The Kleshas – A Story
Obstacles to Yoga – The 5 Essential Causes of Suffering
Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time, there was a girl named Uma. She had few friends and she felt separated from everyone else. Kind of a weirdo. Her few friends took her to parties and events that seemed boring to her, where they drank beer and pretended to have fun. She looked for a way in others and around her to fill this void that she felt inside her. This feeling of not belonging anywhere, a loneliness that no party, no matter how many pretty boys there were, could fill.
In very specific moments, she found pleasure in small things; a drawing of shadows, a package of cookies, the company of one of these handsome boys, in a wild dance in the moonlight bare feet in the sand of the beach. But, at the end of the night or the day, she returned to the void. The emptiness took over again. She felt disconnected. Disconnected, mainly from herself as she considered everything around and herself as two separate things. She had the illusion that the real was all this that her life put in front of her nose; the party, the beer, the solitude and the dance. And this belief of hers made her ignorant of her own nature.
Avidya – Illusion. Ignorance in believing that the impure, the impermanent and the lack of essence; is pure, permanent and essential.
One day Uma lived a violent experience that took her out of this reality that she lived and considered life. Drunk with her hands on a car steering wheel, she has had to divert her encounter with death and return to old age abruptly without prior warning. She emerged from the experience unscathed, except for all the years she has wasted on these self-destructive parties. At this moment she changed the course of her life. Although she continued with the idea that the world revolved around her experiences. She believed that as an artist, she was better than the others around her (which is why she didn’t fit in). She took her selfishness with her for another kind of life. She invested her time in a more spiritual life, where she could grow as a person and develop her full potential. She now no longer believed that she was better than others because she was an artist but that she was better than others because she was more balanced and disciplined. She transformed the map of her life from: “aimless” to “going towards enlightenment” with methodology and discipline. She wanted to change the world and preached this methodology and discipline around her with rigidity and passion. She felt that she was a better person for herself and for everyone around her.
It’s true that now she could see a little more clearly; as if a small light was shining in the distance between her and all these veils of smoke that insist on remaining in front of her eyes. The simple fact of deciding to change direction softened these veils and gave her a real opportunity for change or at least a better quality of life.
Asmita – Egoism. Sense of distinction fundamentally framed around judgment, essentially differentiating oneself from others.
In her new life, Uma was looking for a different kind of adventure. She wanted to cultivate all the good that she had inside her; she wanted to find like-minded people. She wanted to keep her encounter with this more spiritual lifestyle, a permanent encounter. As if she were able to stop time and the seasons in all the new sensations she felt helping others and, in the process, helping herself. She has become attached to this sensation, to everything she had managed to conquer with her body and mind through study, practice and concentration. She had a clear image of who she was and she was clear about everything that brought her closer to this image and everything that took her away from this image. And based on this web of desires and aversions she became attached to the new character of herself so fiercely that she has forgotten to breathe. It has been forgotten that nature is change and impermanence. Her body would not always be the same, nor was her learning static and rigid. Her own existence was something very ephemeral and transient. And this did not change no matter how crystallized the image of herself was. And despite all the growth and path traveled, despite the map drawn; Uma receives a visit from an old acquaintance again. The Suffering.
Why couldn’t I keep him at bay? What was stopping her from taking the next step if not the attachment to the nature that she believed was her true self? Who was she if not that strong, creative woman who had found her way to a better version of herself? Without this woman she was nothing, she was nobody. She would not know how to distinguish herself from the other beings or people around her. Without this woman, she had the feeling that she once again had a written map: “aimless” or worse… a blank map.
Raga – Attachment. Lack of ability to distinguish the constantly changing material world around us and the permanent. We use our apparent preferences (desire or aversion) to construct an image of ourselves in the material world.
So despite the new life and new habits, Uma continued to reinforce her census of “I” with each wish fulfilled or with the rejection of each person or thing that did not come close to fitting into her “spiritual world.” This seemed better than having a blank map in your hands. She created a new set of veils for herself and the light once again seemed much further from her eyes. ‘Difficult to understand,’ she thought. I have done everything in my power to be a better person, to get closer to the spiritual world. And so it was, she has done everything within her power as a woman who steps on this earth with limited and limiting beliefs. She has done everything within her reach with her preconceived knowledge forged by her outwardly directed senses (eyes, ears, touch, taste). Senses that reinforced the illusion that she was separate from everything that was not her; When one day she heard this story that talked about a flower.
It was a well-known story of a Zen Buddhist master. He was basically explaining that a flower is not a flower. A flower is the earth, water, air, minerals… everything that is necessary for the flower to exist. If this doesn’t make the flower part of everything that surrounds it, she didn’t know what could explain its existence. And she understood, a little bit, who she was. She could see herself reflected in her companions and students on the spiritual path; She could identify with their difficulties, with their joys, with their doubts… simply because they were the same as hers. And when she believed that she had finally understood her true nature…
Dvesa – Repulsion. The fear of not knowing ourselves separately. We try to know ourselves by looking outward and to the world. Our fundamental mistake, although quite natural due to the way our senses are situated; pointing outwards and to the world.
Fear came. He was very visceral, not very rational and even immature, but she couldn’t control it. Fear of the unknown. Fear of death.
And with the fear of death, the attachment to the image of who she thought she was. The illusion of what life was. Selfishness. Attachment to life as she knew it. She even dreamed that the day she had to meet her old friend Suffering again, she would invite him to tea and listen to what he had to say. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that she understood and accepted what he had to say, this remains to be seen.
And yet, the obstacles were still there; the difference was that Uma now knew where they were and what they represented. But be careful! She had to be practicing to remember that they were there and that they were part of the search for the truth of herself.
Abhinivesha – Attachment to life. Repulsion towards death and leaving behind who we think we are.
Paloma Villela, October 4, 2023.
Klesha concept based on THE 5 KLESHAS, Keen on Yoga blog. Thank you Adam.
“The flower is not a flower” -Cultivating the mind of love. Thich Nhat Hanh