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Key Term avidyā
Hover Popup Choices ignorance; unawareness
In Tibetan Script མ་རིག་པ་
Wylie Tibetan Transliteration ma rig pa
Devanagari Sanskrit Script अविद्या
Romanized Sanskrit avidyā
Tibetan Phonetic Rendering marikpa
Chinese Script 無明
Chinese Pinyin wú míng
Japanese Transliteration mumyō
English Standard ignorance
Karl Brunnhölzl's English Term ignorance
Richard Barron's English Term nonrecognition of awareness; ignorance (i.e., one of twelve links of interdependent connection)
Jeffrey Hopkin's English Term ignorance; misconception; misapprehension; nescience
Dan Martin's English Term ignorance; unawareness
Gyurme Dorje's English Term fundamental ignorance
Term Type Noun
Source Language Sanskrit
Basic Meaning Literally "unknowing," it refers to a lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of the nature of reality. As such, it is considered to be the root cause of suffering and the basis for the arising of all other negative mental factors.
Has the Sense of This term can have different meanings and connotations depending on the context. Especially among Tibetan traditions such as the Nyingma, in which rig pa, usually translated as awareness, became a key concept, its opposite, ma rig pa, references the state in which that awareness is not recognized. In this context, ma rig pa should likely be treated as an indigenous Tibetan term rather than a direct translation of the Sanskrit term avidyā.
Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism See page 86: In Sanskrit, “ignorance”; the root cause of suffering (duḥkha) and one of the key terms in Buddhism. Ignorance occurs in many contexts in Buddhist doctrine. For example, ignorance is the first link in the twelvefold chain of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) that sustains the cycle of birth and death (saṃsāra); it is the condition that creates the predispositions (saṃskāra) that lead to rebirth and thus inevitably to old age and death. Ignorance is also listed as one of the root afflictions (S. mūlakleśa) and the ten “fetters” (saṃyojana) that keep beings bound to samsāra. Avidyā is closely synonymous with “delusion” (moha), one of the three unwholesome roots (akuśalamūla). When they are distinguished, moha may be more of a generic foolishness and benightedness, whereas avidyā is instead an obstinate misunderstanding about the nature of the person and the world.
Rangjung Yeshe's English Term Ignorance. Ignorance of good and evil deeds causes us to take rebirth in the three realms of samsara. Ignorance of the ultimate truth is the main cause of samsaric existence.
Tshig mdzod Chen mo rtsa nyon drug gi nang gses/ rig pa shes rab kyi mi mthun phyogs rten khams gsum la yod pa'i las 'bras dang bden pa sogs kyi tshul ji lta ba mi shes par kun nyon skyed par byed pa'o/ ... ming gi rnam grangs la nga yir 'dzin dang/ ngar 'dzin/ dngos 'dzin/ bdag 'dzin/ mi shes bcas so/
Other Definitions

In a Buddhist context, ignorance is not mere nescience but mistaken apprehension. It is the incorrect understanding of, or failure to recognize, the ultimate nature of the person and phenomena, and the false ascription of true existence to them.

-Fletcher, W., Padmakara Translation Group, Blankleder, H. in Introduction to the Middle Way (2002).