Sutra II.8 – Chapter II, Sutra 8

दुःखानुशयी द्वेषः I

duhkha-anusayi dvesah

Suffering (duhkha) leads to (anusayi) aversion (dvesa).

PRACTICAL LIVING     Aversion (dvesa) is the other side of the coin from what we looked at last week: raga (passionate desire). Last week we talked about how a pleasureful experience can lead to craving, and how we suffer because we think that pleasure equals happiness. Aversion works in a similar way, except that in this case, due to a painful experience in the past, we want to avoid anything related to it. Similarly to desire, aversion creates a cloudy belief that as long as we don’t experience this thing, we will be happy.

Aversion manifests in various ways: avoidance, hatred, rejection, escape, xenophobia, homophobia, arachnophobia…Whenever we avoid or detest something, we are practicing aversion (dvesa). Like anything in yoga, there are different levels in a spectrum of avoidance.

A painful experience in our past, whether we remember it or not, often leads to these unreasonable dislikes. A child who was bit by a dog, for example, will likely avoid and fear dogs for the rest of his/her life. Someone whose heart was broken badly will often avoid an intimate relationship, telling themselves they are happy alone (when often they’re not). If a person goes to the dentist and feels pain, it probably will lead him/her avoiding any dentist visits in the future. 

Going a little deeper, one thing we avoid are feelings that don’t feel good. Who wants to feel fear, anger or sadness? No one raises their hands when I ask that question. So we avoid those feelings and distract ourselves with our cellphones, televisions, facebook, food, alcohol…you name it. The problem is that as we avoid those feelings, we begin to distance ourselves from other deep and beautiful feelings like profound love, peace and gratitude.

What do you avoid? Stop and write a list. Then reflect. Why do you avoid those things?

What do you hate? Stop and list them. Then reflect. Why do you hate those things?

Were you taught to avoid or hate certain things?

How do your painful past experiences affect your present life?

IN THE YOGA WORLD     The tricky part is that avoidance can go deeper into layers of our subconscious mind that we cannot access because we cannot remember. Consider this story: A man lived the first three decades of his life feeling uncomfortable around men. He did not trust them, and he had no idea why. Until one day, in a deep state of meditation, he had a vision of his own birth: his mother was in distress and the male doctor assisting her was enhancing the distress. His nails were long and dirty, he was unpleasant and extremely condescending to the mother. After the vision, the man immediately called his mother and asked her about his birth. She told him the exact story he had in his vision earlier that day. This man was lucky to get an ‘answer’ to his deep seated aversion of men, which helped him to begin to relate to men in a more pleasant way.

Just like desire (raga), avoidance (dvesa) prevents us from living in the present and keeps us thinking and behaving according to past conditioning, just like it did for the man in the example above.

For the things we avoid that we are of, we can do something to change. Ideally, instead of attaching (another source of suffering – see Sutra II.6) ourselves to the painful emotion, for example “I hate snakes”, with time we begin to understand that the “I” of the past that felt a negative emotion is the one who hates snakes, which allows the present “I” to see the snake today for what it is, from another perspective.

Happiness is something every living being looks for, and unhappiness is something we all avoid. But often people are unhappy and searching for more happiness. Why is this the case? In the ancient Indian scriptures the example of the musk deer (a type of deer found in the Himalayas in India) is used. The scriptures say that the musk deer emanates the musk fragrance from its forehead and the deer runs around, searching for this scent completely oblivious to the fact that it comes from its own body.

Just like the musk deer, our journey is to understand that the fragrance of happiness is within!


Feyza, a funny, giving and beautiful woman comes to mind this week. Over yoga, long walks, margaritas, Mexican food, Turkish delights and festive moments we have shared amazing conversations that go anywhere from profound life events to silly jokes. She is one of those people that is light to be with. She lights up conversations and is open to life. Want to go and see elephants juggle? Call her! She will be there. Feyza, I am so profoundly grateful for our friendship. Your positivity and joyful way of living is contagious! Being your “neighbor” brings joy to my life on a weekly basis! Lots and lots of love woman!

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 explore fear – abhinivesa!


4 thoughts on “Sutra II.8 – Chapter II, Sutra 8

  1. Pingback: Sutra II.9 – Chapter II, Sutra 9 | weeklysutra

  2. Hm. I made some list of things I avoid or hate, and it seems like a lot of them stem from a sense of injustice. I have a lot of attachment to the idea of fairness despite experiences showing me that it is perhaps an ideal rather than something that exists or that most people hold onto or practice…Should I detach myself from this strong connection to fairness? It seems to keep me in a constant state of distrust and cynicism. Or maybe the key is to turn my distrusts/hates/dislikes into, not pity, because that would place these states apart from myself but nuanced compassion as I try to recognize how I myself carry injustice out into the world.

    • My dearest Bridget, I came across your comment here and realized I never responded. Yes, the sense of justice seems to be something you are (or were since this is a few years old) very attached to. Changing our attitude from ‘grabbing’ with anger and resentment onto something only adds to the negativity in the world. Now, believing in something and doing something (whatevr that is) about it to make a constructive change seems healthy to you and others…does that make sense?

  3. Pingback: Sūtra II.52 – Chapter II, Sūtra 52 | weeklysutra

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