Recently, I went down a rabbit hole of the Vedic type as one does when you’re working on Ayurvedic self-study. I found myself immersed in the Isha Upanishad, specifically focused on the ideas of Vidhya vs. Avidhya. Before going on, it’s important to briefly break down what each of these means in order to understand the depth of these concepts. Simply put, Vidhya can be described as the innate clarity, wisdom, and understanding of the world that we all possess. Conversely, Avidhya relates to spiritual ignorance or the forgetfulness that we are a part of everything. Avidhya essentially leads to the concept of ego and the manifestation of “I.” This relationship is beautifully portrayed in Hymn 7 of the Isha Upanishad:
When to a man who understands,
the Self has become all things,
what sorrow, what trouble can there be,
to him who beholds the unity.
~ Isha Upanishad, Hymn 7
The root of suffering comes from the ignorance of Avidhya as it is the consideration that ones Self is completely unique and distinct from the Self of others. When we believe that our problems or woes are different or even worse than that of another, we lack the spiritual unity of oneness (Vidhya) and may find ourselves trapped in the stories we tell ourselves. The Avidhya-affected individual must look beyond ego in order to end their suffering.
I remember this concept being planted in my brain during the first couple weeks of yoga teacher training. At that time I don’t think that the concept fully took root due to the abundance of information we received those first weeks, but it did provide me with inspiration to sit with. In my personal relationship with anxiety and depression, I’ve come up with plenty narratives in which I tell myself that my problems are worse than others (like the underdeveloped brain of a teenager saying “nobody understands ME!”). But, how selfish and closed minded is it to think that I am that unique? Every intelligent being in the universe experiences hardships or obstacles in their existence. If we wish to live a life free of suffering, we must be grounded in knowing that we share an anchored connection with the universe. Knowing that we ALL share the same inner dialogues or scripted personal narratives is actually refreshingly comforting and has given me an indescribable amount of clarity which brings me a profound sense of peace.
You are me and I am you.