The Yogic Way®: The 5 Kleshas

According to Yogic Philosophy, there are five root causes of all suffering.  These root causes are called the five Kleshas.  The Kleshas exist in all of us to varying degrees.  They distort our mind and thus our view of the world around us.  They result in our inability to see reality as it is, and thus they effect our behaviours, thoughts, and actions, allowing these to become misaligned with the Real.  According to the Yogic path, the five Kleshas also bind us to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (reincarnation), while keeping us from enlightenment.

The first Klesha, and the most formidable of them all, is Avidya or Ignorance.  Avidya is the misconception of the true nature of the Self and of life.  It is mistaking the temporary as the eternal and the unimportant as the important.  Avidya is the Klesha from which the other four Kleshas spring.

The second Klesha, one which is very strong in most of us, is Asmita or Egoism.  Asmita is our identification with the small self or the created ego.  We think we are the person that we project.  We think we are the sum of our likes and dislikes, the sum of our thoughts and feelings, and the sum of our external and internal circumstances.  We become enslaved by this belief.  Asmita separates us into me, you, us, and them.  It removes us from the collective whole of our true nature: the Real.

The third Klesha is Raga or Attachment.  Raga is the attraction to things that appear pleasurable.  When this Klesha is strong within our psyche, we spend our life pursuing the fulfillment of desires, very much like a drug addict.  Raga exists hand in hand with the fourth Klesha.

The fourth Klesha is Dvesha or Aversion.  Dvesha is the aversion to things that appear unpleasant.  As mentioned above, Dvesha and Raga exist together.  With the existence of these Kleshas, we run towards that which we see as attractive and away from that to which we are averse.  As a result, we are constantly in conflict with the world around us.  This causes much suffering.

The last of the five Kleshas is Abhinivesha or Fear of Death/Clinging to Life.  Again, because of the first Klesha (Avidya) we mistake this body as being who we actually are.  As a result, a fear of death is deeply rooted in our psyche, for if the body is “me” and the body dies, “I” die.  Many of us, on an unconscious level, are afraid to  truly live on a conscious level.  For as we become increasingly aware of the nature of our life here and now, we become increasingly aware that this corporal reality must someday end.

Through yoga and meditation practice, these five Kleshas are revealed and released.  As they release their distortional hold upon the mind, the world around you will appear to change.  But what in fact is taking place, is you are beginning to see your true nature.  You are beginning to see the Real.



Kavita Maharaj is the owner of Red Door Yoga® and the director of The Red Door Yoga School® in Lantzville.  She can be reached at 250-390-9367 or through for questions.

Posted in September 2013, The Yogic Way®

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