Hinduism - What Is Avidya?

Avidya  means “lack of [real] knowledge” in Sanskrit.

The lack of real knowledge, known as avidya, is the central issue in virtually all Hindu philosophical and religious thinking. 

  • The existence of avidya causes individuals to misunderstand the actual nature of reality and behave in accordance with their misunderstandings. 
  • The most basic of these erroneous conceptions is to equate the everlasting Self (atman) with the physical body. 
  • As a consequence of this misidentification, egoism incites emotions and acts of greed, desire, and hate in the attempt to defend and promote the Self (in its specific embodied form). 
  • These emotions bind the soul and entrap it in samsara, the reincarnation cycle. 

The avidya is conceptualized in epistemological rather than metaphysical terms in most Hindu philosophical schools—that is, it is not a real object in and of itself, but rather a consequence of how one learns to know things, inasmuch as that knowledge is incorrect or incomplete. 

  • The source of bondage is eliminated after one's inadequate awareness has been rectified, culminating in the soul's ultimate freedom (moksha).

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