Becoming Aware of Our Afflictions: The Kleshas
Well, Happy New Year to all of you! I hope it's off to a great start, but it's probably just more of the same that was happening last year. Either way, I hope we all are able to find joy in the small things in life. If you've been joining me for the Meditation Challenge, I hope you are enjoying it and learning some tools to help soothe you. This blog will also be another tool to help identify any patterns of thinking that may be causing you more harm than good. I believe it's important to examine any habit that we have and evaluate its effectiveness from time to time and to release habits that do not serve us any longer. That way we can make space to develop more beneficial practices.
After spending 10 weeks writing about the Yamas and Niyamas, I thought it would be wise to continue and share about the five Kleshas. Kleshas, veils or afflictions, keep us in a cycle of suffering and pain. When we are able to lift the veils, we can then connect with our true selves. Recently, as I speak and connect with people in my life, in person or online, I am seeing the Kleshas affecting so many people, myself included. When we identify with what is going outside of ourselves and mistaken that for our true nature, we begin to suffer due to fear. This is why our yoga and meditation practices are so crucial to our inner peace in times like these. I'm positive if I hadn't of had this practice already, I'm sure I would have completely lost myself to the madness in the outside world by drinking myself into oblivion. The material world we identify with is filled with fear and discontentment. When we let go of this fear, we can come back to our true self, which holds all the answers we need.
The first Klesha is Avidya, which is ignorance. It is said that ignorance is the cause of all of the other afflictions. It begins by denying our own selves. We don't believe we have everything within us. We look outside of ourselves to satisfy our needs, but when we turn inwards we can find the peace we've been searching for. We mistaken things going on outside of ourselves as something in our control, when it is not. When we dissolve this veil, we can dissolve the other four veils much more easily.
The second Klesha is Asmita, which is egoism or pride. We identify with our false self, instead of our true selves. The false self is believing we are the things we have, the things we do, or the titles we have attained. When we allow the ego to lead we aren't acting from a place of peace. Constantly allowing the ego to tell us we aren't good enough or we are better than those around us. Our limiting beliefs about ourselves cause these insecurities and we behave accordingly, from the ego. These conflicting thoughts cause our inner turmoil and unhappiness. Wow, no wonder we have such self-esteem issues. That dang ego is messing with us all the time.
The third and fourth Kleshas are two sides of the same coin; Raga and Dvesa. Raga is desiring things that are pleasurable and Dvesa is avoidance of the things that are unpleasurable. Sure, we want more dessert and of course, we want to avoid going to the gym. This makes sense right? But anything in excess or avoidance all together is not good. That's why we practice Brahmacharya, moderation, remember that one from our Yamas? We all know that person that works out non-stop all the time. Working out is good for you, but not all the time. Perhaps this person has a distorted view of their body and becomes obsessed with their physical appearance, which maybe leads to an eating disorder. . . get the idea? There CAN be harm in over-doing anything. Moderation is key in everything. We cannot spend our lives avoiding things or only seeking pleasurable activities that bring us joy. Sometimes the things we think are "pleasurable" or good for us, turn out to be detrimental to our health in the long run. It seems the longer we try to avoid something the bigger the issue can become. For example, if I avoided the truth of my binge drinking, it could have turned into something bigger with much larger, possibly deadly consequences. Instead, I faced the truth and stopped the monster before it completely took over my life.
The final Klesha, Abhinivesah, clinging to bodily life or fear of death. Since we live in the Western world where Judeo-Christian beliefs are the main spiritual belief system, we have come to believe that our physical death means the end. In the Yogic tradition and Hindu religion, death is just another part of the journey, not to be feared. It brings me great peace and solace to think that when my physical death comes, my journey will continue onto another realm to be (hopefully) reunited with some of my favorite people and pets.
I hope sharing yoga philosophy about the Kleshas keeps you more mindful and aware of some of the ways in which we perpetuate our own suffering. I believe that suffering does serve a purpose (sometimes we don't know that purpose right away) and once we find its purpose, we can let it go. We keep ourselves in a cycle of pain. Once we find the key to unlocking the chains of pain, I hope we use that key to set ourselves free to live as our truest and highest selves.