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More on the Misery-Producing Kleshas

asmita, raga, dwesha, abinivesha, kleshasSutras 6 through 9 of Book Two of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Earlier we dealt with the root of the kleshas, Avidya. Now Patanjali continues with the other kleshas:

6. Asmita is the identity or blending together, as it were, of the power of consciousness (Purusha) with the power of cognition (Buddhi).

Having forgotten our true spirit-Self, we have been pulled into the nets of illusion and the false experience that we are the mind and its perceptions. Therefore we say: “I hurt,” “I am sick,” “I own this,” “I lost that,” and so forth. We identify with and therefore define ourselves in terms like this.

Mistaking the senses and the lower mind for our Self we think and live in an altogether mistaken way, bringing harm and suffering to ourselves, and strive to eliminate the harm and suffering by working with the very things that cause it. So misery and delusion become self-perpetuating. We live our lives like my paternal grandmother drove a car. When my grandfather taught her to drive, at one point she began moving the steering wheel back and forth in rapid, short movements. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I’m giving it more gas!” was her answer.

7. That attraction, which accompanies (results from) pleasure (sukha), is Raga.

8. That repulsion which accompanies pain (dukha) is Dwesha.

This is the experience of us all, but as Patanjali has pointed out, through ignorance we get sukha and dukha mixed up and our reactions are the opposite of what they should be.

To help us get untangled, a good rule is this: We cannot become addicted to what is good for us, only to what is bad for us. We see this in the way people become addicted to alcohol and drugs (including nicotine) that repelled and made them sick the first time they tried them. The body was warning them away, but after some continued use the same body began to demand and “need” them. The body being only an instrument of the mind, the addiction was also psychological.

In the same way unnatural things and behavior become “natural” to us and we blame those who do not see it the same way as we do. In fact, many addicts become very unsettled and even hostile toward those who are not addicted like them, denouncing them as fools or worse. I vividly remember what it was like to be persecuted by a history teacher in high school because I did not smoke cigarettes. It had nothing to do with history, but every so often we would have a class “discussion” on how silly it was to not smoke. (Things have certainly changed!) He would always end up by saying: “In my opinion, people who don’t smoke are doing worse things.” Such is the evil of addiction.

Many people’s favorite foods are the very things that are bad for them to eat. The same is often true of the people they like or “love.” Once the mind is distorted it avoids the good and seeks out the bad, sinking into habit patterns that can bind them for lifetimes as they revel in their “free will.” As the Gita says: “The recollected mind is awake in the knowledge of the Atman which is dark night to the ignorant: the ignorant are awake in their sense-life which they think is daylight: to the seer it is darkness” (Bhagavad Gita 2:69).

9. Abhinivesha is the strong desire for life which dominates even the learned.

Abhinivesha is the desperate will to live rising from false identification of the Self with the body; an instinctive and unreasoning clinging to life and a dread of death. Of course it rises from a complete misunderstanding of what life and death really are. Even great yogis can have a subconscious impression (samskara) of this but they can master it. Two examples are given in Autobiography of a Yogi.

Lahiri Mahasaya encouraged Sri Yukteswar to attend the Kumbha Mela at Allahabad in January, 1894. There he met Mahavatar Babaji. Later, when he met with Lahiri Mahasaya in Benares the following occured:

“‘Gurudeva, the divine master asked me to give you a message. “Tell Lahiri,” he said, “that the stored-up power for this life now runs low; it is nearly finished.”’

“At my utterance of these enigmatic words, Lahiri Mahasaya’s figure trembled as though touched by a lightning current. In an instant everything about him fell silent; his smiling countenance turned incredibly stern. Like a wooden statue, somber and immovable in its seat, his body became colorless. I was alarmed and bewildered. Never in my life had I seen this joyous soul manifest such awful gravity. The other disciples present stared apprehensively.

“Three hours passed in utter silence. Then Lahiri Mahasaya resumed his natural, cheerful demeanor, and spoke affectionately to each of the chelas. Everyone sighed in relief.

“I realized by my master’s reaction that Babaji’s message had been an unmistakable signal by which Lahiri Mahasaya understood that his body would soon be untenanted. His awesome silence proved that my guru had instantly controlled his being, cut his last cord of attachment to the material world, and fled to his ever-living identity in Spirit.”

When Yogananda has returned to India the following conversation took place.

“Arrangements were recently made for Master to visit Kidderpore [a section of Calcutta], but he failed to go.” Amulaya Babu, a brother disciple, made this remark to me one afternoon; I felt a cold wave of premonition. To my pressing inquiries, Sri Yukteswar only replied, “I shall go to Kidderpore no more.” For a moment, Master trembled like a frightened child.

(“Attachment to bodily residence, springing up of its own nature [i.e., arising from immemorial roots, past experiences of death],” Patanjali wrote, “is present in slight degree even in great saints.” In some of his discourses on death, my guru had been wont to add: “Just as a long-caged bird hesitates to leave its accustomed home when the door is opened.”)

Right identity is the remedy for this dilemma, identity that can be gained only through meditation.

Next in the Yoga Sutras: How Do I Deal with the Misery-Producing Kleshas?

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