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Kleshas: Break Free From Suffering

May 25, 2021 4 min read


The 5 kleshas are found in the Yoga Sutras and are the main factors to human suffering.

Klesha translates as affliction, obstacle, or pain. They arise in our internal worlds and create disturbances that keep us separated from experiencing our true nature as Bliss. When we live rooted in the kleshas, we act from a place of ignorance that keeps us stuck in the cycles of karma (cause and effect) and continuously perpetuates their strength over us. By learning about these afflictions and how they play out in our lives, we are empowered to make conscious decisions that support our highest Selves. Like anything, the more we practice this, the easier it becomes - so let's dive in!

Avidyais translated most simply as ignorance or forgetfulness.

This occurs when we live disconnected from the sacred, divine nature of life. All of the other kleshas stem from avidya; you can think of it as a cloak of ignorance that covers all of reality. We forget our true nature as Spirit and get wrapped up in our limited perception of the world. We each have unique experiences which have led us to become the people we are today - which includes limiting beliefs, thoughts, habits, and actions. What would your life look like if instead of living from a place of fear, complacency, or autopilot, you lived from a place of Trust, inspired and aligned action, and saw the divinity in every person, place, and thing (including yourself!)? Challenge the thoughts you automatically accept as true that aren’t aligned with your highest Self and replace them with ones that stem from a place of power. Lift the veil and see the world for what it really is!

Asmita is translated to egoism.

It is our habit of thinking everything revolves around “me” - we are all the center of our own universe. When we think in this way, anything and everything that happens to us (or doesn’t) feels like it is of extreme importance; pressure builds and something seemingly small can be a catastrophe. This limits our chance of growth, stepping outside of our comfort zones, and expanding into our limitless potential. When we are in our own little bubble, separation from the outside world occurs and we are unable to gain some perspective, see the bigger picture, and tap into the connectedness of every being.


Ragais translated to attachment or desire.

Attachment or desire is rooted in the ego (asmita) and stems from a place of a lacking within/forgetting our true nature (avidya). It occurs when we try to fill a void through our senses: food, sex, drugs, relationships, social media, etc. The more we indulge in these things, the greater the desire becomes. Before indulging in an activity, ask yourself if you are running away from a feeling or situation, or if it is truly aligned with your needs. After the experience, reflect on how you are feeling. Do you feel more whole, healthy, and thriving, or more lacking, drained, and disconnected? Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of moderation - we don’t like to have a hard yes or no because life is not black and white. Sometimes watching a movie can completely take you out of your own little world of problems and into a place of creativity, joy, and problem-solving. Reflection and critical thinking allow you to become empowered in your decision-making process.

Dvesa translates to aversion or anger.

Aversion is the opposite of desire. It is something that you do notwant, to the point of avoidance. This can relate to people, places, things, or situations. It can occur when we do not get our desires fulfilled. (Can you see how they all play off of each other??) Anger arises when we don’t get what we want. Reflect on what makes you angry, and trace it back to the root cause - is there a disconnect between a person, situation, thing, etc.? Dvesa is also the avoidance of negative emotions or feelings like fear, dread, failure, pain, etc. We will go to any extent to not feel these things - when in reality they are simply a part of life. By avoiding our emotions we are unable to integrate and alchemize them into their higher purpose or meaning. Notice what you fear or avoid, and ask yourself why? This can circle back to asmita and our ego - would it really be the end of the world if you faced that fear? Or would you feel liberated, empowered, and more in touch with your true, divine nature?

Abhinivesahtranslates to fear of death.

When we live from a place of ignorance (avidya) we attach to our worldly, physical existence, and forget about the expansive, powerful, limitless, spiritual being that resides within us. Abhinivesah refers to change of any kind, and can be thought of as small deaths the ego faces simply by living - change is the only constant, after all. When we release the need to control and instead open up to the flow of the universe, we are saying ‘Yes’ to life. When we embrace the fact that our physical existence is temporary, we can live with greater appreciation, less seriousness, more ease, less fear, more excitement, less attachment, and more freedom.

Now that you have the awareness, how do you lessen the grip the kleshas have on you?

  • Education

  • Reflection + self-study

  • Mindfulness

  • Healthy lifestyle (yoga, breathwork, meditation, diet, self-care)

  • Overcoming small challenges (it will create a snowball effect!)

  • Self-love + compassion

Ultimately, all suffering comes down to forgetting our true nature as Spirit. Strengthen your connection with Source, the Universe, God, Nature (whatever resonates with you!) in order to release the grip of the ego. Take in this information with love and compassion, and use it as a compass for growth instead of self-sabotage. No one is perfect, and no one expects you to be! Be gentle and curious.

Erica Beaty
Erica Beaty

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