by Tara Marie Hoxha

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there are 5 main kleshas (or afflictions) that we as humans, suffer with. The one we’re focusing on this month is Avidya, which is known to be the root cause of the other kleshas. An easy way to describe it would be ignorance or even a veil shielding us from shining brightly as our highest, true selves – with love, light and peace. The root word, Vidya, is true wisdom, highest understanding, so when we experience pure consciousness, we are knowing and living in Vidya.

There are several different parts or layers to Avidya that stem from our beliefs about ourselves and the world based upon our experiences; How we identify ourselves, others and why. What we need to remember is that ‘we are not this body, we are not this mind’ and that the goal of Yoga is to become more ‘wise’ by lifting the veil and acting from a place of clarity.

1) Mistaking the impermanent for the permanent. We are constantly changing and everything around us is always shifting. Practice being present and non-attachment are ways in which we can lift this veil.

2) Mistaking the impure for the pure. Sometimes we can convince ourselves that something is true when deep down we know it is not. For example, you may think that the food you are eating is fair, sustainable or sourced compassionately when in reality it may have involved torture or slavery, which is impure.

3) Mistaking pain for pleasure. Think of immediate, self-gratification or things that feel good initially but may eventually lead to pain. Over-indulging or being attached to the way a certain food, place or person makes us feel but then lets us down. On the flip side, remembering things that might bring discomfort or are challenging can often reap the greatest reward.

4) Mistaking the non-self as the Self. Identifying “our Selves” by what we do and who we think we are. We are not our jobs or hobbies, habits or desires, likes or dislikes. Avidya is merely creating a false identity and alienating us from our true Self. When we are mindful of this and do things each day to bring us closer to God and the higher Self, we are reestablishing harmony on a Universal scale.