Klesha

Definition - What does Klesha mean?

In Hinduism and Buddhism, a klesha is a negative mental state that clouds the mind causing suffering and the conditions for suffering to arise. Klesha means "poison" in Sanskrit. Kleshas also refer to the obstacles that prevent a person from reaching a state of enlightenment and freedom from samsara.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras describe kleshas as impediments to spiritual growth. Yogic practices such as meditation and pranayama breathing exercises provide methods to overcome kleshas.

Yogapedia explains Klesha

According to the Yoga Sutras, there are four stages to overcoming the influence of kleshas: the active stage (udaram), the separated stage (vicchinna), the attenuated stage (tanu) and the dormant stage (parsupta). The process begins with mindfully observing one's own kleshas as they arise.

The five kleshas mentioned by Patanjali are:

  1. Avidya (delusion or ignorance) is the first of the kleshas because it is the basis for the others. By destroying avidya, the other kleshas are no longer an obstacle. Avidya obscures the higher Self by firmly establishing negative habits and preventing change.
  2. Asmita (egoism) is the attachment to ego and the ego's sense of reality. It is mistaking the physical, emotional and mental aspects of the mind-body for the true Self.
  3. Raga (attachment) is the desire for material objects, relationships, status, power or other unevolved desires.
  4. Dvesha (repulsion) is aversion to unpleasant things, people and experiences.
  5. Abhinivesha (will to live) is the fear of death and desire to live, even if life is filled with misery.

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