Avijjā

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Avijjā

Postby Stephen K » Wed May 28, 2014 4:41 pm

The word avijjā is commonly translated as ignorance or delusion. And although these may be good translations, I'm wondering if 'unknowingness' or 'non-knowledge' are more appropriate, since avijjā is the opposite of vijjā which is always translated as knowledge. Also avijjā is defined as "not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, etc...".

In support of 'ignorance' one could say that avijjā means "ignoring suffering..."

In support of 'delusion' one could say that avijjā is equivalent to the vipallasas "taking the impermanent to be permanent...", and also delusion is the 'positive' part of avijjā, i.e. ignorance is not knowing, not seeing, while delusion is seeing, but in a perverted or distorted way.

What would you say about that?
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Re: Avijjā

Postby Sam Vara » Wed May 28, 2014 4:55 pm

although these may be good translations, I'm wondering if 'unknowingness' or 'non-knowledge' are more appropriate, since avijjā is the opposite of vijjā which is always translated as knowledge.


Both Narada and Bhikkhu Bodhi have sometimes translated it as "nescience", which is at least grammatically correct and avoids some of the pejorative overtones of "ignorance".
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Re: Avijjā

Postby waterchan » Wed May 28, 2014 5:45 pm

There will always be shortcomings whenever a single English word is used to render a Pali word used in a 2600-year-old context. Ignorance, unknowingness, non-knowledge, nescience... these are all imperfect attempts to point at the meaning of avijja. Translations are by nature replete with such shortcomings, and striving to find the best possible rendering to every Pali word is a lost cause. Instead it's better to clarify to ourselves exactly what words like "ignorance", "concentration", "fabrications", "contact", and so on mean in the context of a sutta translation.

In other words, treat a sutta translation as if it were a new language. So when one sees the word "ignorance", forget its dictionary definition, and think of the Dhammic concept that the word is pointing to.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
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Re: Avijjā

Postby Unrul3r » Wed May 28, 2014 6:18 pm

I'd translate Avijjā & Vijjā literally as No-vision & Vision. These Pāḷi & English words are actually rooted by the same root (√vid). They also have the same meaning in both languages, Vijjā & Vision as 'the ability to foresee' and Avijjā & No-vision as 'the inability to forsee'. In English we actually use these words with their intended meaning as in 'A man with vision is a wise-man, a man who forsees things'. Science & Nescience are also good but don't go the the pith of the meaning. Their meaning as foresight is only available if we think about the purpose of science, which is to predict (foresee). Vision brings up this connotation more readily and is literal.

This is why the definition of Avijjā is 'dukkhe aññāṇaṃ, dukkhasamudaye aññāṇaṃ, dukkhanirodhe aññāṇaṃ, dukkhanirodhagāminiyā paṭipadāya aññāṇaṃ'. It's the inability to foresee suffering & it's cessation due to not-knowing their causes. This inability to foresee is ultimately what causes suffering. Once one knows the causes, one can replace craving by dispassion and forsee the end of suffering. In other words, once one has attained vision\vijjā (as right view at sotāpanna), one just has to keep practicing accordingly for suffering to cease completely.

An interesting clue which also supports this, is that, Paññā, which I also translate literally as Prognosis (Pra-jña -> Pro-gnosis) and which is synonym for Vijjā, also has the same meaning in English, 'the ability to foresee'. Sutta contexts of Paññā also support this.

Edit: Small correction for clarity.
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Re: Avijjā

Postby LXNDR » Mon Jun 16, 2014 1:54 pm

'nescience' is a good translation etymologically, because it consist of the negative prefix 'ne' and the word 'science' meaning 'knowledge' just like a-vijja

the meaning of avijja or avidya in sanskrit can also be inferred through comparison with an archaic Russian verb vEdat', (also cognating to the word Veda), which means "to know" and another Russian root relative to 'ved' - 'vid' out of which words vIdet' - to see and vIdeniye - seeing, vision are formed
into Russian avijja is translated as nevEdeniye which is non-knowledge or the same nescience

Unrul3r wrote:I'd translate Avijjā & Vijjā literally as No-vision & Vision. These Pāḷi & English words are actually rooted by the same root (√vid). They also have the same meaning in both languages, Vijjā & Vision as 'the ability to foresee' and Avijjā & No-vision as 'the inability to forsee'.


if we go by vision and not knowledge, i'd prefer 'discernment' over 'foresight' since we're speaking of seeing into not the future but the nature of things
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Re: Avijjā

Postby Unrul3r » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:07 pm

LXNDR wrote: i'd prefer 'discernment' over 'foresight' since we're speaking of seeing into not the future but the nature of things


Suit yourself, stick with what you prefer, I have no problem with that.

