avidya in Pali literature

Rupert Gethin rupert.gethin at bristol.ac.uk
Fri Apr 4 13:38:14 UTC 1997

>>> In sutra II.5 of Patanjali's Yogasutra, avidya is defined as 
>>> anityaashuciduHkhaanaatmasu nityashucisukhaatmakhyaatiravidyaa |
>>> "Avidya is the taking of the non-eternal, the impure, the painful 
>>> non-self to be the eternal, the pure, the pleasurable and the self."
>>> I'm almost certain that there exists, somewhere in early Buddhist
>>> literature, a passage on avidya which uses very-similar wording.
>These are the four viparyaasas, usually translated as "perversions" but
>meaning conceptual reversals. I'm not sure, off-hand, if these are 
>in early Pali texts (I can't remember them there), but they do appear 
>early Prajnaparamita literature and other Mahayana texts. Check in
>Edgerton's Buddhist-hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary under viparyaasa for
>references (I don't have one in my office or I would have checked for 
>Dan Lusthaus
>Flordia State University

The Pali equivalent of Sanskrit viparyaasa is vipallaasa, but the forms 
vipariyesa and vipallattha are also found. The four vipallaasa are 
found in the later Nikaaya texts (e.g. A II 52) and early Abhidhamma 
texts (e.g. Vibh 376). For further references, see the PTS Pali-English 

Rupert Gethin
University of Bristol
rupert.gethin at bristol.ac.uk

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