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Is the Self Covered by Ignorance?
Questioner: I read the other day a post saying that “ignorance is universal; the self is covered by ignorance.”
It made me think because, at times, I hear you say that ignorance is universal and beginningless or eternal. In this case we could also say that the self, being also universal and eternal, also shares the same qualities related to ignorance and knowledge, right?
Arlindo: No, the self is free of all duality. The dualistic notion of knowledge and ignorance does not apply to the self. Ignorance and knowledge are only relevant to human jivas. From the standpoint of maya/Isvara there is no such a thing as knowledge and ignorance.
Yes, ignorance is said to be universal, but only in the sense that it is a collective phenomenon occurring to all jivas. Maya is the power projecting this apparent reality. Within this projection, the human jivas appear, with a sophisticated subtle body with the function of not only reflecting awareness and perception of other objects (which is the case of all other creatures), but also with the self-awareness “I am, I exist, I know.”
Jiva’s self-awareness has a huge price tag attached to it because the moment the jiva knows “I perceive, and I know that I perceive” it begins developing a conscious mind and a sense of subjective independent existence based on the identification with the body-mind and its desires for and fears of (preferences) objects. This is called self-ignorance, a phenomenon which exists only in reference to the human jivas.
On the other hand, the self is never covered by ignorance. Should ignorance have the power to cover awareness, awareness would be dependent on ignorance in order to shine and pervade the entire universe. Awareness is absolutely free, all-pervasive and ever-present in its fullness and totality. Ignorance is only an analogy to illustrate that the mind of the jiva is under the influence of excessive rajoguna and tamoguna, and therefore unable to assimilate self-knowledge.
The self is attributeless, therefore there is no question of knowledge or ignorance for the self. Maya/Isvara is pure knowledge, pure intelligence, pure sattva. Within maya/Isvara two other energies develop: rajas and tamas. Rajas and tamas are essential energies, without which the dualistic manifestation (subject-object) would not be possible. There is no question of attributing ignorance to maya/Isvara.
Ignorance comes into play only with the human jivas. Although their subtle bodies are sophisticated enough to produce self-reflectivity, this reflectivity is not clear, because their instruments are in most cases affected by excessive combinations of the energies called rajas (projecting power) and tamas (the concealing power). That’s what we call ignorance: excessive rajas and tamas clouding or agitating the mind of the jiva.
Human jivas have this incredible instrument (subtle body) to illumine and contact the world of objects, but unfortunately their instruments are not pure enough to understand and know the non-dual nature of reality as well their own identity as pure awareness rather than the body-mind construct.
Excesses of rajas and tamas become a problem only for the human jivas because with human intelligence comes desires, fears, free will and, inevitably, psychological suffering.