Understanding 5 Kleshas (sanskrit for pain) – are they an obstacle or advantage

Are you scared of heights, snakes or rides at amusement parks? Do you love icecream but hate bitter gourd? Do you always check the mirror before you go out? Do you smile at the camera and check the photo after every click? Do you feel anxious when your child is late from school? Do you feel unhappy about not getting the promotion? Ever wondered why we all have these feelings? Why is it that we can all relate to these habits in some form or the other? The answer is because of the inherent inner afflictions in all of us which Maharshi Patanjali, the author of Yoga sutra explains as Klesha.

Klesha is derived from the root word ”klesh” meaning pain. There are five of them –Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dwesha, Abhinivesh.

Fear of death or any change is Abhinivesh.

This is the greatest fear we all have. What if I fall from this roller coaster or what if the snake bites me or what if someone close to me dies? How do I cope with this fear? How do I face this change? We all know that the only thing constant in life is change. Yet it is so difficult to accept this fact. It is one of the most common fears, especially the fear of death. When I lost my father, I was very disturbed and scared. How will I handle my emotions and life thereafter? What if I lost my immediate family – my husband, my daughters …?

Attachment is Raga and hatred or dislike is Dwesha.

Raga is the attachment for things that brings satisfaction and happiness. In our search for happiness, we sometimes get so attached to the things we like that we suffer when we do not get them.This also traps us into the web of constant longing for the things that we like.

Dvesha is the opposite of raga. It is the feeling of dislike for all things that make life unpleasant for us. We suffer when we cannot avoid these things.
In reality, they are like two sides of the same coin. All these likes and dislikes are well embedded in our brain –from our past experiences Why was I so shaken after I lost my father? Because I was so attached to him and I did not like to lose him. I could not comprehend a life without him.

Ego (I-sense) is Asmita

Ego or the feeling of ‘mine’ is not bad. It is infact necessary to have the feeling to live a normal life. But this ego is not the ‘me’. We tend to make an image of ourselves and identify that with our ego. It is this Ego that makes you turn to the mirror, smile at the camera to look good.
Losing something which you consider to be ‘yours’, is the most difficult thing.
I have seen so many other deaths in my family, friends, neighbours or even in movies …but why was I so upset when I lost MY father? Because, he was ‘mine’.

Incorrect knowledge or ignorance is Avidya

All these kleshas arise due to the lack of awareness of the truth. Being ignorant, we accept and treat a lot of things as the truth which leads to the feeling of pain and sadness.
I knew my father as the body I could see and interact with. Hence his physical absence was the only truth for me. I was unaware of the fact that the soul or purusha never dies- it is just the matter that we are made of (or five elements- air, water, earth, fire, space) that disintegrates with time or illness. I was ignorant.
The right knowledge of my father’s spirit living on forever helps me to find peace. This awareness helps me to manage my emotions, reduce my pain and feel stronger to face life.

In the tree of Kleshas, Avidya is the root, Asmita is the trunk, Raga and Dwesha are the leaves and Abhinivesh is the branch.

Now the question is, if these kleshas are inherent in us then how do we work on them? Is there a way to understand them better?

The answer is Kriya Yoga. The answer is not complex but makes us aware of simple things, thoughts and actions in our daily life that can help us to understand and live life better.

We shall talk about this in my next article

  • Written bySucharita Shome

    Sucharita Shome is a Physics major student who did a professional PG degree in HRM, worked in manufacturing, consulting, airlines and education before turning into a yoga trainer. She lived in 7 cities in India, UK and UAE, now residing in Mumbai with her caring husband and two lovely teenage girls. She strongly believes in,“Do to others what you would like them to do to you”



    Comment: Very nicely explained in simple way.very good.



    Comment: Very well written.. something i am sure every human can relate to! Waiting for the Kriya yoga tip...



    Comment: Nice reading! Isn't there a 'aklesh' (without klesh or painless) state possible? even if kleshas are ingrained, is it possible to manage them? Do you mean exactly that by referring 'kriya yoga'? Looking forward to that...must be by treating your root klesh of avidya and turning it to vidya or awakening and then thinning your trunk of ashmita and pruning branch and leaves as other kleshas. What I liked most is how you described your connection with your father and it must be the pure soul/spirit of him guiding you to these frontiers of knowledge and making you spread the awareness as your own realizations...and as a reader I could connect with it so effortlessly.



    Comment: Very well written



    Comment: Good read, very well explained.


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