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Avidyā (Buddhism): Wikis


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  The 12 Nidānas:  
Mind & Body
Six Sense Bases
Old Age & Death

Avidyā (Sanskrit) or avijjā (Pāli) means "ignorance" or "delusion" and is the opposite of 'vidyā' (Sanskrit) and 'rig pa' (Wylie). It is used extensively in Buddhist texts.


Nomenclature and etymology

  • Devanagari: अविद्या (Romanized Sanskrit: Avidyā)
  • Tibetan: མ་རིག་པWylie: ma rig pa
  • Pali: Avijjā
  • Korean: (Hangeul) 무명 (Hanja) 無明 (Transcript) Mu Myeong
  • Japanese: 無明 (Mumyō)
  • Chinese: 無明 (wú míng)

The word is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *weid-, meaning "to see" or "to know". It is a cognate or Latin vidēre and English "wit".

Root of suffering

Avidyā plays a key role in Buddhism and Buddhist doctrine and is the primary cause of suffering in saṃsāra.

  1. Avidyā is one of the three kleśas.
  2. Avidyā is the first link of Pratītyasamutpāda.
  3. Avidyā is the first spoke on the Bhavacakra.

As one of the kleśas, Avidyā leads to craving (tṛṣṇā) and clinging (upādāna). As the first link of Pratitya-Samutpada, all other links depend on it. As the first spoke on the Bhavacakra, all subsequent states follow in its wake.


From one to six aspects

Avidyā is a lack of knowing, and can be associated with intention. Avidyā has three aspects as associated with the three kinds of vedanā (sensation), four aspects as the ignorance of the Four Noble Truths, and five aspects as masking the five destinies (see : Samsāra). Avidyā has six aspects as associated with any of the six doors, the six senses (see: Ṣaḍāyatana).

Uprooting avidya

The antidote to avidyā is "wisdom" (Skt.: prajñā; Pali: pañña). This is achieved by practicing awareness/mindfulness (Pali: sati, Skt: smṛti), patient endurance (Skt: kṣānti; Pali: khanti) and meditation (Skt: dhyāna), all three of which are incorporated in the pan-Buddhist practices of the Noble Eightfold Path and the pāramitās ("perfections").

See also

  • Avidya for the treatment of the concept in Hinduism.
  • Tanha for a complementary root of suffering in Buddhism.
  • Kilesa for avidya's context within various Buddhist frameworks.

Further reading

Daniel Goleman: Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self Deception (1985) Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0747534136

  • Avijja Sutta Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Preceded by
Twelve Nidānas
Succeeded by


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