Delusion’s captive, you threw yourself away like flotsam
on the ocean of life.
You broke the embankment
and fell into the marsh of shadows.
When Yama’s warders come to drag you away bleeding,
who can blot out the fear of death?I.Lalla
The Poems of Lal Dêd #144
translated by Ranjit Hoskote
I remember moving into my home. It is the first home i’ve had with new everything. A strange thing indeed. New discoveries and confusions. I remember going to clean my kitchen for the first time and seeing that on every appliance there was a tight thin layer of plastic coating over every surface. Some of the layers were easy to remove, others took a little more persistence, patience, and maybe a youtube reference video 😉
Nonetheless they all had to be removed before I could properly cook anything.
And so it is with the Kleshas. It is sometimes easy to see where we cultivate attachement desire and where we feed aversion and otherness. Sometimes it isn’t. It is easy to process some veils of identity that no longer serve and others it takes a while to root out. We may need additional support in the form of a teacher, the guidance of the texts, more dedicated practice to prepare the body and mind for such endeavors. Nonetheless before we can properly cook the karma we have to do some peeling back.
But even for those on the path of discernment, actively engaged in yogabhyasa there is still an affliction that is hard to dissolve. This is the big fear- the fear associated with end of life. Abhinivesah, like asmita, raga and dvesa, is a product of avidya (ignorance) and yet even in the process of peeling away our misconceived identities, our desires and our aversions, there is still the big change that looms.
Patanjali says that even the wise (those with preliminary meditative capacity for example) have difficulty with abhinivesah. This, like the other kleshas, can present in 4 ways. It may be all consuming (udaram), hidden (vicchina) weakened through our practice (tanu) or it can be sleeping/dormant like a hibernating bear (prasupta). The message here is that until there is nirodhah (absolute peace of mind) there is still the soft echo of change that we must process so there may be peace.
In the beginning the process looks like observation. Placing pause between the reaction and the stimuli allows us to see where our actions come from. Are we reacting to change because it challenges our identity, because it places us out of reach of what we want, because it makes us confront what we despise or because it reminds us that everything changes and eventually this body mind complex will also decay and fall away? We can then look to the texts that remind us, this body/mind is not the whole of you. One’s true nature has no form, no name, no conditionality. We practice and we think about this a lot. We infer the meaning based on our lived experience. And eventually we should be able to have the experience, through our consistent and enthusastic efforts, of “neti neti” I am not this thing, not this thing, towards “tattvam asi” thou art that- the unconditional (an advaita vidya).
So vigilance in the practice is helpful. Remembering our humanity is helpful.
This big question, “who am I?” so often brushed over in lived experience is the catalyst for this work. It requires we look not only to the brilliance of the sun but also to the shadow of the moon.
More on the kleshas here