As we set out on our path to happiness, we will come across five obstacles. If we are committed to finding deep joy, endless love and compassion then we will have to face them! In ancient Indian texts, these obstacles are known as Kleishas (the fundamental obstacles of the human mind). Deep-rooted in the mind, Kleishas do not cease with the death of the body but are taken with us into the future until we learn to bring them into balance.
Representing the afflictions of the mind, Kleishas are the source of being at dis-ease with ourself, causing agitation and misery. In order to conquer them, knowledge, awareness and connectivity with our true-self are key.
THE 5 KLEISHAS
It is important to stress that Kleishas can be found under different human conditions and can express themselves in different ways: inactive or dormant (very rare but yogis experience this), weakened (very unproblematic and feeble, rarely expressing themselves), interrupted (expressed in case of two opposite tendencies – attraction and repulsion), active (producing thoughts as well as actions).
When in an active state, Kleishas bring up intense feelings, which clouds our ability to recall past experiences connected with the feeling. This intensity overpowers us and takes us with it, resulting in us losing the ability to connect to our true self. Training our mind, and increasing our awareness and patience play an important role in reducing their intensity.
1. IGNORANCE or Avidya
The first Kleisha is the root cause of the other Kleishas and is a product of us being ignorant and lacking knowledge about our existence and our life purpose. Being ignorant means that we see transient as eternal and put great importance on our material existence, believing that what brings misery will bring happiness, mistaking impure for pure, and identifying ourselves with external conditioning rather than our true-self. Breaking our primal ignorance will, therefore, bring a shift to our life-cycle.
This ignorance is found in 70 % of the population. This 70 % rush about all day to earn money to pay mortgages and costs of living, without taking the time to stop and ask themselves who they are and what they really want from this life. There is always a new task to do, another call to make or email to answer. They give themselves false obligations and work so hard, to the extent that they have no time to truly listen to what their true-self needs. As a result of such ignorance, anger, fear, depression and chronic illnesses appear. Yet our journey to happiness can only unveil once we realize our destructive patterns towards ourselves, start listening to our true needs and get to know our true-self!
2. EGOTISM or Asmita
This Kleisha creates the illusion that we are an individual who is not part of the whole. Consequently, we mistakenly follow this knowledge, believing it to be our pure consciousness. Yet intellect or Buddhi is not our pure consciousness because we are not our mind. We have a choice and do not have to listen and accept everything that our intellect tells us, especially with regards to thought patterns that have been learned from our parents and society. Our suffering will only stop when we shift from an 'I am this...' to an 'I am' belief. Only at this point, we will be able to differentiate between our mind and our true-self.
Egotism is especially present when someone loses their job or retires. This suffering is only an outcome of the deep-rooted connection and identification they have with their work, reflecting that they have only been connected to their intellect and not their true nature. Learning who we really are brings us stability, long lasting happiness and peace.
3. ATTRACTION or Raga
The third Kleisha is presented when we dwell upon past memories or become addicted to seeking pleasurable experiences. This Kleisha can be weakened by redirecting our mind from the continuous focus on the past memory or pleasurable experience but this must be done before we obsessively try to recreate that moment or seek out the experience.
Attraction can be observed in small children when they are obsessed with picking up an object. If we do not distract a child from what it wants as soon as it wants it, then its focus on the desired object will turn into an urgency or drive to get it, no matter what, even after many hours of crying. Therefore, if someone becomes emotionally attached, less contact with the item or person is vital.
4. AVERSION or Dvesha
A strong desire for an object, activity or person can also lead to a feeling of aversion. The fourth Kleisha appears when we are repulsed by people, events, objects, situations or places. As we try to move away from all we do not want in life, our world becomes smaller and smaller, until we finally find ourselves in self-created prison, filled with increasing emotions of hatred and misery.
More and more people are working on their personal development, which more often than not leads to greater suffering. Whilst striving to heal, we unconsciously try to avoid pain, discomfort, negativity, and arguments with other people, instead of focussing on growing stronger and accepting our reality. We become so certain that our way of dealing with our reality is the only way, that any advice that differs from our point of view/belief, or any company that is a burden or threat is not wanted. However, this aversion actually creates a stronger bond with these people and beliefs rather than diminishing them.
5. URGE FOR SELF PRESERVATION or Abhinivesha
The last Kleisha is similar to the previous one and is so powerful it can only be stilled through practical experience using great wisdom and understanding. Therefore, most of us will have to wait until the last hours of our life to face it. It does however partially manifest itself on many occasions throughout our lives when we experience the fear of our lives ending, especially when we are in danger. This Kleisha reflects one of the strongest human instinctual urges – the will to live.
This Kleisha controls our mind, urging us to hold on to our last breath, even when in great pain. Most people experience this intense urge to stay, even if they have reached the end of a very happy and fulfilled life and know that there is nothing else they need to do or fulfil in this lifetime.
Kleishas can only be neutralized once they take form. When they are in a very active state, it is important to firstly focus on the intention to weaken them, before you start with their elimination. Remember that all of your experiences in this life are the seed of your experiences for your next life. In order to free yourself and eliminate the Kleishas from your life, it is necessary to transcend your experiences as any type of attachment or aversion. However, this does not mean you have to become a recluse, give up your possessions, family and friends and live alone in the forest. There have namely been examples of people who have refrained from all worldly possessions, yet their mind experienced a greater collection of experiences that kept them bond to a cycle of life and death than those who continued living in a normal household. The key to freedom, therefore, lies in reaching a neutral reaction/attitude to any experiences as they come to you, without further attachment or aversion.
PRACTICAL TECHNIQUES FOR FREEING YOUR MIND OF KLEISHAS
- Take time to observe any activities you engage in throughout the day. You will notice that there are some activities, relationships, events or even foods that make you feel miserable, irritable or restless. To connect more with these feelings please refer to the Ayurveda section.
- Introduce one small change to your routine – for example, a Sattvic food or routine. Observe how this change influences your feelings and your Kleishas and add new foods/activities to your routine every month. Maintain awareness and connectivity to your inner voice to help you make the best choices.
- In order to deepen your connection with your true self, take time daily to sit in silence and reflect upon yourself, your day, and your feelings and needs. Just stay present and notice any thoughts that run through your mind without attachment, judgment or aversion. If your thoughts are too erratic, then simply calm yourself down with a couple of deep belly breaths or learn a simple systematic relaxation technique. You may notice that the more time you spend in self-reflection the more you’ll become aware of your true identity and the 'I am that...' mindset will become less and less important to you.
- When you recognize any of the above-mentioned Kleishas, be gentle, learn to observe them without judgment, knowing that eventually, everything passes. Give them your compassion and awareness and they will lose their strength and start to neutralize.
- If you form an attachment then work on refocusing your attention to your breath, use simple mantras (OM, SO–HAM) or listen to calming mantra sounds.
- If you create a severe aversion, the best option to heal is to embrace the company of inspiring people as well as an inspiring book, this will uplift and inspire you. It might take some time to socialize again, so accept the fact that you will have to retreat back and forth from your new social group before you can trust again. Each time you leave the group, forgive yourself so that the next time you meet with the group you are stronger and your mind feels freer. Eventually, you will feel calm and at peace in their company and ready to trust and accept others, as well as yourself again.
- When you are ready to deepen your neutralizing practice or if you have had a strong activation in your mind then please contact an experienced Ayurvedic consultant or yoga practitioner to guide and support you on your path.