What is aversion?

Q:

What is aversion?

A:

In Hindu philosophy, the feeling of aversion is called dvesha and is considered one of the five kleshas, or afflictions, listed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Aversion is that feeling we all get from time to time of dislike -- be it of a situation we are faced with, an emotion that arises, or a person who has hurt us in the past. In essence, aversion arises as a response to the fear of experiencing something that has brought us suffering in the past, or something that we perceive will bring us suffering in the future. (Learn more about afflictions in Exploring the 5 Kleshas.)

On one hand, aversion is a natural, even healthy, emotion. If you were in a car accident, for example, it’s normal that you’d feel some trepidation about getting behind the wheel again. On the other hand, if you were to become averse to ever riding in a car again, that may significantly limit your ability to get around. So you see, there’s a balance. Aversion becomes an obstacle to our spiritual and personal growth when we overly identify with the potential outcome of a situation, usually in a negative light. When we do, we become inflexible in our thoughts and actions. Aversion takes us out of our present experience in the here and now, placing us squarely within the confines of our monkey mind. In extreme cases, we may become overly judgmental in our thinking and treat others with suspicion and even hate.

The goal of yoga is not to dissolve all our kleshas, but to become aware of them, and conscious of when they arise and influence our day-to-day choices. Through the use of mindfulness practices and meditation, we can begin to cultivate a sense of awareness around our feelings of aversion as they arise, giving us a broader set of skillful means with which to address the challenges we face in our lives. When we learn to identify and acknowledge aversion, we train ourselves to become more flexible and open-minded in our thinking. This ultimately frees us from the afflictions of a judgmental mindset and the suffering that this kind of limited thinking brings with it. (Read on in Exploring Aversion.)

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Written by Alina Prax
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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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