Avidya Asmita Raga Dvesa Abhinivesha Klesah


Avidya Asmita Raga Dvesa Abhinivesha Klesah

Last month we discussed the definition of Kriya Yoga according to Patanjali in his seminal text the Yoga Sutra. The second chapter of the Yoga Sutra is titled Sadhana Pada. One translation for the word sadhana is procuring and thus the second chapter is often referred to as the chapter on how to practice Kriya Yoga. Sutra 2.2 states that the intent of Kriya Yoga is to bring our innate intelligence into the foreground by removing the causes of suffering. Sutra 2.3 lists the five root causes of suffering and the Sutras that follow go on to explain each klesha in detail.

The five afflictions are: lack of self-awareness (avidya), "I am-ness" (asmita), attachement (raga), dislike (dvesa) and the will to live/fear of death (abhinivesha). These five obstructions whether dormant, attenuated or alternating between interrupted and fully active are the principle hindrances on the path to self-realization. Avidya is considered to be the ground in which the other four kleshas thrive. In the absence of self-awareness we mistake the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure and that which is not the self for the self (2.5). To be clear avidya has little to do with the ordinary acquisition of knowledge through the intellect but instead refers to knowledge in the highest philosophical sense. One can be very intelligent or academically accomplished and be completely blinded by the illusions created by the mind. The mind in its delusion desires things to stay permanent, perfect and pure and when things change or unfold in an unexpected way suffering occurs because the sense of "I am" (asmita) has become enmeshed with that object/person/situation/title. This confusion of the seer and the act of seeing results in attachment to pleasure (raga) and resistance to pain (devsa) and a generalized fear of change, the most all encompassing and subtle of which is the fear of death (abhinivesha). How do we get off the wheel of suffering?  Stop watering the seeds! Fortunately the root causes of pain can be ended through self-inquiry and meditation.  By tracing these afflictions back to their source and controlling the fluctuations of thought that arise around them we can cultivate the discriminating intelligence that allows us to discern the difference between the Seer (Purusha) and the see-able (prakriti). More on these concepts next month...