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Ego is one of the five kleshas

Five yogic troubles – kleshas

Why aren’t we in peace? Why can’t we reach enlightement? All yogis talk about it, but why is it so hard? Because there are five yogic troubles/afflictions that keeps us from happiness, according to Patanjali (yoga sutra II.3), the great yogic sage who was the first to put all yogic knowledge on paper. In Sanskrit they afflictions are called kleshas.

These five yogic troubles or kleshas are:

  • Avidya: Ignorance or lack of (spiritual) knowledge/wisdom
  • Asmita: Ego, pride, the sense of ‘I’
  • Raga: Attachment to pleasure, desire
  • Dvesa: Hate, dislike
  • Abhinivesah: Clinging on to life, fear of pain, distress, sorrow and death

If we can overcome these five yogic troubles – kleshas we can reach a state of unlimited happiness. Because that happiness is already in us. We just can’t reach it, because this five afflictions are like a fog, hiding our state off eternal happiness. So as a yogi, we actually don’t have to gain anything, we just have to remove this fog.

Avidya – Ignorance

In the Western world we live in a non-spiritual society. Religions fight wars to be in power, to be the biggest. They believers kill in name of their god, whereas their gods forbid them to kill. Religious leaders life excessively rich lives, where their believers often die from hunger. This has nothing to do with spirituality, but everything with power.

A spiritual life is a life in which we find ourselves. A life in which we find the god within us. A big career, a big house, the perfect relationship or lots of money are not the goals of our life. The goal of our life is to find ourselves, to find true, unlimited happiness, to find the divine within us, within everybody. To see we are all part of the same source. We all are the source.

As long as we don’t know our assignment on this earth, we will be with our head in the fog of ignorance. This spiritual ignorance it the source of the other four yogic troubles/kleshas: ego, attachment, hate and clinging on to life.

Asmita – Ego

I am Chief Executive Officer of a company, I am rich, I am pretty, I am sad. We identify ourselves with what we do, with what we have, with how we look, how we feel, what we think. But we are neither our body, nor our emotions, nor our thoughts, nor our job. We have a job, we might have or not have a lot of money, we have emotions and thoughts, but that’s not what we are. Our body changes, our emotions changes, our thoughts change. We are just the observer, the soul that sees all these changes.

The ego is the part in us that identifies itself with what we have, do, think, feel. Our ego is like a little monster inside of us, that feeds on emotions and thoughts. But we are not our ego. This ego is a nice helpful part within us that we need to fulfill our basic needs, to grow strong, to be able to take care of ourselves and survive in this hard world. But as soon as it has done its task it’s time to stop feeding it, to go on our spiritual mission and to let go of this ego.

Raga – Attachment

The show must go on. Queen already put it down in a song text. Life always goes on. Whatever happens. Things keep on changing. Day in day out. Look at nature: spring comes and nature starts to grow. Summer comes and everything is overflowing. Fall comes and nature dies. Winter comes and everything is grey. Then a new spring comes with new flowers, new baby animals, new life, new promises.

We tend to cling to what we have. We fall in love and want the butterflies to say for ever. We want our children to stay small, our friends to never die and so on. We often look at life as a photo; a moment that never will go away. But it will. Life is not a photo, it’s a movie. The show will always go on. If we want or not, we have to go with this flow. Attachment will only lead to sorrow.

Dvesa – Hate, dislike

We have (almost) love and lost. What do we do with our losses? How do we act around people we don’t like? Pain, sorrow and misery can trigger a chain of hate or aversion, which can trigger a negative energy we live our life by. We all know people who’s glass is always half full, who always see the negative, the downside in/off everything. Who always complain. It’s where their ego thrives on.

Dvesa can also be seen as our comfort zone. We feel good as long as we stay in, we get challenged as soon as we leave it. But we only grow when we face ourselves with our own fears.

Abhinivesah – Clinging on to life

Most of us love life, love happiness. We’ve all been sick; from a small cold to bigger illnesses. We know how it feels to be healthy and happy. We love that feeling, we love the good times we can have with friends, lovers. We love fun, food, drinking. Most of us don’t want to die, but we have to; some day. This idea can lead to sorrow, pain.

According to the yogis, if we meditate and look deep inside ourselves, we will discover that we are divine, eternal. If we die, we actually only let go of our body, the soul remains. To do so, we have to follow a spiritual practice and stop clinging to life. To the life of this body.




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