According to Vedanta, the terms Ajnana and Avidya signify besides ignorance, wrong knowing or even misunderstanding. It is easy to mistake dharma as adhrama and vice versa. The Upanishads adopt the method of description through negation when dealing with the Ultimate Reality and they show that all aspects of what can be known or understood by human intelligence are still insufficient to grasp Its essence. Likewise the Self is defined by showing all what is not the Self. The greatest benefit to be derived from the knowledge of the Self is that not only will it equip us to face the problems of life but also lead us towards the highest knowledge by knowing which all else is known, said Sri Rangan in a discourse.
We can then understand the unreal (all that is fleeting) and discard it and focus on the real that is eternal. Our Self is the core in us and yet we misunderstand it to be the body, mind and intellect. We misunderstand the rope to be a serpent, or a piece of shell to be silver.
In the Ramayana, Kaikeyi misunderstood Dasaratha, Lord Rama and Bharata due to the ill advice of Manthara. She accused Dasaratha to be a plotter who had manoeuvred Lord Rama's coronation in the absence of Bharata; she thought Lord Rama would banish Bharata once He became the king and Bharata would love the kingdom which she got from Dasaratha with such effort.
The most common example used to illustrate this truth is the story of the villagers who gradually stopped using the water from the well when a motor pump was installed. In due course, the well was covered by leaves and waste matter and people forgot it. But once when the pump did not function and water was needed, they were reminded of the well by the elders. Only then they realised that drinking water was always with them but that they had forgotten it. Michael Angelo, in absolute humility, used to say that the statue was already there in stone and that he merely removed the unwanted portions.
The Self is what remains beyond the attributes of the mind, the intellect and even one's life breath.