Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book II

Paramahansa Yogananda's Comments on
Klesha ('Troubles')

Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda

In the Yoga Sutras, I:24, Patanjali says: "The Lord (Ishvara) is untouched by klesha* (troubles), karma (action), vipaka (habit), and ashaya (desire)."

* klesha: "trouble", also a "poison", affliction,

In the Yoga Sutras, II:3, klesha, or troubles, is defined as fivefold:

avidya (ignorance, individual delusion),

(ego, the body-identified state of the soul),

(attachment, attraction to what one likes),

(aversion, dislikes),

abhinivesha (body attachment).

Since the Lord is free from these eight imperfections inherent in creation, the yogi who seeks union with God must likewise first rid his consciousness of these obstacles to spiritual victory.


Individual Delusion — Avidya

Avidya is the first of the five kleshas.

This individual delusion is the ignorance in man that clouds his perception and gives him a false concept of reality.

Patanjali describes avidya in these words:

is perceiving the non-eternal, impure, evil,
and what is not soul,
to be eternal, pure, good, and the soul.

—Yoga Sutra II:5

Maya, cosmic delusion, is the universal substance of forms in the Infinite Formless. Avidya is the individual cosmic hypnosis or illusion imposed on the forms that makes them express, perceive, and interact with one another as though each has its own separate reality. God's omnipresent undifferentiated cosmic consciousness underlies its mayic separations into parts through which the Creator expresses His manifoldness. By the visualization of His thoughts, through the power of maya, "the magical measurer," God creates, sustains, and dissolves dream worlds and beings.

Similarly, man's unmodified divine consciousness, as the individualized soul, is the basis of all his expressions. God's mayic power of visualization has been inherited by man in the form of avidya. Through this personalized "measurer," man's one soul-consciousness becomes differentiated. By delusive imagination, the power of visualization or imaging the ego's concepts, man creates his own illusions of reality and "materializes" or brings them into being or expression through the instruments of his differentiated consciousness (mind, intelligence, feeling, and sensory organs of perception and action).t Thus is he a miniature creator, fashioning good or ill for himself and the phenomenal world of which he is an operative part. It is this creative force inherent in man's thoughts that makes them so formidable. The truth in the adage "Thoughts are things" should be duly respected!

The influence of the force of avidya is such that no matter how irksome the illusion, deluded man is loath to part with it. Anyone who has tried to change the view of an opinionated person—or even to alter his own strong opinion, for that matter—knows how compelling the "reality" of avidya-fashioned concepts can be to the one who cherishes them. And therein lies the ignorance. The confirmed materialist, captive in his own realm of "reality," is ignorant of his deluded state and therefore has no wish nor will to exchange it for the sole Reality, Spirit. He perceives the temporal world as reality eternal substance— insofar as he is able to grasp the concept of eternity He imagines the grossness of sensory experience to be the pure essence of feeling and perception. He fabricates his own standards of morality and behavior and calls them good, irrespective of their inharmony with eternal Divine Law. And he thinks that his ego, his mortal sense of being—with its inflated self-importance as the almighty doer—is the image of his soul as created by God.

Avidya is a mighty archenemy of divine realization when under the negative influence of worldly sense inclinations. Yet in the Mahabharata epic, we see that Kripa, the Kuru warrior-general representing avidya, is one of the few survivors of the war of Kurukshetra; and that after the battle he makes peace with the Pandavas and is appointed a tutor to Parakshit, grandson of Arjuna—sole heir and progenitor of the Pandavas. The meaning is that in the creative sphere of relativity, naught can exist without this principle of individuality. If avidya is completely withdrawn, the form that it maintains would resolve again into formless Spirit.

Ordinary man is dumbfounded by the enticing propositions of illusory sense experiences, and clings to delusive material forms as though they were the reality and the cause and security of his existence. The yogi, on the other hand, is ever conscious inwardly of the sole Reality, Spirit, and sees maya and avidya—universal and individual delusion—as merely a tenuous web holding together the atomic, magnetic, and spiritual forces that give him a body and mind with which to play a part in the cosmic drama of the Lord's creation.


