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Kleshas are considered the root cause of all of our pain and suffering in this human experience. According to Patanajali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the oldest texts written about yoga, there are 5 main afflictions or kleshas.
1. Avidya – Ignorance
When we are ignorant of our true nature we experience pain and suffering. So, what is our true nature? It’s that part of you that is always loving, peaceful, and unchanging. It’s that good seed that is always there, but with life’s many distractions it can easily get covered up just like clouds filling up a clear sky.
2. Asmita – Egoism
When we forget our true nature we begin to overly identify with I, me, and mine. We forget that we are connected and at our core we are all one. We may also take things too personally and have self deprecating thoughts.
3. Raga – Attachments
When we have inflated or bruised egos we can also develop strong attachments to our desires. Desires can be healthy, but the attachment to desires is what can cause us pain and suffering. For some people this will also play out as an obsession with perfectionism. As we know deep down…there is no such thing as perfection. However, there is always room for compassionate growth.
4. Dvesa – Aversions
When we are controlled by strong desires we will also develop strong aversions when those desires are not fulfilled. They are two sides of the same coin, they rely on each other.
5. Abhinidvesa – Fear
When our attachments and aversions are firmly set in place we will naturally fear change. We experience pain and suffering when we realize we lack the ability to control life. Deep down we know that the only thing constant in life is change, yet it is one of the most common fears especially the fear of death.
Which brings us back to the first klesha…if we understood our true nature, the ‘never ending’ state of love and peacefulness, we would know deep down we actually have nothing to fear at all.
The Yogis also had the wisdom to recognize that if we can eliminate the first klesha, ignorance, we can dissolve all the other afflictions. If we awaken to our true nature there would be no room for egoism, attachment, aversion, and nothing left to fear.
So, here is our task...Eliminate all ignorance! Easy said but how?
One of the best paths to eliminate ignorance is through yoga, which includes postures, meditation and breathing practices. It will continually bring you back to your true nature. To combat daily distractions and challenges we need to develop a daily ritual that reminds us of who we truly are.
Try this 2 minute practice at least once a day for 7 days, and observe how does it make you feel.
1. Sit or lie comfortably with full attention on the present moment.
2. Take 10-15 deep breaths and with each exhale say silently or aloud I AM PEACE, I AM LOVE or simply I AM.