Kleshas ~ The Cause of Suffering

According to yogis the reason that we suffer in life is the Kleshas. These are afflictions of the mind that vary in intensity depending on the person. Each of us is affected differently by the Kleshas. There are five main ones:

Avidya: This is ignorance, although not in the conventional sense. The inability to see things as they really are is at the heart of this klesha, and is actually the root of the other four as well. When we believe that what is actually temporary will last forever we are affected by this klesha.

Asmita: Identification with ego, or rather an over-identification. We all identify with our egos to some extent. When that identification affects our ability to connect to our higher selves, though, we are affected by asmita. This influences how we see ourselves; we begin to believe that we are our jobs and our roles in life rather than recognizing that these are simply things we are doing. We are blessed beings in human form. As Deepak Chopra says, we are not so much human beings as we are being human.

Raga: Attachments are the cause of this form of suffering. When we are attached to the things that provide pleasure, we suffer when we cannot have those things. When we simply experience pleasure in the moment and let it go freely and willingly when the experience has ended we are able to maintain our equilibrium. We experience pleasure but core happiness is unaffected by giving it up.

Dvesha: This is the opposite of raga. It is the aversion to those things that are unpleasant. When we seek to avoid unpleasant experiences or are repulsed by them we are not able to fully live in the present moment; we allow fear and anxiety to affect our mental state. When something unpleasant is occurring we deal with it, but we do not live in the state of waiting for such experiences.

Abhinivesha: Fear of death is the final of the five kleshas. For some this fear is so strong that they do not really live; they are unable to fully enjoy the experiences of life because you are concerned with it ending. We will all die, that is a fact. And while we need to be aware that this life is temporary the focus does not need to be on its end. It is cliché perhaps, but we need to focus on the journey not the destination.

As we go through our lives we can work with the kleshas. Through meditation and mindfulness we become more aware that they are there and can look at how we are affected by each. We can work with our fears, attachments, and aversions and continually open our minds to new possibilities so we become less ignorant. Bit by bit the kleshas can diminish. They are part of our human experience, I don’t know that they can disappear completely; we must remember to practice compassion with ourselves and not judge our suffering as good or bad, but simply experience it.

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About Reena Davis

I am a certified yoga teacher and a student of all things spiritual.
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4 Responses to Kleshas ~ The Cause of Suffering

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