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Liberated from the Afflictions which Cause Suffering:

Hatha and raja yogas are designed to bring balance and integrity to both body and mind as a basis for higher spiritual realization. Both recognize the same eigt steps to gain self-mastery. The first five steps are external or accessories to the direct control of the mind- and are more emphasized in Hatha yoga. The three internal practices of concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and the superconscious absorption (samadhi), directly focus and quieten the mind. However, to practise true one-pointed concentration (dharana) there must be an extraordinary mental strength. Most people’s minds are just too distracted with worries, anxieties, desires, fantasies, or just dullness and disassociation to perform one-pointed concentration.

Raja yoga pinpoints the root disturbances which give rise to these distractions and categorizes them into five afflictions (kleshas). Removing kleshas is the key to liberating ourselves from the human condition of mental suffering.

  1. Avidya– the primordial ignorance that takes the “non-eternal, impure, painful, and non-self as the eternal, pure, happy Self or Atman.” The other afflictions arise only to compensate for this deep alienation from our immortal, blissful, ever-pure Self of all Life or God.
  2. Asmita– egoism or the false “I” created by pure consciousness which identifies with the mind and the body and then divides the world into objects to be consumed or possessed, objects to be avoided, and objects of no interest.
  3. Raga– the power of the mind to dwell on the objects that the false ego associates with pleasure.
  4. Dwesha– the opposite power of the mind to generate emotions of hatred and disgust for objects that the false ego associates with pain.
  5. Abhinivesha– the instinctual fear of death that haunts all people, even the learned.

These five kleshas or afflictions, generate insatiable desires and the consequent demons of fear, anxiety, and the low self-esteem at the root of all negative emotions. Further they agitate the mind blinding the untrained mind from perceiving the true unchanging self.

Because the ego provides a consistent perspective in a constantly changing world, it resists change. Concepts, attitudes, feelings, likes and dislikes, as well as name, titles, and relationships with individuals, communities, and material objects are all ingredients of the ego’s false identity. By seeking the pure Self which is the course of light for the mind, yoga helps the intellect to detach from the ego’s habitual wrong understandings of the self, gradually thinning out the kleshas.

Patanjali, the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, defined Yoga as Yogas “chittavritti nirodah”, which means ” Yoga is the suppression of the modifications of the mind.” These modifications (vrittis) are emotionally charged whirlpools of thought that disturb our peace of mind (chitta). The mind without vrittis is pure understanding, a mirror reflecting the Divine nature of the Self. It is the emotional charge of the kleshas that generates the disturbing thought waves. The root klesha, ignorance, is maintained by a vast network of roots of the unconsciousness, manifesting as disturbing emotions such as arrogance, lust, greed, fear, jealousy, anger, hatred, and prejudice. The emotionally charged vasanas sit like land mines waiting to explode into our conscious minds when they come into contact with corresponding sense objects defined by the ego as objects of raga or dwesha.

……to be continued next week!

Srinivasan is the director of the Sivananda Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne,NY, and a direct disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda, having personally served and lived with Swamiji for many years.