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Subtle, but still sneaky: YSP 2.10

2.10 te pratipasava heyah sukshmah


Bouanchaud: Recognizing inherent impulses eliminates the cause of suffering at a subtle level.

Desikachar: When the obstacles do not seem to be present, it is important to be vigilant.

Swami J: When the five types of colorings (kleshas) are in their subtle, merely potential form, they are then destroyed by their disappearance or cessation into and of the field of mind itself.


These next two aphorisms are the first place where Patanjali moves away from pure theory and gets into the pragmatic advice of how to deal with the colourings of our mind. It’s good to remember at this juncture that the kleshas, as destructive and misleading they are, are not something we can rid ourselves of. The ancient philosophers saw them as being one of the fundamental prices we pay for having a physical form. The kleshas arise not because we’re bad or sinful. They are with us because that is the price to be paid when spirit coalesces with matter. In other words, we have to learn to deal with them and to manage them because they are never going away.

That said, they can become very subtle, almost imperceptible and that, of course, is where the danger lays. We can think we’ve gotten rid of them when in fact, they’re just lying low, waiting for the next opportunity to pounce on our unsuspecting minds. So Patanjali’s advice here is “When things are going smoothly, be watchful”. In other words, these good times, they too shall pass. Nothing is permanent in this world and if we slack off from practice, we’re rekindling the embers of the kleshas.

And to trot out yet another cliché, an ounce of prevention is worth a full pound of cure. It’s easier to deal with the machinations of the kleshas when they are small and subtle, like it is easier to deal with a fire when it’s a few sheets of paper and not the full side of the house. Daily practice is part of preventative maintenance. Most of us who own cars know that the oil has to be changed every three months or so and the consequence for failing to maintain the vehicle can be catastrophic engine failure.

Why do we practice? We practice because we never know when it’s going to be game day. We practice at first to lower the kleshas – clean up our perception on the world. Then we practice to maintain that much welcomed state of mental and emotional clarity. And finally, we practice to prevent flare ups of the kleshas that disturb our clear-headedness.

The point of practice is to avoid fooling yourself, becoming honest with yourself about the integrity of your conclusions and the possibility of error.

I have no idea who wrote that. Sometime over the past five years I wrote that in my journal and it’s one of the entries copied over whenever I start a new journal book. The attribution got lost along the way. In any event – it’s true. We practice to keep ourselves honest.

Next aphorism – what to do when the house is already alight… Until then, 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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