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How Do We Deal with the Misery-Producing Kleshas?

meditation and the misery-producing kleshasSutras 10 & 11 of Book Two of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

10. These, the subtle ones, can be reduced by resolving them backward into their origin.

11. Their active modifications are to be suppressed by meditation.

In meditation we plumb the depths of the conscious and unconscious mind. There we encounter the subtle energy constructs we call karma and also the energy whorls produced by various experiences in past lives–these are the kleshas.

So a great deal of yoga practice is purification and correction of the subtle energies of the mind (manas) and intellect (buddhi). Naturally we are hoping for meditation to produce amazing and uplifting experiences that make good reading, and they do come in time, but first we have a great deal of simple housekeeping and remodeling to do. The yogi is engaged in a complete reconstruction of the many aspects of his being, in the correction of ages-long distortions and obscurations. It takes a long time and can be tedious, but the healing process always is.

Meditation Insight

The insight gained in meditation is the basic remedy for the kleshas, which is why in commenting on the first sutra of this Sadhana Pada Shankara states that

“yoga practice being the means to right vision [samyagdarshanopaya], comes before right vision. All the yoga methods are means to right vision and therefore precede it in time.”

First things come first in yoga as well as in all other areas of life. Those who seek the effect before applying the cause can only be disappointed.

Then Shankara tells us:

“Right vision is the direct adversary of the kleshas since ignorance is the root of all evil, and ignorance is destroyed when directly confronted by right vision.…the purpose of tapas and the others is samadhi meditation thinning out the kleshas.…Tapas and the others are actions, and as their aim is yoga, they are themselves called yoga. Yoga is the mental state of samadhi, and this yoga of action [kriya] aims at that; he who practices it is a yogi.”

Vyasa says:

“In one without tapas, yoga does not succeed. Tapas is taught because impurity, colored from time without beginning by karmas, kleshas, samskaras and vasanas–a net of sense contacts–is not destroyed without tapas.”

Shankara expands on this, saying:

“One will not succeed in yoga whose attitude is to cherish the body and bodily things, whose habit is to avoid discomfort of body, senses and mind, and who seek the body absolutely as his self and things of it as very delicate. This is why tapas is taught.…Meditation is the mighty opponent of the kleshas.”

It is important that we do not think of the kleshas are merely wrong ideas or concepts–they are very real taints of the mind. So regarding the third sutra of this section Shankara writes:

“The kleshas are not mental processes. For kleshas are not merely ideas, whereas mental processes are merely ideas. Taints are impurities of the mind, as the disease glaucoma is of the eye. It is from absence of illusion that there is freedom from the impurity of kleshas.”

Vyasa sums it all up:

“All these kleshas are divisions of ignorance. How so? In all of them, ignorance alone prevails. Whatever is given a form by ignorance, that the kleshas inhere in. they are felt at the time of deluded ideas. When ignorance dwindles, they dwindle accordingly.”

Previously: More on the Misery-Producing Kleshas
Next in the Yoga Sutras: The Sea of Karmas and How We Should See It

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