances :-)
> >
> > The first answer is slick sophistry (there is no specific cause for
> > that particular ignorance); the second is advaita (GK 2:6, 4:31).
> Should #2 read
> Ignorance did not exist in the beginning, it does not exist in
> the end, and it does not have a middle either.

It certainly *appears* to have a middle, but that appearance is
not permanent (although it seems otherwise) and therefore not real.

> For something
> which did not exist in the beginning and which not going to exist
> in the end, how does it matter if it exists in the middle or not?

The Self desires, as it were, to experience; however, given advaita,
how can it experience?  It thus creates the dream or illusion of mAyA
and  avidyA in order to experience.  The experience is fun: look at
the delight of children playing; but when we take the illusion to be
real or important, it becomes serious and painful and no longer fun.
When the Self no longer desires to experience, then, through viveka,
it dispels the avidyA.  So experience and liberation are the two
states, as it were, of the Self.  Whether the middle matters or not
depends on whether the experience is enjoyed or not (and enjoyment,
bhoga, includes misery too).

> Please correct me.

Certainly not!  That would spoil the fun!  Are you really tired of
the game (in which case there is mumukshutva), or have you just
forgotten that it *is* a game?  :-)

> What I learnt in the past was avidya is anAdi but it has an end.
> At the dawn of wisdom, ignorance vanishes like darkness vanishing
> at the sight of light. In a sense it is like darkness. Absence of
> light is perceived as darkness, as such there is nothing like an
> entity called darkness.

The game is called hide-and-seek; the darkness gives the Self plenty
of opportunity to hide -- and it is your turn to seek!  :-)

Just fun!  It gives another view of avidyA for those that have
forgotten the reality of Ananda.

Gummuluru raised the same point: for the serious response, see above.

Regards, Charles.

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