The Sanskrit term avidyā means ignorance, nescience, or lack of knowledge. It becomes a central problem in life in various Upaniṣadic texts in comparison with the Vedas. Avidyā continues to be a root problem for later philosophical schools. Oftentimes, thinkers make a simple equation: avidyā (ignorance) equals being in a state of bondage and knowledge (vidyā) equals freedom. This equation is germane to those thinkers convinced that knowledge is the key to unlock the door of liberation and plays a more minor role with devotional types of thinking.
In the ancient Chāndogya Upaniṣad, the teacher Uddālaka emphatically states to his student “tat tvam asi” (that you are). This unequitable assertion means that the self (ātman) and Brahman, ultimate reality, are identical, arguing that they are both characterized as pure consciousness (cit). This seems a simple enough teaching to grasp. What is the problem? The fundamental problem that obscures this knowledge is avidyā(ignorance). This...
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