2.5 To mistake what is impermanent as permanent, impure as pure, painful as blissful, and the non-self as the Self is ignorance (avidya).
Ignorance (avidya) is the root obstacle that causes confusion and misidentification. Avidya is not knowing your true nature. As the previous verse pointed out, all the other afflictions grow in the field of ignorance. This is so important, that the definition of yoga in Chapter One of the Yoga Sutra is followed by the explanation in sutras 1.3 and 1.4, which says that you either know your nature through your direct experience or you erroneously misidentify with your ways of being. That explains why earlier in the journey, in the Who am I? episode, you explored ways of establishing a connection to your true nature, because the quality of that connection determines the quality of every experience you have. In addition, as verse 1.4 suggests, when you are not aware of your ways of being, you end up believing that you are the temporary activities you engage in. In other words, avidya, forgetting your true nature, causes you to get entangled in stories and imagination such as who you think you should be, who you think others expect you to be, what you think other people will think if you were to do this or that, and similar nonsense. The yoga journey consists of meeting yourself where you are just as you are.
Your body, mind, emotions, thoughts and preferences, like everything around you, keep changing, all the time. However, not recognizing this undeniable fact can lead you to think: “Since I have been on many Tuesdays before, I know what will happen today because it is Tuesday.” You may also assume that you still have many Tuesdays ahead of you. These two assumptions fail to acknowledge that each day is a unique day that will not be repeated, and that nobody knows how many more days he or she may have left. Even if the person is young and healthy, it is impossible to know how many more days, weeks or years she may have. Rather than seeing this as a pessimistic perspective, it is a way to motivate yourself to make your actions matter, because today is the only day when you can act, and because as soon as you take your incorrect assumptions as correct knowledge you lose the urgency to be present in this moment. Consequently, it is easy to forget that this moment is the culmination of every moment before it, and that this moment is also the starting point for the rest of your life. These faulty assumptions also give you permission to not pay attention, opening the door for entertaining yourself with endless inner talk.
A good point of departure for contemplation is this: When you meet yourself where you are, you are meeting a different version of you. Yet, is there something that remains unchanged? Other useful questions to move towards the opposite of ignorance include: What in you is permanent? What in you is impermanent? What is pure and what impure? How do you know the difference? Has it ever happened that something that used to give you great enjoyment later became a source of pain? Is it possible that overindulging in something you love may quickly turn into a source of agitation? At the end of each day, in order to fall asleep, what do you let go of? What remains?
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
2.5 anityāśuciduḥkhānātmasu nityaśucisukhātmakhyātiravidyā
अनित्याशुचिदुःखानात्मसु नित्यशुचिसुखात्मख्यातिरविद्या ॥५॥
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually:
If you prefer to listen to the podcast: