OBSTACLES FOR ALL HUMAN SUFERINGS
The kleshas are outlined in the classical text The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as the
obstacles to the practice of yoga and as such they hold us back from the final aim of
practice which is to attain Enlightenment.
In the case of the kleshas what we are learning about here is all that holds us back
from the Enlightenment experience.
Understanding the kleshas may help us uncovering our inner demons, and bringing
them out into the light for analysis.
We all have the same difficulties to face on our path – at root the human condition
(what Buddhism would call suffering and the manifestations of suffering) are key
‗difficulties‘ or obstacles (the kleshas) they simply manifest in different ways and
scenarios depending on the context.
The obstacles and stumbling blocks on the path towards Realization can easily be
overcome once an intelligent and comprehensive understanding of them has been
It should always be borne in mind that failures are but stepping stones to success‘
So what are the five kleshas and how can they be overcome?
According to Maharishi Patanjali, there are ―five hindrances,‖ or obstacles to spiritual
Let‘s go through them:
1. AVIDYA - IGNORANCE
2. ASMITA - EGOISM
3. RAGA - CRAVINGS
4. DWESHA - AVERSIONS
Non-science, untrue, bogus, illusion, delusion, lack of awareness of reality or the
real, unenlightened, backward. It is also the ground in which the four other Kleshas
Thus Ignorance is when we think the unreal is actually real; that matter is the
ultimate or only important real substance; mistaking religion, dogmas, or
superstitions for spirituality; when we think in terms of "I," "I am the body," "This is
me." Ignorance is absence of knowledge of the spirit of man.
This klesha is sometimes described as ‗ignorance‘ but perhaps we may better think
of it as ‗mis-knowing‘.
Ignorance implies a lack of understanding, whereas mis-knowing implies a willful
We are not innocent victims in this ignorance, most of us choose not to use our
initiative to find out who we really are.
Avidaya is the constant reference to ourselves as the body and the mind without
much of an understanding that we have the capacity to move beyond this.
Most of us are very attached to our bodies and our minds and see these facets of
the self as defining who we are.
Yoga teaches us we are so much more. We even have an expression in our culture
of ‗losing my mind‘ which has a very negative connotation.
In yoga we want to transcend the mind.
So avidya is summarized as a mis-knowing of who we truly are.
Believing we are defined by the body or the mind when in fact when we really ask
‗who am I?‘ the only authentic answer is ‗I am the primordial Self‘ – not ‗I am Katie‘
The "I" or "Me-maker," the opinion we have of ourselves, but one
which is seldom shared by others. An imagined personality.
Mistaken identification of nature, mind, and spirit as the body. To
identify oneself with worldly life, the body, and the senses.
Arrogant conceit is often a cover to hide one's inferiority; Real men and
women have no need to advertise themselves.
Ego is a mask we wear to try to hide and veil what we are.
Asmita arises when we see ourselves as separate and divided from
the rest of the world.
It‘s a perception which is very self-oriented and ego bound. We focus
on ‗I, Me and Mine-ness‘.
Perhaps it is our job or our clothing or our cultural background that we
feel defines us but whatever it is becoming attached to these
definitions will hold us back from progress on the spiritual path.
Asmita can also present as becoming very competitive.
When we find that we want to be the best unconditional love is the
remedy for this.
When we experience unconditional love we let go of judging ourselves
and others and we are able to be kind and compassionate, seeing the
true nature of reality is that WE ARE ALL ONE, and there is no
separation between us.
Therefore there is no need for competition or comparison.
Possessiveness, ownership, liking, attraction. Attachment to people, things, and
ideas. To join, connect, or associate ourselves with something. "This is ours," "This
Attachment in its negative sense to things we cannot own or keep.
Often the cause of quarrels, violent conflicts, and even war.
Expressed also as race, nationality, my country, my money. Attachment can only
have free play on lower mind levels.
The problem with being attracted to pleasurable things is that they are usually
impermanent and when the person / situation / mental state we are so enjoying
changes we experience suffering.
Therefore pleasure in the worldly sense is ultimately unsatisfactory and will not lead
us to happiness and joy in the everlasting sense.
We all have deep attachments, for example as the mother of a newborn baby and I
experience deep attachment to my little babe.
What is important is for me to remember that he is not ‗mine‘.
How can we work on letting go of attachment to pleasure? Perhaps in our asana
practice we can challenge ourselves to pursue postures we find more challenging or
We can aim to practice these postures with an attitude of equanimity in order that
we are able to move beyond only doing postures or practice that we are drawn to.
