The tapestry of life is made up of experiences—ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and pleasures and pains. The one experience that is most challenging for most of us is suffering. The tradition and wisdom of yoga reminds us that, in the absence of enlightenment, life becomes suffering.
Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Pain can be defined as an uncomfortable physical, mental, or emotional experience, suffering is a state of being caught up in your painful situation and making it as an aspect of your being. In other words, pain is what happens to us; suffering is our interpretation and reaction to that pain. What are the roots of suffering, and how and where do they come from.
Let’s look at five specific causes of suffering—the five Kleshas.
Klesha is a Sanskrit word which means poison and it refers to a negative state of mind that allows the conditions of suffering to arise. The only way we can be liberated is by transcending each Klesha.
1. Ignorance ( Avidya)
Avidya is a state of ignorance when we forget our true nature as spiritual beings having a human experience. Our true nature is pure, blissful, endless awareness, and we are immortal and eternal, and we never born, we never die.
Unfortunately, our material life overshadows this understanding of conscious awareness. And when we forget this essential truth of who we truly are, we are on a path for four other Kleshas to arise.
2. Ego Identification (Asmita)
When you have forgotten your true self, a false identity takes its place. This false identity of self is called the ego (Asmita); a moment-by-moment fabrication of self, defined by the positions you hold or the possessions you have accumulated over time.
Lot of our suffering is caused by our own ego. Ego is always looking and demanding approval and when it doesn’t get it, it gets offended.
3. Attachment (Raaga)
The Sanskrit word for attachment is Raaga; the act of clinging or grasping to something or someone that is an illusion or impermanent. When we have deep attachments to something or someone, it means we are afraid of losing that/them. This creates a sense of insecurity within us and we tend to hold on it even tighter.
Attachment causes us to suffer by instilling emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression, tension and dread of loss which is a result of life being lived on a material level.
4. Aversion or Avoidance (Dvesha)
The Sanskrit word for aversion or avoidance is Dvesha. While attachment makes us hang on to things, people, or situations we DO want, Dvesha, or repulsion, is our avoidance of things we DON’T want. Anything that appears to be a threat to our ego will cause us to recoil. We go great lengths to push away from things that don’t go our way or are not like us.
Aversion pulls us into negativity, worries, fear, insecurities, what ifs, and all of this lead to suffering.
5. Fear of Death (Abhinivesha)
Abhinivesha, our desire to live forever, is the ultimate attachment. Fear of death is a commonality shared by all human beings, even those who are miserable. It is a way of clinging to all that we have and all that we know. Death is the great unknown and it looms closer to each of us every day.
The fear of death can cause immense suffering by giving rise to all other fears, doubts, anxieties and worries.
Our True Identity
Patanjali shares a very important understanding in The Yoga Sutras when he writes:
“Ignorance of our real nature is the source of the other four, whether they be dormant, weak, suspended, or fully active.”
This means the causes of suffering are due to not knowing the true nature of reality. When we understand that we are pure spirit, our suffering starts to dissolve. As we become aware of our ego, we no longer operate on moment-to-moment basis of a false sense of self. Our ego can no longer dominate us, offend us, or make us seek approval of others. When we let go of our attachments, we begin to understand the impermanence of the material universe where everything has a beginning, middle, and an end. We realize nothing can harm us as everything is temporary. We are then liberated from fear of death and start to have the realization that death is merely a transition between one life and next life, one body and next body. Our spirt is endless and eternal.
Transcend Suffering through Yoga & Meditation
The knowledge and practice of yoga and meditation is the key that can unlock ourselves from the prison of suffering by having an understanding of who we are.
Jump start your path to understand the causes of suffering and then transcend suffering by learning yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, and much more by joining our Yoga Alliance certified 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training program at Mind to Body Yoga. Click here for more information on our Yoga teacher Training Program starting on Sep 14, 2018 or call us at 905-712-9642 for more information.
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