When there is exclusive concentration of consciousness, there arises the phenomenon of ignorance. Ignorance is the one word in Indian thought which is very often used and about which we are told not to ask the question as how it arose because there is no answer to this question. It is by the power of exclusive concentration of consciousness that ignorance can be made operative. In fact the word ignorance means ignoring all the rest and concentrating only on one point. Ignorance itself is the power of knowledge; it is not absence of knowledge. It is not absence of consciousness but it is exclusive concentration of consciousness. Avidya is ignorance and is itself a power of vidya. That is why this Upanishad tells us not to give up avidya. You have to have both vidya and avidya
The power of exclusive concentration of consciousness has been exercised for a specific purpose; it is not by a mistake that it has come about. Many theories are propounded to protect God from this act, saying that God is not responsible for avidya, and somehow by some illusion we were deluded by Maya and fell into this. The Veda is not ambiguous about it. It says very clearly that tato ratri jayata – then came the night (ratri is night – ignorance, partial knowledge) and was followed by complete darkness (tamas). Without that darkness, embodiment would not have been possible. In the case of ratri, there is a concentration upon one point and you are conscious only of that point and unconscious of the rest. Ratri is a partial consciousness because it has the light of stars. It is not complete darkness. In complete darkness the concentration of consciousness is so deep that consciousness is lost in concentration. For example when you concentrate intently on playing a piano, your fingers play but you are not aware that you are playing. The action is on but there is complete absence of consciousness. All consciousness is lost but the action is precise – the pianist is doing the precise action.
There is a distinction between ratri and tamas, ignorance and inconscience. Ratri is an exclusive concentration of consciousness in which there is some light, some awareness but tamas, inconscient is a point where consciousness of action is absent from action. The inconscient carries out the Divine’s Will and is fully concentrated upon it. The concentration of consciousness is so great that consciousness is lost in action. Therefore, inconscience is a state of consciousness in which the action of consciousness is present but the consciousness of action is completely absent. Inconscience is a state of consciousness in which action of consciousness is executed precisely but consciousness of the action is completely lost.