Nescience (Avidya) in practical experience is an undeniable fact.4 min read

Nescience (Avidya) in practical experience is an undeniable fact. “I know this” implies “I do not know that”. A Plato, an Empedocles, a Kant, a Hume, all assert some time or other: “I do not know that”, “I make an error of judgement”.

Nescience embraces the realm of relativity. It implies uncertainty and insecurity. It means a constant change. As long as we are in the realm of nescience we cannot be happy. Our soul demands permanence of beauty, youth and prosperity; but the fact is otherwise.

Vedanta assures us of a transcendental region of perpetual bliss and light which no clouds mar. Our soul knows it intuitively, or nobody would try to get rid of nescience; no patient would hope to be cured, no man would care for education. It is this intuitive consciousness of a region of absolute freedom and light which prompts men to be philanthropists. Father Damien, Father Francis Xavier, Florence Nightingale and Dorothy Dix are led into charity by their intuitive experience.

The realm of absolute freedom, light and bliss is Atman or Self. It is beyond both subjectivity and objectivity. It is not relative to anything. The dialectic is strong enough to convince the sceptic.

Destruction of nescience is followed by an intuitive knowledge of Self, as cognition. Otherwise nescience persists. It is through meditative penetration by a heart purified and devoted in service that the intuitive consciousness of the Self is opened up, or say revealed.

First we deny the reality of nescience by intellectual exercise. This conviction has a great effect on our character and makes us peaceful, charitable, selfless and devoted. Study plays an important role in the economy of Advaita.

The conviction to be matured is: “The Self is ever free, absolute and blissfulness”. Freedom or bondage are relative concepts and they do not refer to the Self. They may be attributed to the psychological self (jiva), but not to Atman. It is transcendent identity. The empirical self is a shadow which conceals the sun of Atman and it completely vanishes when the realization comes.

To cast off the sum of limitations is liberation. Devotion to God, service of the Lord in man and nature, have the same end in view.

The perception of Atman, which is self- revealed, and the perception of concrete facts are not one and the same. In the case of the external perception the mind stuff (chitta) goes out and assumes the determinate forms of the objects. In the case of Self-cognition the mind-consciousness does not take any form. Brahman has no form.

The mental conception, in its concrete form, is determinate. It removes the particular mode of nescience and reveals the object. In the case of indeterminate conception in the state of deep meditation, to begin with the mind remains as abstract functioning, without assuming any form. In this case the vritti reveals Brahman. But it is itself lost for ever in IT. Let it be understood that the locus of nescience is Brahman, and when nescience, as the mental function in the realm of relativity, is lost, Brahman only remains.

Such a realization presupposes moral discipline and eradication of limited egoity.

It is most important to know this fact. The threefold practice of Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana must continue, in a calm mind free from desires. The duality-consciousness is negated by meditation on the witness-consciousness and the constant thought of the great principle of identity. The one follows the other.

The discipline is to open that superconsciousness of the Self when the psychological consciousness of the realm of relativity has disappeared. In this way, there arises the mental vision of the inner potentialities of the mind in the form of selfless service, love abounding and infinite and impersonal aesthetic delight and knowledge. These are the sure signs of the actualization of the super-consciousness. Thus is the gradual assimilation of Ishwara’s being and experience. The value conception undergoes a complete change and the Lord becomes the end-all and be-all of the life of the Yogi.

It is the cognition of the nature of the Self as Sat-Chit-Ananda that destroys nescience and nothing else does it. Immediate vision is not effected by any discipline except knowledge Vachaspati Mishra says that all discipline has the value of creating a desire to know the Self at any cost. He is right.

Index for this series on Fundamental points on the Advaita of Shri Shankara that are overlooked or misunderstood: