Ignorance and Ego


For our April 26th Yoga Sutra discussion we will be reading Sutras II.4, II.5, and II.6. This will begin our deep dives into each of the afflictions (klesas) we face in life and practice. Avidya and Asmita are the first two klesas and can be looked at as “foundational” issues that the others might blossom out of.

To understand these, it is important to remind you of the relationship between Purusa (inner soul/ Self) and Prakrti (outer Nature) in the philosophy of Yoga. Along with Isvara (ideal being/Universal Soul), Purusa and Prakrti make up the three eternal principles in the cosmology of yoga. The play of Purusa and Prakriti is what makes up life and our ability to experience all that it has to offer within this body we are given. Purusa is the unchanging, pure consciousness that is our TRUE BEING and prakrti is ALL THE OTHER STUFF we see, think, and feel that is ever-changing and unstable. Discriminating between these two things, we can start to realize the manifestations of our afflictions.

The Sutras to read – Second Chapter, numbers 4, 5, and 6:

  • Sutra II.4 : Avidya (spiritual ignorance) is the source of all pains and sorrows whether dormant, attenuated, interrupted or fully active.
  • Sutra II.5 : Avidya is mistaking the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure, and that which is not the self for the self. It is a lack of spiritual knowledge.
  • Sutra II.6 : Asmita (Egoism) is the identification of the seer with the instrumental power of seeing.

In other words, forgetting that purusa is our true Self and attaching to prakrti is the foundation of our disturbances in life (avidya). We have come to rely on and confuse all the things that are constantly changing (prakrti) for things we think we can hold onto forever. Not only that, we cling to those transient things so completely that they become our identity, mistaking them for who we are (asmita). Any change or interruption to the thoughts and realities we perceive as true create the vrttis (fluctuations) in our citta (consciousness) that yoga is trying to eradicate.

In Contemplation of these three Sutras and for Discussion on April 26:

  • How do we know when/how we might be experiencing Avidya?
  • Avidya is a “foundational belief” in yoga, can you think of any other “foundational beliefs” you might have built your life upon?
  • What are your concepts, definitions, or discernments between “transient and permanent”, “pure and impure”, “pain and pleasure”, “self and not-self”?
  • In general, how do you see yourself relating to others in the world? Superiority complex or inferiority complex? Origins of judgement? Latent impressions? Qualifiers and identifiers?
  • Who are you?
  • Has the physical practice of asana affected your sense of “who you are”? If so, in what ways?

Blessings for your study and practice during these times of change and uncertainty!

Tagged as

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.