Basant Panchami is dedicated to Devi Saraswati, the Goddess of Vidya. Learning, according to ancient wisdom, is of two types — Vidya and Avidya.
Let’s explore these two.
Vidya and Avidya
अन्यदेवाहुर्विद्यया अन्यदाहुरविद्यया ।
इति शुश्रुम धीराणां येनस्तद्विचचक्षिरे ॥
anyadevāhurvidyayā anyadāhuravidyayā |
iti śuśruma dhīrāṇāṃ yenastadvicacakṣire ||
One result they say is obtained by Vidya, and another result, they say, is obtained by Avidya, thus have we heard from the wise ones who explained it to us.
(Isha-Upanishad, Verse 10)
The knowledge in the fields of science, arts, politics, economics, social sciences — all the university disciplines — is called Avidya. So, the knowledge about anything within the world is Avidya. Using the senses and the mind, when we look outwards into the world, and gather information and build knowledge, that is Avidya.
Avidya is also called Aparavidya, or lower learning.
When, for a while, we turn inwards and look at ourselves, we see the self, the ego, glimpses of the entire structure and movement of the personality. This self is the seer, observer, of the world. This knowledge, this perception of the self, is called Vidya.
Vidya is also called Paravidya, or Higher learning.
How is Vidya different from Psychology? Vidya encompasses not merely the study of the inner self — the ego — but also addresses the mystical craving of the ego for spiritual liberation.
In our education system, Vidya must be given importance so that the child, the student, must get to know about his mind. Who is he, and what relation does he carry with the world? He must be introduced to this fundamental question in the most creative of ways. He must know why he runs towards the world, relates with the world, and wants to achieve something in the world.
Avidya is that which keeps filling up the mind with knowledge about the world, about this and that. One pernicious result of Avidya is that one starts identifying with only the material world, and engenders a lot of suffering for himself and the others.