David Life (from Jivamukti Yoga) points out that if we only ever do things that we
‗like‘ and avoid that which we find challenging or don‘t feel like doing we will stay the
Aversion or repulsion to people, things, or ideas. Its
counterpoise is obviously a state of Equipoise
Neutrality. Repulsion and attraction are two sides of a
The true nature of the Spirit (Atman) is non-
Their obstacle value can be impediments and
overcome by: Contentment, Neutrality, Tranquility,
Closely linked to RAGA, DEVESHA is aversion to the
unpleasant. (running away from uncomfortable
feelings and experiences).
Transformation comes by letting go of attachment to
When we move beyond raga and DVESHA we move
into a place of equanimity where we are less reactive
and more creative in our responses to life‘s ups and
ABHINIVESHA-FEAR OF DEATH
Clinging to life. Fear of Death. Desire for body continuity.
Though most of human life is pain, misery, sickness and woe, delusion gives most people an abnormal
desire to live. The other four Kleshas help to strengthen the delusion. Every living body has a limited
lifespan to live on earth, and humans are no exception to what are but natural laws. This is the root of
all the other kleshas and is the hardest to break.
At the core of our hesitancy in life is fear and abhinivesha explains why we often avoid risk or why we
act with little courage. Abhinivesha is often described as ‗fear of death‘ and whilst it certainly does
describe a fear of the death of the physical body, it also describes the fear of loss, which comes with all
the ‗mini-deaths‘ we experience in life. The end of youth, the end of a job, and the end of a relationship
could all be described as ‗mini deaths‘. We cling onto these phenomenon because we are scared of
We cling to life because we fail to perceive the seamless continuity of consciousness, which cannot be
broken by death. If we truly believed in Enlightenment potential within ourselves there would be no fear
of death because we would know ‗I am not my body‘.
So how do we address the practice of overcoming the kleshas in everyday life? We need to keep in
mind that the formal yoga class is in itself a bit of a bubble outside of our everyday lives.
It‘s important that our yoga practice extends into everything we think, say and do. However the formal
part of the practice gives us an opportunity to do exactly that – practice – so that our life ‗off the mat‘
might be as non-judgemental and compassionate as possible and in this way the life of a being moving
away from the kleshas and towards Enlightenment.
I also remember David Life‘s comments when we left (Jivamukti Yoga) teacher training were very useful
… that teacher training happens in a secluded and conducive environment, and that attachment to
these ideal conditions for practice is unhelpful.
Everyday life may not provide us with what we perceive as ideal conditions but we must remember that
everyday life is our opportunity for practice, it‘s where we really discover if our practice is working.
One very potent way to overcome the kleshas is through intention. The yogi knows the power of
intention and simply keeping in mind the intention to practice and live free from these obstacles will hold
EMOTIONAL RELEASES IN YOGA
THE FOLLOWING IS A BULLETED SUMMARY OF THE MOLECULES OF
EMOTION: WHY YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU DO BY CANDACE PERT
(SIMON & SCHUSTER TOUCHSTONE, 1997)
BY GAYLE KIMBALL, PHD POSTED JUNE 11, 2011
Cell receptors are the interface between emotions and
The cell‘s brain is comprised of the receptors that float
on its membrane.
A neuron may have millions of receptors.
A receptor is a single molecule made up of strings of
amino acids, like beads on a necklace, perhaps the most
complicated molecule there is.
A receptor vibrates and hums as it changes shape,
waiting to pick up messages that diffuse through the
fluids surrounding the cells.
A LIGAND is the chemical key that fits in
the receptor, in a process called binding,
―sex on a molecular level.‖
About 95 percent of LIGANDS are
peptides, smaller strings of amino acids.
Examples of peptides are insulin and
hormones—excluding the steroid sex
The second type are neurotransmitters
such as serotonin, usually made in the
brain to carry information across the gap
(synapse) between neurons.
The third type are steroids including
testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen.
