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Apasmara – the symbol of ignorance

Apasmara is a figure in Hindu mythology who represents both ignorance and epilepsy. He is a demon dwarf who is also sometimes called Muyalaka or Muyalakan. Apasmara is often depicted holding his hand in anjali mudra. He is said to have a demon’s face, but the body of an infant.

Apasmara also gives his name to the neurological condition of epilepsy, as described in Ayurveda, which is the sister science of yoga.

Yogapedia explains Apasmara

The myth of Apasmara states that in order to ensure the knowledge in the world is preserved, he can not be killed. To kill him would mean attaining knowledge without any dedication or effort, which would devalue all knowledge and unbalance knowledge and ignorance in the world. Thus, he is destined for immortality.

Apasmara used to plague humans who prayed to Shiva to control him. According to the myth, because Lord Shiva could not kill Apasmara, he instead took the form of the Lord of the Dance, Sri Nataraja. He performed tandava, the cosmic dance, in order to suppress Apasmara and managed to crush him under his right foot. Thus, because Apasmara must remain immortal, Lord Shiva must remain forever in this form, suppressing Apasmara forever. It is said that Shiva’s stance in doing this is a symbolic reminder of the need to suppress ignorance, ego and laziness in order to realize the truth.

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