Ego — Asmita

Patanjali's asmita, the second of the kleshas, derives from the Sanskrit asmi, "I am," (from as, to be). It is thus egoism, the same as the allegorical Bhishma in the Gita.

The consciousness of a man in a dream becomes many images— beings, creatures, objects. In his dream, he gives his own existence to all forms and sensory objects. To each human character he lends his own ego consciousness so that they all behave, think, walk, talk to the dreamer as individualized beings, with separate "soul" identities, even though all are created by the one spirit and mind of the dreamer. Similarly, God in His cosmic dream becomes earth, stars, minerals, trees, animals, and manifold human souls. God lends His own consciousness of existence to all things in His cosmic dream, and sentient creatures feel it as though it were their own separate identities.

Patanjali describes the klesha of the individualized sense of being thus:

"Asmita (egoism) is
the identifying of the seer with the instruments of seeing." 
—Yoga Sutra II:6

Ego is when the soul, or seer, the image of God in man, forgets its true divine Self and becomes identified with the powers of perception and action in the instruments of the body and mind. Asmita is therefore the consciousness in which the seer (the soul or its pseudonature, the ego) and its discriminating powers are present as though indivisibly one and the same.

The degree of ignorance or enlightenment inherent in this identification depends on the nature of the respective instruments through which the "I-ness" or individuality is manifesting. When identified with the gross senses and their objects (the physical body and material world), the "I-ness" becomes the wisdom-destroying physical ego. When identified with the subtle instruments of perception and knowledge in the astral body, the "I-ness" becomes a clearer sense of being, the astral ego, whose true nature may be adversely affected by the delusive influence of the physical nature; or, conversely, be in tune with the instrumentality of the wisdom consciousness of the causal body and thus become the discriminating ego.

When the "I-ness" expresses solely through pure intuitive wisdom, the instrument of the causal body, it becomes the pure discriminating ego (the divine ego), or its highest expression, the soul, the individualized reflection of Spirit. The soul, the purest individualized sense of being, knows its Spirit-identity of omniscience and omnipresence, and merely uses the instruments of the body and mind as a means of communication and interaction with objectified creation. Thus the Hindu scriptures say:

"When this "I" shall die, then will I know who am I."

In the context of this present verse, in which the inner metaphysical forces of the Kaurava army are described, the implication of Bhishma-Ego Consciousness is in the form of the astral, or inner-seeing ego: the consciousness identified with the subtle form of the instruments of sense mind (manas), intelligence (buddhi), and feeling (chitta). At this stage of the devotee's advancement, this astral or inner-seeing ego is strongly affected by the outward pull of the sense mind; that is, it has sided with the Kurus. In the victory of samadhi, this "I-ness" (asmita), inner-seeing ego, becomes more transcendent as the discriminating ego of the astral and causal bodily instruments, and ultimately as the pure individualized sense of being, the soul.


Attachment — Raga

Karna signifies the propensity for pursuing material action, toward which there is natural attachment because of enjoyment or pleasure derived from it. Thus Karna represents Patanjali's raga, the third klesha, which is described in Yoga Sutras II:7: "Raga is that inclination (attachment) which dwells on pleasure."

Karna is a half-brother to the five Pandavas. Their common mother Kunti, before her marriage to Pandu, used her divinely given power to invoke the god Surya, the sun, through whom she was given a son, Karna. Because she was unmarried at the time, she abandoned the child, who was found and raised by a charioteer and his wife. Karna became a close friend of Duryodhana and thus sided with him in the battle of Kurukshetra, even though he had learned of his true relationship with the Pandavas. Out of spite he became the avowed enemy of the Pandavas, especially Arjuna. The significance is that Kunti, the power of invoking spiritual energy, begets an offspring from the sun, the light of the spiritual eye, which is the light from which the whole body of man, the devotee, evolves. "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Because this power of invoking spiritual energy, Kunti, is not yet united to the divine discriminative power, or Pandu, the offspring Karna (attachment to pleasure) comes under the influence of the material sense inclinations and thus sides with them in opposition to the righteous Pandava qualities. Karna feels it is his duty to be loyal to the friendship he has given to Duryodhana, Material Desire. Raga, or Karna, then is the principle in the deluded man that causes him to seek that work or action to which he is attached because of the pleasure it gives him.

