Raga and Dvesha – Kleshas 3 & 4

We are nearly done with the 5 kleshas (obstacles of the mind) as part of our yoga philosophy in class. They are fascinating little concepts that really ring true for me and once I knew about them I noticed them everywhere. Because of the opposed relationship between  the 3rd and 4th obstacles, Raga and Dvesha, I thought it would make sense to discuss them together in this newsletter. Both are tightly connected to the natural aspect of our mind that continually operates the like/dislike judgment. This is how we learn, but when ‘the likes’ become strong desires, or greed, we notice Raga and when ‘the dislikes’ turn into hate and/or fear, we are dealing with Dvesha.

Raga is desire to repeat something that gave you pleasure previously. In the extreme, this can take the form of greed, lust and addiction.

But how do you know that the same thing will give you the same amount of pleasure? Perhaps you may gain no pleasure at all?

In our society we see the effects of Raga all the time. Marketing is completely geared to creating a strong desire for things that companies sell. Tapping into our subconscious, we are made to believe we deserve, whatever they are trying to sell. No wonder we feel deprived, when we don’t get them. It is very beneficial for out well-being to be aware of the dukha (suffering)-inducing powers of marketing, in our Western society.

Parents, who are strongly attached to their children, find it hard to let their children go to kinder, school, uni and finally their own adult destiny. In a strange way they don’t want them to grow up or go away. The sayings ‘love hurts’ and ‘When you leave me, can I come too’, very aptly describe the problem of raga in these situations.

It’s only when we can let go of desire that we can find contentment. The only constant is change. We need to move with and adapt to the change to remain content.
In life we cannot make other people love us, or do things we want them to do. In yoga or meditation we cannot wish to repeat a wonderful practice from the past, because now is the present and now is new and different from the past.

If we are trying too hard to do something, (we desire it so much) we often get stuck or muck up. Only when we find ourselves in a relaxed state, free from wanting, will grace enter our lives, showing us beauty and inspiration.
Letting go of a desire requires us to recognise it’s existence first before placing it in a larger context. To stop wanting something is like having a weight lifted of your shoulders, quite liberating.


Dvesha is the root cause for human suffering: War, break-up, religious quarrel, fear, murder, revenge and self-hatred are all forms of Dvesha. Wherever there is Dvesha, there is jealousy.
Often we are subconsciously driven to avoid previously painful experiences. We tend to accumulate dislikes and hold on to them. They become part of the invisible walls we build around ourselves. Our aversions are expressed in: ‘I don’t talk to him/her, because he/she was nasty to me’, or ‘I don’t go there or do that anymore, because I had a bad experience’ or ‘I need to get away, because this is unbearable’.

Habitually shutting ourselves off from people or things we dislike, creates a narrow view of the world. These habits are dangerous, because when we feel trapped by our fears and dislikes, we start hating ourselves. As part of our yogic practice of self-study, it is advised to re-visit our dislikes from time to time, in order to keep an open mind to change.

Also in yoga practice we like and dislike certain poses. Let’s explore why we have these judgements. Do we like certain asanas, because they feel good, or because we can do them easily? Do we dislike other poses simply because we find them hard, or is there more to the story?

The journey of yoga is one that helps us become more aware of our thoughts and actions. Our self-knowledge will gradually lead us towards a deeper sense of well-being and contentment.

May the benefits of your practice stay with you and extend beyond you,

Namaste, Ernestine

Asmita – the second Klesha

ego-face-masks-1Yoga recognises the 5 Kleshas as 5 obstacles of the mind. These are traits that stand in the way in our pursuit for happiness. In the last newsletter I talked about the first klesha, Avidya or ignorance. We will now investigate the second Klesha, Asmita, which translates as the ego.

The mind is a complicated ‘organism’. ‘I think, therefore I am,’ is a quote made famous by French philosopher Descartes, but we cannot reverse this statement. It appears that we are sometimes not even in control of what we think. The mind has its own creative and compulsive tendencies. The ego or Asmita is such a creation of the mind. This ego suffers an ‘image problem’ in our society and surely too much ego is not a good thing, but we need some ego for motivation and drive so we can achieve our goals in life.

