How to Identify Things that Cause Suffering
Would you like to start eliminating toxic patterns from your life? What makes you suffer? What makes you eat an extra cookie or have an extra drink (when you are not supposed to), cheat, scream at your loved ones?
So, let’s talk about the cause of suffering.
Stop The Pain!
We’ve established the goal of yoga (YS I.1), defined the “Yoga of Action” (YS II.1) and what happens when we follow the “Yoga of Action (YS II.2).” In this sutra, Patanjali explains what cause us to suffer and consequently to take act inappropriately.
Firstly, the good news. Suffering is an option. It is not required for yoga practice. Based on the yoga sutra text, both the root of all problems along with their salvation lies in your mind.
Secondly, the second chapter offers various practical and systematic solutions to end the pain.
Finally, where do we start?
Five Shades of Pain.
Patanjali Yoga Sutra II.3: Avidya-Asmita-Raga-Dvesa-Abhinivesa-Klesah
Avidya: absence of self-awareness, ignorance
Asmita: “I am – ness”
Abhinivesah: will to live, fear of death, clinging to life
Klesah: root obstructions, things causing us suffering
The five sources of afflictions (things that cause suffering) are a misapprehension, egotism, excessive attachment, unreasonable dislikes, and fear.
So, klesas are the source of suffering. You can think of klesas as weeds in your garden, which are buried deep in the soil. If you don’t clean your weeds, they will kill your flowers. Klesas affect us mentally and emotionally. They twist our perception and shape our actions.
1) Shade #1: Ignorance.
The first one is avidya – the root of all klesa. Avidya is a misperception. For example, you walk into the dark room and step on a coiled tube thinking that it is a snake. In other words, you are looking at one thing, but seeing something else.
However, some of our avidia is more subtle. I’ve been wearing high heels and pointy shoes from a very young age. One of these days, I walked for miles in the New York City with my husband to be. My husband asked me if I am comfortable walking in heels? No, I was not…He also called me a beautiful little shrimp. So, that was the day I gave up high heels. However, I only noticed pain and my deformed toes after I kicked the heels.
2) Shade #2: Self-Importance.
The second one is asmita – self-importance, taking ourselves too seriously. I identify myself with my writing, skiing, hiking, and my job. On a more subtle level, I think that I am better because I eat good food or practice yoga. When in reality, this is an illusion. Our self-importance crumbles when we lose things and activities we attached to.
3) Shade #3: Exessive Attachment
The third one is raga – an excessive attachment, pleasure. The desire to repeat pleasant experiences at any cost. You can also think of raga as external stimuli for happiness. Having a compulsive-obsessive personality, I am very familiar with chasing pleasures from food to extreme sports. Important to realize, raga is not knowing what you like and need. To emphasize, I needed to move away from the city and closer to nature. It was a desire to improve my lifestyle. On the contrary, my excessive drinking and eating (which can also cause lots of pleasure) is raga.
4) Shade #4: Exessive Dislike
4) The fourth one is dvesa – an opposite from raga. Raga and dvesa are like two sides of the same coin. Again, our mind creates a story that external stimuli cause our suffering. We avoid things that once caused us discomfort. That is to say, don’t mistake raga for knowing what you need to avoid. For example, when I was trying to quit smoking, I avoided places and activities associated with smoking.
5) Shade #5: Fear
5) The fifth one is abhinivesa – fear of unknown, or fear of death. This is the biggest fear of it all. It can be very useful. However, a useless fear, like fear of spiders can really cause suffering. After years of dreaming of moving to Colorado, I found myself in a dream house in a beautiful mounting town. Only to realize that mountains are full of spiders. In this case, the fear of spiders is useless. It caused me a lot of pain.
You can argue that it is “normal” to identify with our possessions, to seek pleasure and try to avoid pain.
To simplify the answer, everything is subject to change. I’ve been skiing for a few years and really got attached to the sport. When I had my injury and I couldn’t move – my whole world crumbled. On the other hand, I was resisting creating my own website.
To conclude, when we act from the four “children of avidia we suffer. We will discuss these babies in the upcoming blogs. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading!