The sources of suffering (klesah) are misunderstanding (avidya), ego (asmita), excessive desire (raga), avoidance (dvesa) and fear (abhinivesah).
PRACTICAL LIVING In the last sutra Patanjali suggested that we practice the yoga of action (kriya yogah) in order to: (1) reduce the sources of our pain; and (2) to lead us to a spiritual transformation. In this sutra Patanjali states what the sources of discomfort or suffering are:
1. avidya – misunderstanding, misperception, ignorance, lack of wisdom, false knowledge. This klesa is considered the Grandpa of the other four klesas since it is the root for the others. Misperception or misunderstanding, which we discussed in Sutra I.8, can be discussed on many different levels. We will discuss this further in the next sutra. Misperception leads or manifests as other four characteristics.
2. asmita – ego, ‘I-am-ness’, over identification, arrogance. When we misperceive who we are in essence, the ego inflates and identifies itself with external things. For example, “I am a yoga teacher”, “I am a woman”, “I am Brazilian”… this causes separation and leads to arrogance or victimization. We will discuss this further in Sutra II.6
3. raga – desire, craving, addiction, attachment. When we misperceive, we attach to people, objects and ideas to make ourselves feel better, feel safe. We will discuss this further in Sutra II.7.
4. dvesa – avoidance, aversion, hatred, running away from pain. When we misunderstand, we also avoid people, objects and ideas (the opposite to attachment). Attachment and avoidance are two sides of the same coin. We will discuss this further in Sutra II.8.
5. abhninivesa – fear of death, of ending, clinging to life. It is the most instinctive of all 4 klesas. We are born with the desire to live and not die. Therefore, it is the most difficult klesa to work with. We will discuss this further in Sutra II.9.
Knowing what causes us discomfort helps us begin to become aware of when they are sprouting. We often run away from discomfort and that leads to further pain and prevents us from growing. Are we avoiding going to a party because we fear not fitting in? Are we attaching to the idea that eating raw food for the rest of our lives is going to bring us happiness? Take a pen and paper (or your computer) and list a few things that you see in your life under each klesa. Maybe this can shed some light on your yoga journey 🙂
IN THE YOGA WORLD The order in which the klesas are listed is important. Due to disconnect (or ignorance-avidya) from our highest Self, the ego dominates. When the ego is the protagonist in our lives, we get attached and desire (raga) people, objects and ideas for pleasure. In addition, in order to always make sure we feel pleasure we run away (dvesa) from pain. Consequently, due to our attachment to life, we fear death. We fear not having anything that we are attached to: our cellphones, cars, jobs, friends, significant others…It is important to note that though Patanjali lists them as separate entities, the klesas are all interconnected. In the next few sutras we will explore each one of them in detail.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Ariella, my eldest niece, reminds me of a blooming flower in spring. At the powerful age of 17, she is dedicated daily to planning her future. This age, at least for me, was a little turbulent. In other words, the klesas were running circles around me! Though I am sure fear is a part of her these days, she seems to have the courage and determination to plan an amazing college life for herself. She is open to listening to others’ opinions, yet has a clear idea of what she wants and does not want. I am dedicating this sutra to her, knowing that even though the klesas do flare up for most of us during big transitional moments like this one, that if we have the awareness that they’re there, we can just accept them and keep moving, one step at a time. Ariella, thank you for sharing a beautiful yoga practice with me a few days ago and emphasizing the power of the breath: the calmness it brings when we consciously slow it down. Love you!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will describe in detail the klesa called ‘avidya’, or ignorance.
You have such a great website. Thanks for putting this together.
Hi Kate, I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying it! Thanks for letting me know 🙂
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