Avidya, or “ignorance,” is a centrally important term in Hinduism. The term also has an impor-tant place in Buddhism. Avidya is the funda-mental ignorance that causes us to misperceive the phenomenal world. Ignorance causes us to imagine that what we see is the only reality, when this is not the case. There is an underlying real-ity that transcends the mundane sphere and also underlies it, but which cannot be seen by ordi-nary vision.
   In the VEDANTA of SHANKARA this misunder-standing or avidya is often equated with MAYA, or illusion. According to Shankara avidya is the perception of an actual reality when there is none there, only a false or illusory reality. The only thing real is the BRAHMAN, which underlies all names and forms.
   In Hindu tantrism the understanding of avidya is different. In that tradition, avidya is what makes us see the world as other than the divinity. The word is used in theistic, nontantric contexts in the sense of misperception of the nature of things.
   Further reading: Aditi De, The Development of the Concept of Maya and Avidya with Special Reference to the Concept of Vivarta: An Interpretation of Sankara Philosophy (Patna: De, 1982); John Grimes, The Seven Great Untenables (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990); Chandranarayan Mishra, The Problem of Nescience in Indian Philosophy (Darbhanga: Kashinath Mishra, 1977); Swami Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infi-nite, 2d ed. (South Fallsburg, N.Y.: SYDA Foundation, 1994); Bashistha Narain Tripath, Indian View of Spiri-tual Bondage (Varanasi: Aradhana Prakashan, 1987).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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