In this series of articles, DAAJI explains the fundamental principles of yogic psychology, with its foundation in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. He explains Patanjali’s descriptions of the human mind and the various mental imbalances, and furthermore gives us solutions to create mental well-being through yogic practices. In this article we explore the remaining four kleshas, the afflictions to mental well-being. In the last article, we explored the first klesha, avidya, meaning ignorance. From ignorance emerge the other four – asmita, raga, dvesha and abinivesha – which together describe various aspects of the ego’s identification with pairs of opposites, the dwandwas, for example, likes and dislikes, attachment and aversion.
Part 6 – ASMITA, RAGA, DVESHA & ABINIVESHA
Once again let’s remind ourselves of the fundamental base of yogic psychology: our original inner mental state is one of purity, stillness and Samadhi. It is this pure state devoid of any vibrations or ripples that lies at the Center of our existence, and it is present in every fiber of our being, at the center of every atom. It is also the baseline for mental well-being.
In Yoga we return to that baseline, the ultimate state of vibration-free stillness. It was our starting point and will eventually also be our end point. If we are able to master that state while we are alive, we go beyond consciousness to something more profound and more beautiful.
In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali codifies the various mental modifications and vibrations that move us away from that Center, the soul. The process of dissolving these modifications is what Yoga is all about.
The kleshas are the 5 basic types of mental affliction – those negative mental states that cloud the mind and cause suffering. They lead to mental complexity, which is the starting point for mental imbalance. They prevent us from being centered, integrated, whole human beings.
As we discovered in the last article, Patanjali advises us to have an inner goal in order not to be diverted by these afflictions. In other words our direction of growth must be towards our innermost Center rather than towards the periphery of our existence. This is the ultimate key to mental health and well-being.
In Yoga we return to that baseline,
the ultimate state of vibration-free stillness.
It was our starting point and will eventually also be our end point.
If we are able to master that state while we are alive,
we go beyond consciousness to something
more profound and more beautiful.
Patanjali goes on to discuss the formation of samskaras in the human energy field that result in the kleshas developing. Impressions or modifications in the field of consciousness result in complex energy patterns being formed, which harden and create samskaras over time and through repetition. Because the mind is colored by past experience, or lack of it, these patterns result in behavioral tendencies that are difficult to erase. Often these samskaras form because of emotional reactions to life, so it is particularly difficult to remove them. Even the samskaras that form and enter through the conscious mind remain buried like seeds in the subconscious mind. When the environment becomes conducive, the seeds of those samskaras raise their hood to express themselves to be fulfilled.
This is why the Heartfulness Cleaning method is so revolutionary and effective – it removes the samskaras at their root, cleaning the complexities and impurities in the field of consciousness at the vibrational level, rather than trying to change behavioral patterns, thought processes and the laying down of fixed neural pathways. Cleaning does not rely on thinking and analysis to remove the roots of afflictions, and it does not require the reliving of the past experience.
The Heartfulness Cleaning method is so revolutionary
and effective – it removes the samskaras at their root,
cleaning the complexities and impurities
in the field of consciousness at the vibrational level,
rather than trying to change behavioral patterns,
thought processes and the laying down
of fixed neural pathways.
The first of the kleshas is avidya, which we explored in detail in the last article. It is important to remember that avidya is the basis of the other four afflictions – ashmita, raga, dvesha and abivinesha. Avidya is lack of awareness – the opposite to vidya that is defined by a pure canvas of consciousness upon which awareness and perception are free to witness without prejudice or limitation. In essence anything that takes us away from centeredness is avidya and anything that helps us move towards our Center is vidya.
It is the ignorance resulting from a limited consciousness that creates lack of awareness. And there are two things that are largely responsible for restricting consciousness and leading to mental affliction: desire and ego.
It is by becoming conscious of desires and ego,
and the role they play in creating mental afflictions,
that we start to understand mental well-being.
Desire comes from judging things according to what we like or dislike, want and don’t want. Desire also arises due to a feeling of lack of things (abhav), and due to an overwhelming impression (prabhav) that an object creates in us. Desire takes us away from our Center, making us deviate from our true nature (swabhav).
