What are kleshas?

By Alina Prax | Published: May 2, 2017 | Last updated: August 26, 2020

According to Patanjali, the ancient yogic sage and author of the Yoga Sutras, the five kleshas are the characteristics we have as humans which cause all of our human suffering. They are:


Avidya translates as "ignorance" and/or "forgetfulness." As humans caught up in our own ego and mind, we tend to forget who we really are. We forget that our true nature is divine. We then live our lives unable to see the true nature of ourselves, as well as the true nature of reality.


Asmita means "egoism." We tend to identify with our egos — as separate from other beings and as separate from the divine nature of reality. (Learn How to See the Ego for What It Is.)


Raaga is an attachment or desire. When the circumstances of lives don’t live up to our expectations, or when they fail to meet our desires, we suffer. We suffer because we’re so darn attached to those desires. (Read about The Roots of Suffering.)


Dvesha means "aversion." An aversion is desire’s polar opposite. Yoga helps us remain deeply contented even when things we don’t like happen or when things are beyond our control. Eliminating our vulnerability toward aversion allows for a more contented and freer existence. (Learn more in Exploring Aversion.)


Abhinivesha is a fear of death. Every last fear comes down to this one on some level, and as a human, we all suffer from this last klesha.

Become aware of your kleshas in order to transcend them. Pay attention to them through mindfulness. When we are aware of the five kleshas, we can see just how transient they are. By taking some time to meditate on our kleshas, we can see them for what they are and ultimately free ourselves from them. (Learn The Art of Mindfulness.)

Just choose one klesha at a time and close your eyes as you contemplate your true nature and your ultimate freedom from the particular klesha you’re meditating on. (Read on in Exploring the 5 Kleshas.)


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Written by Alina Prax | Editor/Writer

Alina Prax

Alina has been an avid yogi for over 20 years. After completing her Sanskrit studies at the University of Texas-Austin, she traveled to northern India on a pilgrimage to various holy sites to celebrate. She holds a 300-hour yoga teacher certificate from Dharma Yoga, a Buddhist-based asana practice. Over the years, she has had the honor of studying with some inspiring teachers such as Richard Freeman, Shannon Gannon and the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She is thrilled to be part of the Yogapedia editorial team, helping to craft beautiful and meaningful articles about yoga and the spiritual path.

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