Saturday, February 1, 2014

Yogi Corner - The Sutras of Patanjali: Kleshas (Obstacles)

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Kleshas)

Ah, Samadhi, the alluring and seemingly unaccessible final stage of yoga. It has been said that Samadhi cannot be fully understood by our limited language. Some have called it bliss. Others enlightenment, nirvana, and ecstasy. But to most yoga students it appears to be simply unachievable. And yet Patanjali tells us that it is entirely available to all who are on the path.

So what stops us? What stands in our way? The Yoga Sutras begins to list the five obstacles or Kleshas that we must work though.

Translation: Ignorance, Egoism, Attachment, Hated and Clinging to Bodily Life are the Five Obstacles.
Avidya is ignorance. Patanjali tells us that ignorance is regarding the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant, and the non-Self as the Self. Let's start with Self. Self is the unchanging, eternal One. Therefore, anything that changes, is not the Self. When we pull a muscle and experience pain and often say, "my back hurts," or whatever the afflicted muscle is. But this is untrue. Who is actually in pain? If the body aches, then the body is in pain. Not the Self. Once this is understood, then nothing can disturb us because we realize we are not connected to them. We will finally understand that we are not that.
Asmita is egoism. In Sri Swami Sachidananda's translation of the Yoga Sutras he states, "The ego is the reflection of the true Self on the mind. The two appear to be the same, but one is the original, the other a reflected duplicate. The Self will always be falsely represented by the ego until our ignorance is removed."
Raga is attachment. And there are many, but Patanjali breaks them down into two categories. Sukha is attachment to that which is a pleasurable experience. Duhkha is the aversion that follows identification with painful experiences. Think of something that you consider to have been a pleasurable experience. You're smiling because this makes you happy. And we attach ourselves to that happiness. We forget that anything that is outside of ourself is not true. Our true Self within is happy, but anything external is not true. 
Dvesha is hatred. Sometimes we develop a dislike for something. These things seem to bring us unhappiness. But this is also something external to our true Self, and therefore, not true. Remember that nobody and nothing can give you happiness or unhappiness. It can only reflect or distort our own inner happiness.
Abhinivesah is cleaning to the bodily life. The concept of reincarnation allows us the opportunity to move through this klesha more smoothly. However, if this concept is not within your faith, then this obstacles may prove to be more difficult for you. The yogis believe in the process of life, death and rebirth. When you consider that death is a small part of the whole cycle of life, then we understand that it is only our body that dies, and not our true Self. 
You may see that the five kleshas seem to go together with a basic theme of understanding our true Self. In our culture and at this time in our development as a species, these are challenging concepts. You may think that you have gone beyond unhappiness until a close friend or loved one passes away. You may think that you are okay with dying until the time comes. And part of being human is unfortunately having an ego. 
So what can we do - those of us on the path of yoga? 
Translation: In the active state, they can be destroyed by meditation.
And that, my friends, is why they call it a practice!