And he justifies that action by proclaiming it to be his duty. Thus whatever he wants to do, because of his attachment to it, he can rationalize as necessary and right.


Repulsion — Dvesha

Vikarna is symbolic of Patanjali's fourth klesha, dvesha, or aversion. Yoga Sutras II:8 says: "Dvesha is aversion toward that which brings suffering." Ordinarily the avoidance of suffering is a noble goal; but as applied in this context, suffering has a baser implication: that which is disagreeable. Man's ignorance (avidya) distorts his sense of right and wrong, good and evil, and creates in him the dual opposites of likes and dislikes (raga and dvesha). He is attached to what he likes and avoids what he dis-likes, rather than exercising discriminative free choice and following what is truly right and best for him.


Body Attachment — Abhinivesha

The metaphorical derivation: Ramitva anurakto bhutva jayati utkrsta-rupena tishtathi iti—"One who conquers by deep attachment to life— deep attachment to the continuation of one's embodied state of existence." Jayad (from jayat) means conquering, and ratha means chariot, i.e., the body Jayadratha represents an inherent tenacity of body attachment that seeks to conquer the devotee's aspirations toward Self-realization by making him cling to mortal consciousness. This tenacity is a finer or more subtle grade of attachment than the possessiveness man feels for objects or persons. Even when these latter attachments are burned in the fire of wisdom, the strong body-attachment persists as the last remaining dying embers. My gurudeva, Swami Sri Yukteswarji, often illustrated in these words the obstinate affection man feels for his mortal bodily residence: "Just as the long-caged bird, when offered freedom, is afraid of it and is reluctant to leave its enclosure, so even great men whose wisdom is constant are nevertheless subject to infatuation about the body at the time of death." Western psychologists have labeled this inherent compelling force "the desire for self-preservation," and noted that it is the strongest natural urge in man. It not only expresses itself as fear of death, but also gives rise in man to a host of mortal characteristics and actions contrary to the immortal nature of the true Self, the soul—selfishness, greed, possessiveness, the storing-up of treasures on earth as though this will be his permanent home.

Jayadratha, then, represents this subtle tenacity to body attachment, and is the correlate to Patanjali's fifth klesha, abhinivesha, in Yoga Sutras II:9: "The tenacity that clings to life as a result of body attachment, even in the wise, and that propagates itself (from the subtle memory of repeated experiences of death in previous incarnations) is abhinivesha."


Habit or Samskara (Inner Tendency)

Patanjali's vipaka. The word vipaka derives from vi-pac, from which come the derivative meanings "to bear fruit, develop consequences" and "to melt, liquefy." The samskaras or impressions of past actions in their subtle or "melted" state will ultimately, under the right conditions, come to fruition as the consequences of those actions. Yoga Sutras II:12-13 says: "Impressions of action have their root (cause) in the kleshas [the five obstacles just described], and are experienced in the seen (manifested in the present life) or the unseen (lying partially dormant awaiting the right conditions; often carried over into the next or a future life). From these roots the specifics of one's rebirths are determined—what type of man, his health and vitality, his joys and sorrows."


BOOK II — Sadhana ('practice')


1. Mortification, study, and surrendering fruits of work to God are called Kriya Yoga.

2. (They are for) the practice of Samadhi and minimising the pain-bearing obstructions.

3. The pain-bearing obstructions are - ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life.

4. Ignorance is the productive field of all them that follow, whether they are dormant, attenuated, overpowered, or expanded.

