The 5 Causes of Suffering


The following list of 5 causes of human suffering stems from the yogic wisdom of Vedanta. Although the original sanskrit names might seem complicated, their definitions are universal, applying to any culture, religion, country, gender etc.

In Western countries, yoga is too often associated with physical activity, a mere sequence of poses. Yoga goes way beyond the physical plan, it is a complex compound of psychology, philosophy, poses, meditation, breathing aiming at purifying the human body, mind and soul.

The hindu philosophy school of Vedanta identified 5 main causes of human suffering, also known as 5 kleshas. Deepak Chopra says "pain is what happens to you; suffering is your interpretation and reaction to that pain. Therefore, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." Kleshas are the root of suffering, these are:

1- Avidya = Ignorance

Most of us do not know our true essence, we ignore who we really are: a spiritual being (not in the religious sense but rather in the sense that we possess a spirit at our core). Because of our hectic rhythm of life we do not delve deeper and remain at the surface of our being. Our permanent being (some could call it soul) is filled with love and peace and is longing to be found.

2- Asmita = Identification with the Ego

This affliction arises from the ignorance of our true self. We identify with this persona as "I", "me" that remains at the surface made of material things and uncontrolled emotions. This "I" is the Ego and when infatuated, it takes everything too personally and tends to call for more and more possessions.

3- Raga = Attachment to Pleasure

An infatuated ego looks for pleasure outside (at is does not know the true happiness that resides deep inside). It is illusionary pleasure seeking. This gets complicated when the ego gets too attached to pleasure created by the material world. The attachment stems from the fact that material goods and experiences can be lost, they are not eternal. This in turn creates suffering through anxiety, stress and fear of loss.

4- Dvesa = Adversion of Repulsion

When we identify with our ego, we search for experiences that flatter and give pleasure to our ego and reject and avoid anything that does not please it (or make it uneasy) This repulsion creates fear. Fear of finding ourselves in unpleasant situations, our mind plays tricks imagining possible freaking scenarios. We get trapped in our ruminations.

5- Abhinidvesa = Fear of the Unknown

Too grounded in the Ego, we try and control our life so that our geo thrives we look for familiar situations we know and can control. And we escape from those situations where we are not at ease. Life is an ever-changing sequence of events and it is hardly possible to control outside occurrences. This is the source of this last suffering: the fear of the unknown. Our poor ego is lost in this fluctuating sea, fears for what might come next and imagines worst case scenarios.

The worst fear deriving from this last klesha is death, the main unknown of life.

 

Looking closer at these 5 afflictions we can easily understand that they all stem from the first one. That is, not knowing who we truly are. Knowing our true being is a lifetime quest that can be achieved following different techniques (one of which is the 8 stages of yoga outlined by Patanjali centuries ago). By getting more and more connected to our core we free ourselves and the other 4 sufferings dissolve. 

Worth trying... don't you think?

 

I wish you all to find your true self and live from that loving, peaceful and unchanging place.

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