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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Kleshas

In the yoga philosophy group yesterday (which meets on Sundays at 6 pm for 20 minutes) we discussed the 5 afflictions or causes of pain (the kleshas).  Through introspection we can trace all pain and suffering back to at least one of these 5 afflictions:
1. Ignorance
2. Egoism
3. Attachment
4. Aversion
5. Fear of death

B.K.S. Iyengar states that "The sadhaka [practitioner] must learn to locate the sources of the afflictions, in order to be able to nip them in the bud through his yogic principles and disciplines." (Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, p. 113)

Sutras II.3 thru II.9 define the 5 afflictions.  Here are Iyengar's translations from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:
  • II.3 The five afflictions which disturb the equilibrium of consciousness are: ignorance or lack of wisdom; ego, pride of ego, or sense of 'I'; attachment to pleasure; aversion to pain; fear of death and clinging to life.
  • II.4 Lack of true knowledge is the source of all pains and sorrows whether dormant, attenuated, interrupted or fully active.
  • II.5 Mistaking the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure, and that which is not the self for the self: all this is called lack of spiritual knowledge, avidya.
  • II. 6 Egoism is the identification of the seer with the instrumental power of seeing.
  • II.7 Pleasure leads to desire and emotional attachment.
  • II.8 Unhappiness leads to hatred.
  • II.9 Self-preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions. It is found even in wise men.
Here are some questions I came up with to ask myself regarding the causes of pain. Please add questions that arose during your reading and introspection to the comments section.
  • How do I mistake the transient for the permanent? impure for pure? pain for pleasure? that which is not the self for the self?
  • How do I identify myself as separate/distinct from others?  What labels to I cling to?  How do I perceive myself and how do I think others perceive me?  How does that make me feel?
  • What expectations do I cling to? How do I feel when things don't happen as I'd like them to?  What do I find pleasureful? What emotional attachment arises from this?
  • What do I avoid even though I know it's good for me? When has unhappiness led to hatred?
  • What am I afraid of? How does this change my behaviors and choices?

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