We're? Are you speaking in behalf of a group? If not, maybe you should change that into "I am".

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Re: Avijjā

Postby LXNDR » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:16 pm

Unrul3r wrote:
LXNDR wrote:i'd prefer 'discernment' over 'foresight' since we're speaking of seeing into not the future but the nature of things


Suit yourself, stick with what you prefer, I have no problem with that.

We're? Are you speaking in behalf of a group? If not, maybe you should change that into "I am".

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seems you took offense at an innocent opinion, i swear i didn't mean to undermine your self-esteem :broke:

that's funny :heart: :hug:
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Re: Avijjā

Postby Unrul3r » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:17 pm

LXNDR wrote:seems you took offense at an innocent opinion, i swear i didn't mean to undermine your self-esteem :broke:

that's funny :heart: :hug:


What makes you think that?

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Re: Avijjā

Postby LXNDR » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:20 pm

Unrul3r wrote:
LXNDR wrote:seems you took offense at an innocent opinion, i swear i didn't mean to undermine your self-esteem :broke:

that's funny :heart: :hug:


What makes you think that?

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your phrasing and going into offensive, am i not right?
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Re: Avijjā

Postby Unrul3r » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:24 pm

LXNDR wrote:your phrasing and going into offensive, am i not right?


Hmmm, no. That's your interpretation. I just said I have no problem with your preferences and asked you 2 questions. Is that offensive for you? If it is, that was not my intention.

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Re: Avijjā

Postby LXNDR » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:38 pm

Unrul3r wrote:
LXNDR wrote:your phrasing and going into offensive, am i not right?


Hmmm, no. That's your interpretation. I just said I have no problem with your preferences and asked you 2 questions. Is that offensive for you?

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i surely read what you'd written and asked, if i forgot to thank you for having no problem with my preferences, i'm sorry, thank you :thanks:
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Re: Avijjā

Postby Unrul3r » Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:33 pm

LXNDR wrote:i surely read what you'd written and asked, if i forgot to thank you for having no problem with my preferences, i'm sorry, thank you :thanks:


You didn't forget anything, it's no problem.

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Re: Avijjā

Postby ancientbuddhism » Mon Jun 16, 2014 5:35 pm

waterchan wrote:...In other words, treat a sutta translation as if it were a new language. So when one sees the word "ignorance", forget its dictionary definition, and think of the Dhammic concept that the word is pointing to.


Context is essential.

Since avijjā is with reference to ignorance (or not knowing, if we rather) of the 4-NT, we may refer to its synonyms – aññāṇaṃ (MN.9) and nappajānanti (Sn. 3.12) – within that context.
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Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

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Re: Avijjā

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:06 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
waterchan wrote:...In other words, treat a sutta translation as if it were a new language. So when one sees the word "ignorance", forget its dictionary definition, and think of the Dhammic concept that the word is pointing to.


Context is essential.

Since avijjā is with reference to ignorance (or not knowing, if we rather) of the 4-NT, we may refer to its synonyms – aññāṇaṃ (MN.9) and nappajānanti (Sn. 3.12) – within that context.

:goodpost:

I agree that "Ignorance of the Four Noble Truths" is the best way of putting it.
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Re: Avijjā

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 17, 2014 8:42 am

Mkoll wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:
waterchan wrote:...In other words, treat a sutta translation as if it were a new language. So when one sees the word "ignorance", forget its dictionary definition, and think of the Dhammic concept that the word is pointing to.


Context is essential.

Since avijjā is with reference to ignorance (or not knowing, if we rather) of the 4-NT, we may refer to its synonyms – aññāṇaṃ (MN.9) and nappajānanti (Sn. 3.12) – within that context.

:goodpost:

I agree that "Ignorance of the Four Noble Truths" is the best way of putting it.


That's how it's described as a nidana in DO - not knowing the four truths:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"Not knowing".
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Re: Avijjā

Postby bharadwaja » Tue Jun 17, 2014 5:24 pm

√vid = to know is related to √vind = to find.

a-vidyā (or its malformed equivalent avijjā) is the state of not having found (knowledge).

So the OP is right in that there is no separate thing called avidyā, it is simply the absence of vidyā
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Re: Avijjā

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Jun 18, 2014 8:51 am

bharadwaja wrote:So the OP is right in that there is no separate thing called avidyā, it is simply the absence of vidyā


I wonder if "absence" is a little passive though? I think the prefix a- has the same negating affect in Pali as it does in English, eg "atypical" = "not typical". So aviija = not viiija. If viija is seeing the truth of suffering, etc, then aviija is not seeing those those truths.
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