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The five mental hooligans: YSP 2.3

2.3 avidya asmita raga dvesha abhinivesha pancha kleshas

Bouanchaud: The causes of suffering are ignorance, conscious of “I” (egoism), attachment, repulsion and fear.

Desikachar: The obstacles are misapprehensions, confused values, excessive attachments, unreasonable dislikes and insecurity.

Swami J: There are five kinds of coloring (kleshas): 1) forgetting, or ignorance about the true nature of things (avidya), 2) I-ness, individuality, or egoism (asmita), 3) attachment or addiction to mental impressions or objects (raga), 4) aversion to thought patterns or objects (dvesha), and 5) love of these as being life itself, as well as fear of their loss as being death

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, there they are: the five trouble makers of the mind. They are the mental equivalent of a juvie street gang with their cool little black leather jackets and a can of spray paint, just looking for a moment to stencil their tag on the structures of the unsuspecting mind.






Good Lord, they sound like they’re getting ready to mug you… and mug us they do. These five ugly thugs are the causes of suffering. They are the mental attitudes that are the source of our self-inflicted pain?

Well, let’s take a brief back up and let me mention that Patanjali doesn’t blame this unholy quintet for ALL suffering. Elsewhere, Patanjali did make the point that there are several causes of suffering. One is the suffering that comes about from the actions of others. We can’t do anything about that. Anyone who has ever tried to coerce a teenager into doing her math homework knows there is so much you can do to influence the behaviour of other people. If she straight out refuses to learn how to solve quadratic equations, no amount of cajoling, lecturing, hectoring, or begging will drive that requisite skill into her head. You might not like what she is doing but at some point, if you’re honest, you just have to admit that it’s out of your control. This isn’t the kind of suffering Patanjali is talking about. The suffering that is being endured right now by tortured political prisoners around the world is not something they brought on themselves and it would be just plain wrong, ethically and logically, to accuse them of being the authors of their own suffering. They are directly suffering through the actions of another.

Ditto with natural disasters. Last week, Hurricane Irene blew through these parts. It had lost most of its punch by the time it reached Maritime Canada but on the way here, it wrecked a huge amount of suffering in terms property damage, and unfortunately, some loss of life. These outcomes of natural disasters are the cause great suffering throughout the world (and 2011 has been rife with examples of it). Patanjali is not guilty of ‘blaming the victim’; however, one of the things he draws our attention to is the fact that we create a lot of our own suffering by what we add to an event.

Today, someone cut me off in traffic, nearly causing an accident between our vehicles. I snarled something resembling “idiot”. For the next two blocks, I muttered and ranted under my breath about his parentage, where he may have procured his driver’s permit and vague references about his IQ scores. I had myself rather wound up, to tell you the truth. And there we have the template for the vast majority of our suffering. An event happens (erroneous driving decision) and then I piled on the li-yang-li-yang. It’s what I call the ‘value added menu’. Not satisfied with a mere little dissatisfaction, I built an entire story line around it and neatly cast myself as the hero. After all, it was my quick reflexes and stupendous driving ability that saved the day from this road bound menace to society. He, of course, was the dastardly villain, probably in a rush to go knock of the local 7-11 and set fire to an orphanage.

The more astute of you may have detected some elements of geocentricism on my behalf in this story. Indeed, our little thug Asmita is the ego … the “I maker” but not as the useful force of personality. This version is a destructive force where I really do think I’m the centre of the universe and everything revolves around me. This ego has made its life mission to keep my isolated from others, to make me think of myself as being separate (and frequently superior to) others.

Ego spends a lot of time hanging with Raga (attachment) and Dvesha (repulsion). Avidya (ignorance) is the fertile soil that lets all of this blossom and Abhinivesha is the fruit of it all. All of this I’ll talk about tomorrow but for now it’s time for me to go make some dinner for my family… and wish my loving husband of 22 years a very happy birthday.

Thanks for reading and Namaste,



About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

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