The Kleshas- How to overcome suffering in our everyday lives.
Life has always been a rich and wonderful journey, full of joy, sorrow and many other experiences. As life speeds up, we have less time to be still and observe and more time becomes consumed by rushing and distraction.
Whilst we enjoy many benefits in our modern lifestyles, there are also many down sides.
Unfortunately, one of the down sides of this constant stimulation and distraction is the suffering which we submit ourselves to.
More than ever in our world of social media, travel and business. We see an increase in the number of those, suffering in mental illness, disconnection and fear.
Looking at the ancient wisdom of the yogi’s we will look at the philosophy they proposed and how relevant this same advice is today.
The idea of Klesha, proposed thousands of years ago. It still holds relevance to our lives today.
By looking at this wisdom and guidance of the ancient sages it is possible that we can apply these awareness’s and ideal to our own lives and find a better path for ourselves.
What is a Klesha?
In Sanskrit, Klesha means poison and more directly relates to the suffering we humans experience. Due to the many illusions, emotions and negative states of mind we are afflicted with, humans suffer under the Kleshas. Sometimes called veils. By bringing the light of awareness and removing these veils or Kleshas we are able to begin to transcend them and eventually you can be released from suffering.
The Five Kleshas:
The first Klesha Avidya-
This Klesha is the suffering of ignorance. It literally means to not see, to not know and to not understand. Particularly referring to the true self and true nature. It is a human trait to identify with the superficial changing parts of our being. The emotions we experience, our ever changing face, the thoughts we think and this entire identity we build around ourselves. When we try to fixate and identify with these things that will be ever changing and never lasting, we start to feel hopeless, lost or anxious. We have fixated on controlling something that cannot be controlled and that can produce all kinds of other emotion, thoughts and anxiety. And so, we go, around in a circle. Building layer upon layer of self doubt and illusion. We are swallowed by Avidya, feeding the illusion each time we are consummed with the superficial.
To overcome this Avidya we must look deeply into ourselves and realise our true self is always there. Never changing and constant. The deep consiousness that were never born and will never cease to exist. Still and eternal in the center of the storm we have created for ourselves.
Each of us is composed and contains the infinite potential of all that is, was, and will ever be.
When we allow the distraction of the superficial, material world to cover up this essential self, we fail to grasp who we are and we build the foundations for the other four Klesha to arrise.
The second Klesha, Asmita-
This Klesha is the suffering of Egoism. If we think back to Avidya. We have suffered already the loss of our essential and true identity. Now, the veil of Asmita falls over our eyes. We suffer with the ego and start to build a false sense of identity.
It is true we need a certain level of ego for survival. We must have ego present to have the urge to live our lives, have a family, keep a job and to succeed.
This ego when allowed to go unchecked, is a dangerous thing. In the case of Asmita Klesha. The ego is responsible for building a false self. Creating, moment by moment the new self that defines itself by job, possession, action etc. This ego creates immense suffering not because of the illusion and un-reality it creates. But, by the consistent need for acknowledgement and ego-boosting it requires to maintain the illusion. Often, it is unrealistic to have the ego’s needs met and when they are not the great suffering and despair can descend over the person.
The third Klesha, Raaga-
Raaga, meaning attraction, passion or attachment, is the act of seeking out pleasure. Perhaps think of a pleasurable experience. Why would it be so bad to repeat it? Well, for a start constantly seeking to repeat a gratifying experience or feeling may hold you back from other different and better experiences. Secondly, we can never exactly find a moment that has past, it is in the past and grasping for it can only lead to disappointment. This attachment or grasping to something which is illusory or impermanent creates a deep sense of insecurity within you because you know that whatever you have might be lost—so you seek, become obsessive and hold on even tighter to that illusion. Not everything in life can be pleasurable. We must accept that there will be times of difficulty, misunderstanding and conflict. But that it will not last. We must also understand that there will be highs in life that are blissful and complete, but, that it will not last.
It is this impermanence that we must accept and embrace only each present moment for what it is.
The fourth Klesha, Dvesha-
The Klesha Dvesha, means aversion or repulsion. Particularly avoidance of those things which you do not like. Dvesha Klesha, is the aversion to things you don’t want. Avoiding any thing, situation or person that doesn’t feel pleasant or anything that poses a threat to your ego will cause you great anxiety. Meaning that you will do almost anything to get away from those things, physically or mentally.
You might think why? Why should I do something I don’t like? But sometimes those things we fear and want to avoid. Those difficult conversations, situations or people we would rather avoid. Are exactly the things we need to move forward in our lives.
Aversion leads you to suffering by allowing the mind to formulate negativity and fear. By facing these fears, you can move past this suffering.
The fifth Klesha, Abhinivesha-
Abhinivesha, meaning the will to live or fear of death. Not only is abhinivesha Klesha the fear of death but it is also the incorrect identification of the true self with the physical body or world. It is attachment to life itself. Attachment to all you have ever known and fear of the unknown. This fear and suffering can prevent a person from achieving liberation from this world as they move into the next.
A yogi who has mastered this Klesha no longer fears death but when the time comes, welcomes it as a bridge to salvation.
Bringing awareness brings freedom from suffering:
Understanding these different illusions of suffering can help bring the awareness or mindfulness to life.
It is true that even with awareness the most enlightened Yogis will falter and illusion will creep its way back in. Veiling the eyes in one form or another.
The key to transcending suffering is to remember that our suffering is caused by illusion. When we remember that we are pure and eternal consciousness. Your ignorance melts away.
You will have no need to fuel your ego.
No need to cling to pleasure or avoid pain.
Finally, you will understand that everything is temporary apart from that consciousness and death will not trigger fear.
Tools for awareness of the true self:
Meditation is a wonderful tool that will help remove that suffering:
Simply by spending time being still and peaceful. Over time. A practitioner can observe these veils of suffering for what they are. Learning how to observe objectively and not become involved. Seeing these kleshas appear and recognizing them for what they are will liberate the practitioner from their control.
Try sitting for just five minutes to begin with. Sit somewhere clean and quiet. Either sit comfortably on the floor or a chair with your back straight. Close the eyes. And watch the breath. You may start by counting the breath in for three holding for one and exhaling out for three. Again, holding the breath out for one. Then repeat. This gives the mind something to focus on and be really helpful if you are new to meditation. Sitting for just five minutes of meditation daily can be super beneficial. This time can be extended as you feel for comfortable.
We teach in depth yogic philosophy as well as many meditation techniques on our Yoga Teacher Training Courses at Mahi Yoga.