Ego has many very useful functions, but it also identifies with and attaches to ‘possessions’. We identify with so many things, for example, our body, mind, work, children, partner, culture, country, religion, reputation, and even with material things like our house and car.
It is by becoming conscious of desires and ego, and the role they play in creating mental afflictions, that we start to understand mental well-being. In a simplistic way, we can say that during our spiritual journey, the yatra, we learn to master desires in the Heart Region, and master the ego associated with the Mind Region. In fact the play of desires can create drama even if you are traversing through the Mind Region and likewise the ego can display many of its thorny sides while we are in the Heart Region. The process of going from avidya to vidya is the process of divesting all such likes and dislikes related to desire, and the various identifications of the ego, in order to return back to simplicity. In Heartfulness, this process of moving from mental complexity and affliction to mental purity and health, is done through the journey of the 13 chakras from the outer periphery of being to the Center of Being.
We receive so much help in this process from our spiritual Guide and his yogic Transmission that keeps our attention focused towards the Center. Even still, we have to be vigilant to refine our outer behaviour. We bring those habits and tendencies to light that limit our personalities and work on consciously removing them. The remaining four kleshas are manifested through these tendencies that are the result of desire and ego, and are best considered together. The first is Asmita.
2.6: Drig darsana saktyor ekatmata iva asmita
Egoism is the identification of the seer
with the instrument of seeing.
In Patanjali’s view, egoism stems from identification with the wrong thing. What is the seer? The seer is the highest Self, the soul, the eternal infinite aspect of our being, our Center. So our mental problems arise when our ego starts identifying with the instruments of seeing – consciousness, the intellect, the thinking mind, and the sense organs. They are only instruments, and when we identify with these instruments it results in a misdirected ego. It is because of this that we start developing likes and dislikes, attractions and aversions, and the whole process of forming samskaras begins. In a sense we can say that when we do not focus on the soul and its central role in our lives, we are doomed to mental affliction and ill-health. Per contra, when we constantly refer to the soul as our Center throughout our daily activities, we remain in connection with our Center, and that is the recipe for holistic, integrated mental health. In Heartfulness this ability to interiorize is called Constant Remembrance, also known as retaining the meditative state, and meditation with open eyes. And how do we create this condition? It is through meditation. Meditation is the mother of Constant Remembrance – hence the importance of meditating every morning.
As an aside, there is something relevant to say about the effect of this identification on the divergence of science and spirituality, at least by the 1600s. Remember the famous pronouncement of René Descartes, “Ego cogito, ergo sum,” meaning, “I think, therefore I am”? The real fact is that thinking is due to my existence. What is it that grants the ability of the mind to think?
Descartes reasoned that he could be certain he existed because he thought, whereas he perceived his body through the use of the senses, which were often unreliable. He concluded that the only true knowledge came from thinking. He also concluded that the thinking power came from his essence. Descartes defined thought as “what happens in me such that I am immediately conscious of it, insofar as I am conscious of it.” ‘Thinking’ for Descartes was every activity of which he was immediately conscious.
As a result, Descartes discarded perception as unreliable and accepted only deduction as the true method. This became the basis of the scientific method, which still underpins science today, and does not accept direct perception as a way of obtaining true knowledge.
Why were the senses unreliable for Descartes? Because of the colorings in the field of consciousness due to the formation of samskaras – effectively the kleshas. But is it really possible even for thinking to be correct when the field of consciousness is impure? It becomes difficult for intellect to arrive at the correct inference with impurities spoiling consciousness.
As scientists have found during the 20th century, the outcome of any scientific experiment is dependent on the mind of the observer. The importance of purity of consciousness is as important in the field of science as in the field of spirituality! When we identify our being with thinking, it is identified with an instrument only and becomes a source of egoism. This is the current plight of humanity.
Per contra, true yogis first purify their consciousness through practice before even attempting to understand the world. They also identify with the soul. That way, the true witness, the soul, can use the instruments of consciousness, intellect, thinking and the senses, as well as superconscious perception, to arrive at the best possible answer. The answer can then of course also be verified by the scientific method whenever there are measurable variables. But not everything can be measured by science!
True yogis first purify their consciousness
through practice before even attempting to understand the world.