The constant chatter we have in our mind from the minute we wake up, is a product of Asmita. This chatter is mostly negative and involves doubt, worry and fear, which in turn causes suffering (dukha) in the form of anxiety, despair and/or depression.

How can we deal with the Asmita part of our ego in order to avoid dukha?
When observing our ‘inner chatter’, we can hear thoughts about how we perceive ourselves to be: ‘You are hopeless’ or ‘Wow, look at me!’ and ‘Do something else, this is boring..too difficult.’ or ‘I deserve something better’, or things like: “That is not going to work’, ‘It’s impossible’ or ‘This always happens to me!’. Asmita largely responsible for the bad perceptions of ourselves. I like to think of Asmita as our ‘inner drama queen’. If we take everything from Asmita on board, we experience dukha. And although Asmita is considered a part of the normal brain process, our practice is to rise above it.

For convenience, the yogis have divided the self in a higher self and lower self, whereby Asmita is part of the lower self and the Inner Observer, the higher self. So if
we appeal to our higher self and, we recognise the chatter of Asmita, we realise that we don’t need to take these comments too seriously. ‘Aha’, we notice,’ It’s the ego overdramatising things again.’ From the Inner Observer position we know that making mistakes is part of learning. Practice will bring us knowledge, ability and capabilty. We are all on this world to reach our full potential, on a journey that constantly needs to adapt to a changing itinerary. Our higher self is considered to be closer to the universal truth, as opposed to the lower self, which is closer to the perceived truth.

How can we neutralize the negativity of Asmita in our yoga practice?

Just notice what you are saying to yourself during your practice.’Try harder…I can’t do this pose…I hate this…My arms are too short…I wish I was home in bed.’ In English we have the expression ‘to lose oneself in something’. In that instance Asmita is quiet, no more inner chatter. To lose yourself a pose or asana is possible by bringing yourself into the present moment. Once you stop doing something, but become one with what you are doing YOGA truly happens: your body mind and breath unite in a moment of stillness…bliss.

May the benefits of your practice stay with you and extend beyond you,



Avidya – the first Klesha

turning a blind eye





As mentioned in the previous newsletter, the kleshas are said to be the main causes of unhappiness or suffering in our lives. Regular yoga practice aims to improve our total well-being: the physical as well as the mental. A lot of the ‘feel-good’ effects of yoga practice happen sub-consciously, but it adds an extra dimension if we look at these ‘mind-practices’ with a little more consciousness.

The first Klesha, or obstacle of the mind, is Avidya. Direct translation from Sanskrit gives us the meaning ignorance, not as in ignorant meaning stupid, but more in the literal sense of the word ignoring. In Yogic texts you often see the explanation: ‘Like the wave forgets it’s part of the ocean, so do humans forget they are part of a larger consciousness, that is avidya.’  On a more basic level avidya happens when we ignore or forget the true nature of things. This true nature becomes hidden or veiled and consequently perceived truths are, in fact, just illusions (Maya).
To bring this esoteric concept closer to home, I have conjured up a few real life examples relating to Avidya:

  1. It often happens that we feel singled out and alone during tough times. We tend to ignore or forget that we are all energetically connected. Seeing the bigger picture and connecting with other humans or feeling connected with nature and animals is a wonderful antidote to this suffering (dukha).
  2. Short term thinking & acting, while ignoring long term goals, often leads to suffering (regret).
  3. Thinking yourself to be the centre of the universe, like children do, can lead to many disappointments (another form of dukha). Recognising and considering other people’s wants and needs will put things back in perspective, will ease the dukha.
  4. Seeing the Self in terms of status in society  – what you do, where you live, went to school and what you have, will lead to dukha, either because we feel we miss out or because we feel superior.
  5. Ignoring or forgetting that life is a continual change of events also increases suffering. Perhaps you can remember a time when you were filled with sadness and thought you would ‘never get over this’, but realizing that some time later the intensity has lifted.
  6. Probably the simplest example of avidya is ‘the habit’. We can even see this popping up during our asana practice, where our mind is no longer in the body and we ‘mindlessly’ go through the motions. It would be prudent to revisit some of our habitual patterns on a regular basis, particularly those that give you grief (cause dukha). Just think of the following: repeatedly getting annoyed with the same people about the same things, procrastinating, short cutting, bad eating habits, etc. We subconsciously allow ourselves to be blinded by avidya on those occasions.