5.  Ignorance is taking that which is non-eternal, impure, painful, and non-Self, for the eternal, pure, happy, Atman (Self).

6. Egoism [ignorance] is the identification of the seer with the instrument of seeing.

7. Attachment is that which dwells on pleasure.

8. Aversion is that which dwells on pain.

9. Flowing through its own nature, and established even in the learned, is the clinging to life.

10. They, to-be-rejected-by-opposite-modifications, are fine.

11. By meditation, their modifications are to be rejected.

12. The receptacle of works has its root in these pain-bearing obstructions, and their experience in this visible life, or in the unseen life.

13. The root being there, the fruition comes (in the form of) species, life, and expression of pleasure and pain.

14. They bear fruit as pleasure or pain, caused by virtue or vice.

15. To the discriminating, all is, as it were, painful on account of everything bringing pain, either in the consequences, or in apprehension, or in attitude caused by impressions, also on account of the counter action of qualities.

16. The misery which is not yet come is to be avoided.

17. The cause of that which is to be avoided is the junction of the seer and the seen.

18.  The experienced is composed of elements and organs, is of the nature of illumination, action and intertia, and is for the purpose of experience and release (of the experiencer).

19. The states of the qualities are the defined, the undefined, the indicated only, and the signless.

20. The seer is intelligence only, and though pure, seen through the colouring of the intellect.

21. The nature of the experience is for him.

22. Though destroyed for him whose goal has been gained, yet is not destroyed, being common to others.

23. Junction is the cause of the realisation of the nature of both the powers, the experienced and its Lord.

24. Ignorance is its cause.

25. There being absence of that (ignorance) there is absence of junction, which is the thing-to-be-avoided; that is the independence of the seer.

26. The means of destruction of ignorance is unbroken practice of discrimination.

27. His knowledge is of the sevenfold highest ground.

28. By the practice of the different parts of Yoga the impurities being destroyed knowledge becomes effulgent, up to discrimination.

29. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, are the limbs of Yoga.

30. Non-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-receiving, are called Yama.

31. These, unbroken by time, place, purpose, and caste, are (universal) great vows.

32. Internal and external purification, contentment, mortification, study, and worship of God, are the Niyamas.

33. To obstruct thoughts which are inimical to Yoga contrary thoughts will be brought.

34. The obstructions to Yoga are killing etc., whether committed, caused, or approved; either through avarice, or anger, or ignorance; whether slight, middling, or great, and result is innumerable ignorances and miseries. This is (the method of) thinking the contrary.

35. Non-killing being established, in his presence all emnities cease (in others).

36. By the establishment of truthfulness the Yogi gets the power of attaining for himself and others the fruits of work without the works.

37. By the establishment of non-stealing all wealth comes to the Yogi.

38. By the establishment of continence energy is gained.

39. When he is fixed in non-receiving he gets the memory of past life.

40. Internal and external cleanliness being established, arises disgust for one’s own body, and non-intercourse with other bodies.

41. There also arises purification of the Sattva, cheerfulness of the mind, concentration, conquest of the organs, and fitness for the realisation of the Self.

42. From contentment comes superlative happiness.

43. The result of mortification is bringing powers to the organs and the body, by destroying the impurity.

44. By repetition of the mantram comes the realisation of the intended deity.

45. By sacrificing all to Isvara comes Samadhi.

46. Posture is that which is firm and pleasant.

47. By slight effort and meditating on the unlimited (posture becomes firm and pleasant).

48. Seat being conquered, the dualities do not obstruct.

49. Controlling the motion of the exhalation and the inhalation follows after this.

50. Its modifications are either external or internal, or motionless, regulated by place, time, and number, either long or short.

51. The fourth is restraining the Prana by directing it either to the external or internal objects.

52. From that, the covering to the light of the Chitta is attenuated.

53. The mind becomes fit for Dharana.

54. The drawing in of the organs is by their giving up their own objects and taking the form of the mind-stuff.


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Yoga Sutras translated by Swami Vivekananda