The products of ignorance

The products of ignorance

“You do not have to struggle to reach God, but you do have to struggle to tear away the self-created veil that hides him from you.”

– Paramhansa Yogananda

Yesterday we looked at kriya yoga (also the last 3 niyama) and it’s relation to avidya (first of the kleshas). When I think of the kleshas I remember the auditorium in my elementary school. Wooden chairs gleamed across a room with high ceilings and bright lights, the stage was elevated and set back deep into the recess of the building. Covering the stage was a large, heavy maroon velvet curtain. We’d all wait excitedly as the show prepped to begin waiting for the curtain to be pulled back. As we waited i’d make up so many scenes in my mind: what friends would be on stage, what would the costumes be like, what props were there? So much suspense. Waiting long enough the mind can create some interesting scenarios. And so it is with the kleshas- while it’s tempting to stay lost in the world of our own mental projections (citta vrttis) if our aim is yoga we have to take some effort to pull back the curtain (kleshas- specifically avidya) and really see ourselves. Before we see, the mind runs amok making up many convincing and ephemeral stories to answer the question “who am I?” Kriya Yoga’s entire aim is to make the practitioner strong and nimble enough in heart and mind to pull back the curtain of ignorance so we can take up the task of shining the light of awareness. Again, the kleshas are 5 according to the yoga sutras, Avidya (ignorance)  being the first and also the root of all the rest. So what are the remaining kleshas according to the sage Patanjali?


  • drg: observing
  • darshana: showing
  • Shaktyoh: powers
  • Eka(one) +atma(the eternal)= ekatma (oneness)
  • iva: as if
  • asmita: false impression

“Asmita is the false impression leading the observer (chit) to appear like the observed (chitta).” Or in other terms asmita is the mistake we make confusing our citta vrttis and consciousness as one and the same.

Drg Shakti is the power of the Purusha or Cit (awareness): the power of observation only (as it is consciousness alone).  

Darsana Shakti is the power of prakriti: the power to show. The senses draw in information from the gross and subtle elements, categorize it using the ahamkara and then send a data pack to the intellect for analyzation.  (review here) This “showing” power is the power of the citta. Citta is the mind OR “that which we confuse as the real self”

So when avidya runs the show we make the mistake that we are this form, these thoughts and all the changeable circumstances that go along with them. We will continue to make this mistake even when avidya is in it’s dormant state because left alone it will eventually fructify. This is a big message in yoga which we’ve already reviewed many times- and yet it bears repeating- pull out the seeds. 

Asmita, therefore, is the reason we feel we we are this name (nama) and form (rupa) -or- “I AM “. As long as Asmita is rooted we will wear that identity like a heavy wool coat in the heat of summer- well past it’s expiration date. Yoga teaches us to turn “I am ______” to “aham brahmasmi” meaning I am the eternal one- the one that does not change (a message found in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad) the sentiment being- “I am not this changeable form.” Eventually there is no need for a qualifier of any kind.

You may wonder what is the difference here between ahamkara and asmita as both are often called “the ego.” While they are related there is a slight distinction. Ahamkara is a principle of the antakarana (the internal mechanism of the mind: ahamkara and buddhi) that acts. Ahamkara is the organizing faculty of the mind creating a data pack of information collected from the outside world through the senses and their objects. The buddhi then analyzes that information. If the buddhi is sattvic there will be not identification as this form. If the buddhi is tamasic then it will be covered in misconception and take actions to perpetuate an externally associated identity. Asmita is defined as “the feeling I exist.” It is a veil over clear awareness/consciousness. Therefore ahamkara relates to the mind and action, asmita relates to consciousness and a feeling driven by tamas. Close cousins.


  • sukha: agreeable space
  • anushayi: presumption
  • ragah: intense desire

“Raga is the presumption that happiness comes from outside circumstances and fulfilling desire.” The desire here refers to having our wants met from the outside world and external stimuli. Raga is a product of Avidya and Asmita. Because we are ignorant of the true self we must form an identity based in the world around us. That identity is upheld by certain changeable parameters. Each of those parameters is defined by change BUT we desire to keep them the same (I am young, I am tall, I am smart, I am successful, I am envied etc etc etc…). If for example, my identity is based on being successful in a particular job- then I will do so many things to maintain that status of money, prestige, envy, a corner office etc. I may become a work-a-holic leaving no space for friends, family, healthy eating, time in nature or my yoga practice. Therefore my desire to continue creating this image of success will eventually become unhealthy and detrimental. This raga creates pain even while it’s original goal was to make me happy and secure. Eventually even that identity will fall away in time. My job may become obsolete, another employee may become more valued, my mind may lose some of it’s sharpness, etc etc. It’s inevitable really. Yet in order to grasp some illusive continuity we keep grasping these external labels and stimuli to meet that standard of identity; all the while it slips through our fingers. And so desire is born because keeping the changeable static is a losing battle and our citta is constantly looking for the next “fix” to keep it so. Raga is the impetus for pravrtti prayatna- doing things to get what we want.