LIGANDS: CHEMICAL KEYS
CHEMICAL INFORMATION EXCHANGE
The chemical exchange of information
molecules is a second nervous system, and the
It allows the different systems to communicate
with each other (i.e., the endocrine, neurological
The brain‘s food is glucose, carried in the blood,
which fuels the neurons to secrete messenger
chemicals (neurotransmitters and
neuropeptides) and the glial cells to work on the
nerve endings in an ―ongoing sculpting of
MOLECULES OF EMOTION
Pert coined the phrase ―molecules of emotion‖
in response to her finding that 85 to 95 percent
of the neuro-peptide receptors are found in the
emotion centers, the limbic, or ―mamalian‖
Paul MacLean first described the brain as
having three layers which represent evolution;
First, the brainstem or reptilian brain
(responsible for autonomic functions such as
breathing and body temperature).
The limbic system encircles the top of the
brainstem. It‘s the source of emotions and
where trauma gets stuck.
The cerebral cortex in the forebrain is the place
we think and reason.
They [emotion centers] include the amygdala (almond-
shaped structures on either side of the forebrain, about
an inch into your brain from your earlobes),
hippocampus and limbic cortex.
Pert‘s group of scientists discovered that high
concentrations of neuro-peptides exist in most locations
(―nodal points‖) where information from the five senses
enters the nervous system.
Receptors are also found on immune cells for almost
every peptide found in the brain.
Thus the immune system can send and receive
information from the brain via the peptides, and the
brain is another nodal point in the network.
―Using neuro-peptides as the cue, our body mind
retrieves or represses emotions and behaviors,‖ since
change at the receptor level is the molecular basis of
MEMORY AND EMOTION
THE FIVE ACTIVITIES [OF THE MIND] ARE COMPREHENSION,
MISAPPREHENSION, IMAGINATION, DEEP SLEEP, AND MEMORY. SUTRA
Memories are stored in the body, as well as the brain, especially in
the receptors between nerves and cell bodies called ganglia.
We pay attention to some information and ignore the rest, as
otherwise we would be overwhelmed.
Pert deduces this means memory processes are emotion-driven
and that emotions. . .[manifest in the body as] peptide ligands.
―Peptides are the sheet music containing the notes, phrases, and
rhythms that allow the orchestra—your body—to play as an
Memory and performance are, therefore, influenced by mood.
―Emotional states or moods are produced by the various neuro-
peptide ligands, and what we experience as an emotion or a feeling
is also a mechanism for activating a particular neuronal circuit—
simultaneously throughout the brain and body—which generates a
Pert believes that there is one kind of peptide for each emotion.
Pert believes ―repressed emotions are stored in the body—
the unconscious mind—via the release of neuro-peptide
ligands, and that memories are held in their receptors.‖
Emotions, then "are at the nexus between matter and mind,
going back and forth between the two and influencing both.‖
The brain, glands, and immune system are linked in an
intelligent information network of neuro-peptides and
receptors which create emotions.
This means ―emotion-affecting peptides, then, actually
appear to control routing and migration of monocytes, which
are very pivotal to the overall health of the organism.‖
Even if we don‘t understand the details of the interaction
between emotions and cell receptors, it‘s important for
healers to know the connection exists and that it can be
This is the basis for neuro-psycho-immunology, the study of
the ways in which the mind, body and nervous system
interact to produce health or illness.
This new science (of which Deepak Chopra is the most vocal
proponent) believes that there are no accidents because a
consciousness pervades the universe which is not basically matter.
Sub-atomic particles are fluctuations of energy, not matter.
Our senses fool us into thinking what we experience is solid,
predictable, and unchanging.
What we perceive as matter is mostly empty with fluctuations of
energy, information and intelligence.
In fact, we continually rebuild our bodies as atoms flow in and out,
including atoms right now that used to be in the body of Jesus,
Buddha, Hitler, etc.
We make new skin every month, a new skeleton every three
months, new DNA every six weeks, so that by the end of next year
we will have replaced 98% of the atoms in our bodies.
Everything changes although consciousness or soul outlives the
death of molecules.
PURUSHA AND AVIDYA
Purusha is that which sees.
Avidya is error, misperception.
In yoga we have tools to dissolve the veils
of misperception and delusion that
determine our thoughts and actions so
that we can experience purusha either as
our true nature or as an indwelling spirit
These tools are tapas (heat, cleansing
discipline), svadhyaya (self study) , and
ishvara pranidhana (surrender to the
•We are also able to change our lives
when we change the way we think.
•If the premises of Candace Pert and
Deepak Chopra and the teachings of
the Yogic texts are correct, our physical
bodies become what we think and feel.
•Asana practice begins to release our
―stuff‖ to make space for new and
•Eventually we allow these
perceptions to ―think, feel and act
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