We all know that if we find the right diagnosis for our suffering then it is always easier to find more effective remedies and solutions. Sages belonging to all faith traditions have found a common ground in diagnosing what causes human unhappiness. They could fathom the reasons for the suffering of humanity and found it is all in the Mind. In the following five articles we will explore the 5 Afflictions of Mind (Pancha Kleshas) according to Rishi Patanjali, the great sage of India.
Introduction to Five Afflictions (Pancha Kleshas) of Mind
Rishi Patanjali, who showed the world the path of Yoga, talks about the five afflictions or Pancha Kleshsas which are at the root of all pains in life: Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (ego), Raga (attachment), Devesha (aversion), and Abhinivesha (fear of death).
Humanity has lost its vision due to this clouded state of mind brought about by these five afflictions. Understanding them as the most significant aspect of Yoga can help us find our way through our current jungle-state of mind. By exploring their ancient wisdom we can find effective tools to use in our daily lives so that in all the negativity that surrounds each one of us, we can see and explore the new positive possibilities.
The First Affliction: Self-Forgetfulness, or Avidya
The most unfathomable mystery in this world is that we always take our “clothes” (body) to be who we are! We can remember many things, but we cannot seem to remember that we are Pure Consciousness and not just an inert body. We all are suffering from a common disease called "Self-forgetfulness." Identified with the body, the mind keeps moving away from the real within us, straying into materialistic desires and becoming entrapped. We forget that we are Spiritual Beings wearing the material body.
All pains and miseries belong to the body and impure mind. The pure consciousness, or the Atman (soul), is unscathed by pains and miseries. But the great illusion called Maya casts the spell of Avidya and our Spiritual Self is forgotten. Our Spiritual Journey begins with the deepest understanding that true knowledge is not acquired knowledge or the intellectual, scholastic persona. It is something that begins with unlearning, emptying, de-identifying, and de-conditioning the mind to retreat to its pure essence.
Most people think of Vidya as knowledge acquired through intellect, and the absence of this knowledge as Avidya. However, the most intellectual and knowledgeable person in this world could be the victim of Avidya (Self-forgetfulness), for Avidya is to accept the transient as the eternal, the impure as pure, and the unconsciousness as consciousness!! That is the reason we find that a simple, humble, sometimes called ignorant person reaches God faster than the intellectual giants. Great Masters like Jesus, Ramakrishna, Kabir, Tulsi, or Nanak enter this world with only the deepest yearning to know the reality hidden behind the veil of Maya. They realize God. They are beacons of humanity.
For Vidya is not knowledge, but wisdom with innocence. We sacrifice our innocence by being knowledgeable and then long to return to our childhood innocence. Maybe we play this game to be co-creators of this Divine Drama called life! Only the realized one knows the true cause of this mystery!!
We are not here just to be happy and avoid unhappiness, but also to contemplate what Rishi Patanjali calls the affliction or cause of our inner dissatisfaction. Therefore, the first affliction Avidya needs to be contemplated more in our daily life. Avidya simply is self-forgetfulness, unconsciousness, and is our biggest problem. We all need to wake up and become more mindful and alert to recognize the Soul as the “sole doer” and try to take our false vanity out of the way. It is said, “vidya dadati vinayam,” meaning Vidya, true education or learning, confers humility. Just think how good we feel when we meet someone who is genuinely humble and soft-spoken, even in unhappy situations. A true Yogi exemplifies humility. Humility is also accompanied by a relaxed innocence.
Vidya manifests our soul. Avidya hides our soul. Vidya sublimates our false self, and Avidyaglorifies and sustains our false self in ignorance and vanity. Should we choose Avidya or Vidya? Should we be subservient to our false self or allow the light of the soul to radiate through our humility and excellence in every sphere of our lives? True learning comes when we are prepared to learn from the experience of life. Let life be a continual evolution of consciousness. Let life be a movement from Avidya (self-forgetfulness) to Vidya (self-awareness).
To be in the slumber of ignorance and self-forgetfulness is not the basic nature of humans. We are not here to suffer and cause suffering to others. Our true nature is awakening. Truly, we are awakened ones. All suffering is superimposed! Mind’s play! We have forgotten how to stop and see people and things with the Eye of Awareness. That Eye sees and shows everything as One. All divisions drop. Unity prevails. That unity consciousness is God and Love!
Bodhi (Shuddhaanandaa Brahmachari, India) is a globally acclaimed spiritual teacher with 40 years of meditation experience, author, and visionary social advocate; founded Lokenath Divine Life Mission serving thousands of poverty-stricken individuals. Received Lifetime Achievement Award, House of Lords, UK, 2015. Author: Living with My Himalayan Master. YouTube Channel: Bodhi Shuddhaanandaa.