The Kleshas

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

The Kleshas

“Are you so engrossed in your phone screen that you are missing the cosmos? “

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Human being. Human and Being are just two words that describe us, but they are not our integrated daily experience. We spend most of our time identifying with our humanness which is unconsciously searching for a permanent solution to our big existential problem which is…separation from our blissful, conscious inner Being. This causes us great suffering and longing.

Almost everything we do in life is rooted in the search for unity and happiness but more often than not, our search results in temporary solutions only.

The ancient yogis, dealt with the same problem. They explored the root causes of suffering and identified the five Kleshas (mental afflictions) as well as four other mistaken beliefs. These still define the root causes of most of our mental afflictions today. Other spiritual and philosophical traditions offer variations on the Kleshas and are worth exploring.

The five Kleshas of the Yogic tradition are:

  • Avidya - Ignorance. When we lack insight into our true nature, as the unchanging conscious, blissful inner Being, we suffer deeply. As we suffer, the world suffers.

  • Asmita - Egoism. When we forget our true nature, we identify instead, with our body/mind and with me, my and mine. We identify with past memories and with the projected future, with our likes and dislikes. These deeply formed pathways in our brain make up our ego persona, also known as our default mode. Ego has an important roll. It helps us to function in the world, but it also creates waves of thought which cloud our ability to perceive the blissful, conscious truth of our inner Being.

  • Raga - Strong attachment to our desires

  • Dvesa - Strong aversion to reality. Raga and Dvesha are two sides of the same coin. Attachment and aversion go hand in hand and create great storms of emotion in life. Sometimes we may wish thing were different and find ourselves having much resistance to the truth of our own personal and/or collective reality.

  • Abhinidvesa - Fear of constant change and the lack of control we have over our lives. Clinging to life and the fear of dying (it is the ego/mind that is afraid)

The four mistaken beliefs are:

  • Believing in the ultimate reality of the body

  • Believing in the permanence of objects

  • Believing that our state of suffering is really happiness

  • Believing that our bodies, minds, and emotions are our true Self

“These five afflictions are seen as being in a kind of cause and effect sequence and are listed in the order in which they arise. Ignorance is the ground from which all the other afflictions spring. Out of ignorance arises "I-ness": the belief in and clinging to a separate, solid, "small s" self. Out of "I-ness" arise attraction and aversion: our complete identification with our likes and dislikes. And out of this inevitably arises clinging to life and fear of death: a deluded and desperate desire for life to be small, neat, permanent, and solid rather than vast, incomprehensible, impermanent, and it really is”.

Stephen Cope from Yoga, the Quest for the True Self.

Not only did the yogis identify the Kleshas and mistaken beliefs, they also developed many practices and strategies to resolve them.

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