  • dukha: disagreeable space
  • anushayi: presumption
  • dvesah: aversion

“Dvesha is the presumption that discontent comes from outside circumstances and stimuli.” -Or- “this, that, they MAKE ME UNhappy…”

Similar to raga, dvesha blames our internal responses on outside stimuli. Dvesha is the seed for flight, fight and the “blame game.”  Now of course just because everyone’s reality is said to be a personal projection does not absolve us of the practice of ahimsa. Patanjali is clear that our actions have the power to affect negatively and positively the world around us (including the people in our lives) all of which leaves a residue… BUT the reaction to actions is still an internal projection in the sphere of citta. Because we identify as citta (due to avidya + asmita) we not only have things we cling to that keep our sense of identity in tact (raga) we also have things that challenge that identity that we push away at all costs. This pushing away is Dvesha- the impetus for nivritti prayatna (doing things to get rid of what we don’t want). Raga and dvesha are partners in bondage. You can’t have one without the other.

Yoga Sadhana helps us to identify that many of these desires and aversions stem from the citta’s interplay with prakriti and in doing so keep us from seeing clearly… And so we keep up our practice with faith and enthusiasm-even when we desire to avoid 😉 


  • svarasavahi: sva (self) + rasa (subtle essence) + vahi (carrier)
  • vidusah: scholar, guru (wise one)
  • api: even so
  • tatharudhah: completely dominated by
  • abhinivesha: fear of death

“Even the wise (the scholars and gurus) can suffer from abhinivesha: the fear of death.” Even the wise find fear hard to shake! Therefore even as we address ignorance deeply fear holds on tight- even for many who are able to enter deep states of meditation and absorption. Abhinivesah is the perennial plant you wish would go away. We may find that it sprouts up again and again through varying stages of our life even with a strong conviction.

Remember the three stages of avidya (dormant, sprouting, rooted). Our practice must address all three. Through the diligent austerity (tapas), self reflection (svadhyaya) and devotion (isvara pranidhana) we address our misconceptions; first rooting out the obvious sources of ignorance and finally addressing the subtle impressions that keep us tangled up. Abhinivesah, the fear of death, is a product of all the previous 4 kleshas. From the moment we are born, these bodies are in a cycle of falling away. The older we get, the more aware of this we become. As long as we are attached to our identity as “fill in your name here” then that dormant seed of fear fructifies. We begin not only to fear our final moments in this form but also ANY change in between then and now- because change brings us in contact with the ephemeral nature of what we have confused as ourself. And so we stay diligent in our practice- gardeners on the landscape of the mind.

Please here remember the definition of yoga: absolute (unconditional) peace of mind.

The 5 related to the 3:

Earlier we addressed 3 sources of pain (Tri-tapa-yatana) which are covered in Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya, Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavad Purana etc.

  1. Adhyatmika – duhkha related to internal forces (2 streams: body and mind)
  2. Adhibhautika – duhkha related to other beings (humans, animals, viruses, bacteria) etc etc 
  3. Adhidaivika – duhkha related to supernatural forces and forces of nature (cold, heat, lightening, thunder, rain, hurricanes etc and the small “g” gods)

According to yoga all afflictions and all related dukha relate to the projection of citta vrtti. All of the sources of dukha above are very real, and much is out of our control (have you tried to stop a hurricane?) but our relationship to them is what causes our mental sphere to be agreeable or disagreeable. Even as other beings and nature act we all have unique responses. If shrouded in avidya and it’s sibling kleshas then our experience of these forces of nature will be directed by duhka. If avidya is addressed the world will go on but we no longer engage with it in any unnecessary way (jivana prayatna instead of pravrtti + nivritti prayatna). A steady practice of yoga helps us to reduce the ability of these 5 kleshas to root into our psyche in any of the three stages and in so doing helps us to stop being so swayed by the pull of adhyatmaka, adhibhautika and adhidaivika. So yoga is both therapeutic and preventative in that regard. 

When we are afflicted by our environment, by our peers, by our jobs, by our bodies, by the forces of nature and that beyond our “control” the tool is the same: To stay on the path of yoga (tapas svadhyaya isvara pranidhanani and/or the 8 limbed path) and root out the seeds of Avidya in our own citta akasha (mental space). We do not deny that the world exists and that there are very real problems and distractions. We also don’t avoid that reality. Instead we use our practice to keep our body and mind healthy and stable so we can have the proper attitude (bhava) towards the world, make good decisions that lighten the karmic load and keep our mind clear of obstructions. From there we place our mind in the eternal/ contemplate the true nature of ourself. 

Again…once the buddhi has become sattvic and can see the Purusha our efforts become effortless. Until then our efforts must remain enthusiastic…

“You do not have to struggle to reach God, but you do have to struggle to tear away the self-created veil that hides him from you.” – Paramhansa Yogananda

(God here is related to your own individual faith, to Isvara and/or to the purusha of samkhya and yoga. Different streams same source.)

See you tomorrow,



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