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International Infopage for Ashtanga Yoga

Sadhana Pada

Sentence 5

anitya ashuchi duhkha anatmasu nitya shuchi sukha atmakhyatir avidya ||5||

अनित्याशुचिदुःखानात्मसु नित्यशुचिसुखात्मख्यातिरविद्या ॥५॥

anityā-aśuci-duḥkha-anātmasu nitya-śuci-sukha-ātmakhyātir-avidyā ||5||

A combination of the eternal and transitory, purity and impurity, joy and suffering, or the mutable and immutable in human beings are all referred to as a lack of insight (avidya). ||5||


anitya = transitory
aśuci = impure; unclean
duḥkha = pain; suffering
an = not
ātma = the true self
anātma = the false self, i.e. mutable chitta
nitya = eternal
aśuci = pure; clean
sukha = good fortune; happiness; talisman
ātma = the true self; drashtu
khyāti = insight; knowledge; consciousness
avidyā = ignorance; confusion; lack of insight

We often have difficulty distinguishing things that matter from things that don’t. In such cases, our desires get ahead of us and we fail to consider what’s good for us and where our actions may lead.

When I was in high school I regularly watched a TV sitcom, which I felt was the best way to put me in the right relaxed state of mind to do my homework. It took me a while to realize that TV floods your mind with stimuli and was shortening my memory span for my academic subjects. In other words, TV was robbing me of my energy instead of relaxing me. This realization made me decide to spend my time on things that genuinely made me happy. Doing a brief yoga exercise session after school helped me to relax more efficiently than watching TV and improved my concentration in doing my homework and made it more enjoyable.

I’m a strong believer in setting priorities in my life, because let’s face it: none of us can do everything we’d like to. So we need to decide which things are important, and which can be put on the back burner. Vigilance and self-knowledge allow us to lift the veil of avidyā and clearly see what’s good for us and what isn’t. There are no universal panaceas in this domain, because what might work for one person might not work for another.

In our relationships with others, we also fall into the trap of avidyā by jumping to conclusions about people because we don’t know enough about them and thus lack insight. A Native American adage says, “In order to understand a person, you need to have walked in their mocassins.”

When I feel anger toward someone, I bring to mind my avidyā, and in so doing try to understand the person rather than judging them. This enables me to recognize myself in others. In my view, the traits in others that particularly bother us are those that remind us of ourselves, which means that what we’re really doing in such cases is getting angry at ourselves. Because in the final analysis, each person we interact with holds up a mirror in front of us from which we can learn a great deal about ourselves. This realization has helped me to understand other people. Now I need not put myself in the other person’s “moccasins,” but instead accompany them on their journey.

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