They also identify with the soul.
That way, the true witness, the soul,
can use the instruments of consciousness, intellect,
thinking and the senses, as well as superconscious perception,
to arrive at the best possible answer.
The answer can then of course also be verified
by the scientific method whenever there are measurable variables.
Coming back to asmita, our mental health and well-being is dependent on what we identify with. The soul is unchangeable, so when I am identifying with the soul, can I become angry or sad? No. But when I like or dislike, when I have attachment and aversion, then I can have a reaction, positive or negative, and then it is possible to become angry or sad. I have identified with the instruments of seeing, not the seer and so I feel pleasure and pain. And on top of this we identify still more externally with family members, friends, office colleagues, and associate ourselves with them with an emotional bond. So, we move farther and farther from our individual Center!
RAGA & DVESHA
The third and fourth kleshas are raga and dvesha, which Patanjali defines as:
2.7: Sukha anushayi ragah
Attachment is that which follows from
identification with pleasurable experiences.
2.8: Dukha anushayi dveshah
Aversion is that which follows from
identification with painful experiences.
We become attached wherever we find pleasure, and feel aversion wherever we find pain. If we observe our thinking process, we will find that this happens all the time, with people, food, clothing, places and principles – it can apply to anyone, anything and any concept. “I like her hairstyle,” “I don’t like the way he speaks to me,” “That house is beautiful – I want one like that,” etc. The current of the mind flows towards those thing we like, and recoils from those things we dislike. The effect of the ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ vibrations settles down at point C of the heart, and eventually forms samskaras.
Everything starts at point C, the strategic point or landing point for samskaras into our system. It is our reactions of likes and dislikes that create the first vibration or stir in the field of consciousness. This affects point C, and from there the energy forms an impression.
To prevent point C from being affected by likes and dislikes, try to maintain a meditative state throughout the day, so that the mind maintains its sthit-pragya state. The example of the lotus in water is worth revisiting. If this is done, impressions will not affect the field of consciousness. This is one of the most important things we can do for our mental and spiritual health, and it highlights the importance of maintaining a meditative state during the day.
The fifth of the kleshas is abivinesha, which Patanjali defines as follows:
2.9: Sravasa vahi vidushopi tatharoodho bhiniveshah
Clinging to life, flowing through its own nature,
can be found even among the wise.
Clinging to life, the instinct for survival, is found in all animals. It is an evolutionary imperative that defines the ecology of all species. But where does this instinct come from? In the language of Yoga, these instincts are based on samskaric patterns from the past. Instinct is the result of past experience, often from previous lives, that is stored in our field of consciousness. So clinging to life is the instinctive result of an aversion to death that has come from the experience of many past lives. We have known the pain of dying so well. This klesha is also based on the ignorance of identifying with the body instead of the soul, which is eternal and infinite in nature.
If we are able to remove the root cause of afflictions,
we can hope to reach our potential of mental well-being,
balance and purity. If not, we are stuck with
mental complexities, patterns and tendencies life after life.
HOW TO RESOLVE THESE AFFLICTIONS TO HAVE MENTAL WELL-BEING?
Patanjali tells us:
2.10: Te prati-prasava heyah sukshmah
When samskaras are removed,
these afflictions can be resolved back to their origin.
2.11: Dhyana heyah tad vrittayah
Through meditation, the outer expression of the
2.12: Klesha mulah karma ashayo drishta
adrishta janma vedaniyah
Whether they are fulfilled in the present or the future,
karmic experiences have their roots in these five afflictions.
So the key is to have a regular daily practice that removes samskaras. If we are able to remove the root cause of afflictions, we can hope to reach our potential of mental well-being, balance and purity. If not, we are stuck with mental complexities, patterns and tendencies life after life. It is a simple step to do the daily practice of Heartfulness Cleaning to remove them – just as simple as taking a shower to clean your body. It takes only 15 to 20 minutes every evening.
This practice of Cleaning is one of the greatest contributions Heartfulness has given to the modern world, as it is so effective in removing the root cause of desires, but it is not all. The identification of the ego cannot be cleaned and has to be refined through another process. That we will take up another time.
Article by DAAJI (Kamlesh Patel)