Home - What are the Kleshas? (Hint: They Are Not an Alien Life-Form)

What are the Kleshas? (Hint: They Are Not an Alien Life-Form)

The Kleshas: the great afflictions or causes of all miseries in lifeSutras 2 and 3 of Book Two of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

2. (Kriya-Yoga) is practiced for attenuating Kleshas and bringing about Samadhi.

“Klesha” means taints or afflictions. A klesha is something that diminishes or distorts our consciousness, bringing misery and pain in some form. It also hinders meditation, preventing us from rising to the state of calm, clear concentration and samadhi.

Tapas, swadhyaya, and ishwarapranidhana weaken the kleshas, literally fading them out, washing them away, for they are accretions that have nothing to do with the eternal nature of our Self.

info-symbol-80Note that diminishing the kleshas is enough to bring about samadhi, which will then itself erase them completely. So we are not facing a herculean task that need daunt us. As Krishna tells Arjuna: “Even a little practice of this yoga will save you from the terrible wheel of rebirth and death [mahato bhayat–great fear]” (Bhagavad Gita 2:40).

3. The lack of awareness of Reality [avidya], the sense of egoism or ‘I-am-ness’ [asmita], attractions [raga] and repulsions [dwesha] towards objects and the strong desire for life [abhinivesha] are the great afflictions or causes of all miseries in life.

The five major kleshas are:

  • Avidya: Ignorance; nescience; unknowing; literally: “to know not.” Also called ajnana.
  • Asmita: I-ness; the sense of “I am;” “I exist;” sense of individuality.
  • Raga: Attachment/affinity for something, implying a desire for it. This can be emotional (instinctual) or intellectual. It may range from simple liking or preference to intense desire and attraction. Greed; passion.
  • Dwesha: Aversion/avoidance for something, implying a dislike for it. This can be emotional (instinctual) or intellectual. It may range from simple nonpreference to intense repulsion, antipathy and even hatred.
  • Abhinivesha: Will to live; strong desire; false identification of the Self with the body or mind; an instinctive clinging to life and a dread of death.

(All the above are from A Brief Sanskrit Glossary.)

Next: The Source of all the Afflictions in life: Primal Ignorance
Previously: Kriya Yoga According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

 

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