‘Avidya’ means ignorance, and this is the greatest disease on earth. Just as disease has its symptoms, ignorance has its symptoms: lust, anger, greed, illusion, pride and envy. And these things are filling our minds and filling our hearts because the disease of ignorance is covering the natural healthy condition of our self. So the process of self realization is to simply heal that diseased condition and come back to our natural original state–love of God. Love of all living beings is inherent within us. It is our original consciousness. By chanting the names of God, by avoiding those activities which further perpetuate this ignorance, we are naturally healed.
If we have the disease of the body, the first thing the doctor will do is to give us the medicine that heals the disease; he will also tell us to refrain from those activities which further aggravate the disease. Similarly, for the disease of ignorance, the medicines are,
1. associating with saintly persons
2. performing puja with proper understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing
3. philosophical reflection on the real goal of life
4. and especially the chanting of God’s names.
And to cure ourselves from the disease of ignorance, we have to refrain ourselves from sinful activities. There are four pillars of sinful life: intoxication, illicit sex, gambling and meat-eating. They destroy the qualities of truthfulness, cleanliness, self-control and mercy respectively.
In this way, by curing ourselves of ignorance, we literally awaken the original consciousness within us. And when we are purified, we can perceive everything in truth and reality.
– Radhanath Swami