Becoming aware of the Kleshas has been an eye opener for me. I feel, that understanding their nature, allows a deeper insight in general and takes us one step closer to happier and healthier self.

May the benefits of your practice stay with you and extend beyond you,

The Kleshas

Term 1, 2013 Yoga in Hawthorn and Malvern

As the end of this term is getting close, I thought it was time to get another newsletter out. With the very hot start of the new year we gently eased ourselves back into the ‘yoga routine’. We learned about the sheetali and sheetkari pranayama practices, which helped us to create an evaporative cooling effect within our bodies and the last three weeks of the term we dedicated to ‘yoga against the wall’.

I always find it interesting how, using the wall as a tool of alignment, can change the way we ‘see’ ourselves in a pose. Once you have the support of the wall, it is easier to concentrate on the technique of balance and alignment, particularly with trikonasanaand ardha chandrasana. Everyone was able to remain in the poses for longer than they normally do, which helps to create the muscle memory for next time they practice these poses without the support of the wall.

It was also very pleasing to see that quite a few students attempted the reverse right angle handstand against the wall.This pose is particularly good for a sense of empowerment and knowing that you can trust yourself, not to mention the gaining of core- and shoulder strength. It made me realize we have come a long way together since we started!

Next term, after Easter, I would like to introduce a few more useful, but not as ‘mainstream’ aspects of yoga. We will continue with our normal asana practice, just like we did when we went through the Kundalini practice, but this time we are going to centre our practice around the ‘5 obstacles (afflictions) of the mind’ or Kleshas, as they are called in Sanskrit. These obstacles are said to be the main cause of unhappiness in our lives. Once we raise awareness to these obstacles, we can neutralize their power over us and hopefully become more relaxed about life.

These 5 Kleshas are as follows:

1. Avidya = ignorance – Denial or not wanting to know certain things about ourselves is a common occurrence. What is our true unchanging self? Is ignorance really bliss, or is knowledge no weight?
2. Asmita =  ego – who am I, who is truly me, if I leave the ego out of this equation? Is too much ego and the need for personal power leading us to continuous disappointment? Think here of a ‘control freak’. Can you let go of wanting things to be just so?
3. Raga =  attraction – desperately wanting and acquiring things/people, makes us suffer because we perceive ourselves as incomplete without them. If only I had ‘x’ I would be truly happy….does that really work?
4. Dvesha = aversion or hate – procrastination, not willing to try something new and repression are forms of this klesha we see in daily life.
5. Abhinivesha = fear of death –  because we fear not being able to fulfill our wishes (asmita, raga and dvesha contribute to this). As long as we think that consciousness is limited to our bodily existence we fear losing control of that body. We might have snippets of happiness but our mind is clouded with fear.

These obstacles sound so very profound, but you will see that in daily life every little conflict we face, is connected to one of these kleshas. In fact, they are no big deal if we can remain in the ‘observer’ position of our awareness, creating some sort of detachment, rather than involvement. Life can be smooth and easy, it’s just a matter of practice. Easier said than done perhaps, but through our yoga practice of asanas, pranayama and meditation we’ll get a clear idea of how to tackle these kleshas. I am planning to dedicate 2 weeks to each klesha. Don’t worry if you miss one, it is just a theme for the class and practice is as normal.

Announcement: As from 16th of April I am looking forward to be running 1 hr. meditation classes on Thursdays from 1-2 pm at my home. For those of you who would like to attend, please email me on ernestine@innersanctumyoga.com.au. For the whole term these classes will be free of charge, but I will have a donation box for a nominated charity in the room.(max.10 students)

May the benefits of your practice stay with you and extend beyond you,