Tag Archives: ignorance

The Kleshas (part 4 – Manomaya kosha)…

Mana means mind and Manamaya (or Manomaya) kosha is the sheath responsible for processing thoughts, feelings, mind and emotions. It is in direct control of the operation, through the prana, of the physical body and senses. Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati says of this kosha: “It is like a supervisor in a factory, in that it gives instructions, but is not supposed to be the manager of the factory of life. Because of this, it naturally has doubts, and created illusions. When it receives clear instructions from the deeper level, it functions quite well. However, when it is clouded over by its illusions, the deeper wisdom is clouded over.”

During meditation, we become aware of Manamaya kosha, we can then explore it, and then go inward, to and through the remaining two koshas. This is what we commonly call the “monkey mind” and it is through the lens of this dimension that we perceive the world and our likes and dislikes (raga and dvesha) through the agency of our five senses.

Patajajali tells us in the yoga sutras: “Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah. Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam”. (“Yoga is the mastery of the activities of the mind-field. Then the seer rests in its true nature.”)

The Kleshas (part 4 - Manamaya kosha)...

The Manamaya Kosha forms the mental body. The primary way to impact this kosha is through meditation. It is affected by the 5 kleshas as follows:

  • Avidya (Ignorance): When the Manamaya kosha or mental body has mistakenly identified the Atman with the thinking mind it is easy to get “stuck” in this sheath feeling like we’re abducted by our mind. In order to break this spell, practices like pranayama (breathing) and pratyahara (mental withdrawing of the senses), are quite efficient and effective.
  • Asmita (Ego): When the ego becomes aware of the Manamaya kosha and identifies with all the constant mental chatter, this becomes an obstacle to meditation, forbidding us to evolve to the point where we can work on the remaining two koshas.
  • Raga (Attachment): Thoughts animate the Manamaya kosha and pleasant thoughts inhibit deep meditation. To prevent this we need to go beyond the fluctuations of the mind and master its activities. This is the basis of the Yoga Sutras.
  • Dvesha (Aversion): Just the opposite of the Raga klesha, unpleasant thoughts are repulsive and being stuck in dealing with them also inhibits the deeper stages of meditation. Regular meditation practice settles these disturbing thoughts and lets us advance toward our goal of a mind at peace.
  • Abhinivesha (Clinging to Life): This klesha increases our identification with our mental body, and this causes us to fear that if our thought activity stops, so do we. Our thoughts are unable to accept or deal with our mortality or the immortal aspect of the Self. To overcome this, the life of the spirit must be recognized as transcending this bodily life.

As noted in my last posts as these kleshas are recognized and dissolved (or cleared) from the Manamaya kosha, we move on to the remaining koshas enabling them to be cleansed of these afflictions, then the Atman (or Self), which is indescribable, is gradually recognized and eventually realized by direct experience; this is the goal of Yoga, meditation, Advaita Vedanta, and certain Tantra practices.

Stay tuned, next: Further exploration of each Klesha and how it colors the Vijnanamaya kosha.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Kleshas (part 3 – Pranamaya kosha)…

Prana means energy, maya in this case means body or vehicle. The Chinese call it Chi, the yogis Prana or life force. Prana moves around the body through channels, called nadis. Some 72,000 reportedly, but who counted them, nobody knows. When we practice asana and pranayama, we are affecting Pranamaya kosha.

Prana enters into the body not only through food and water, but it also comes into the body via of the breath. One of the major benefits of yoga is that we become more and more conscious of our breathing, and eventually we learn to take proper deep breaths. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing, complete yogic breathing, and alternate nostril breathing are specifically designed to enhance the proper functioning of this second sheath. This leads to an increase of prana into our system which literally makes us feel more alive plus it invigorates and powers Pranamaya kosha.

Additionally, getting plenty of fresh air and sunlight is essential for maintaining the health of the vital force. Yoga texts often refer to the sun as the ultimate source of Prana.

The Kleshas (part 3 - Pranamaya kosha)...

The Pranamaya Kosha forms the energy body. The primary way to impact this kosha is through breathing. It is affected by the 5 kleshas as follows:

  • Avidya (Ignorance): When the Pranamaya kosha or energy body has mistakenly identified the Atman with Prana, mind and/or intellect, it is impossible to discover the Atman’s true nature which is entirely distinct from this and the other four sheaths. This identification must be transcended before the yogi can proceed to discover their true Self.
  • Asmita (Ego): When the ego becomes aware of the Pranamaya kosha and identifies with it, this prevents the exploration of it and the proceeding inward, to and through it to the remaining three koshas.
  • Raga (Attachment): As Pranayama energizes the Pranamaya kosha it can become a rapturous experience that we easily become attached to. To explore the deeper aspects of Prana and Pranayama, we will need to achieve a state beyond the fluctuations of the ego, ordinary senses and the mind.
  • Dvesha (Aversion): Sometimes attempting to going beyond the Pranamaya kosha seems like an epic fail and we may worry that we’re not anywhere near “getting it,” and maybe we still find altering our breathing to be surprisingly stressful. This creates aversion and it can be overcome by persistence and regular practice.
  • Abhinivesha (Clinging to Life): This klesha will increase our identification with our energy body, resulting in a fear somewhat like suffocating. To overcome this identification we can practice a deep and abiding acceptance of our mortality. Whenever we refuse to cling we prepare ourselves to transcend this and the next three sheaths.

As noted in my last post as these kleshas are recognized and dissolved (or cleared) from the Pranamaya kosha, the next step is taken. As the remaining koshas are cleansed of these afflictions, the Atman (or Self), which is indescribable, is gradually recognized and eventually realized by direct experience; this is the goal of Yoga meditation, Advaita Vedanta, and certain Tantra practices.

Stay tuned, next: Further exploration of each Klesha and how it colors the Manamaya kosha.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Compassion and Yoga Are One

True compassion manifests as the sacred energy that flows through the heart chakra (Anahata chakra) to each and every living thing in the universe. Whenever it is accessed it enables us to feel a sense of oneness or unity with all. This is the goal and the essence of yoga.

Yoga students and teachers encourage compassion to blossom, becoming their inner guidance. This way it will constantly reminds them that it is not the perfection of a technique (or asana) that gives them the experience of Yoga, but the ability to access their own sacred energy.

Compassion is cultivated by observing our personal experience as we go through physical, mental or emotional hardships with an open heart and/or by perceiving the suffering of others with an open heart.

Whenever we experience a slight injury or pain, focus on allowing the awareness of that discomfort to expand, thus embracing and understanding those who live with chronic suffering or pain on a permanent basis. This expanded consciousness will aid tremendously in the development of compassion.

All the rules and structures that we have amassed will dissolve when we embrace another in their deepest suffering. This compassion then becomes the catalyst that allows the great yogic teachings to guide us in realizing that the physical body is simply a temple housing the Divine Self.

According to yoga philosophy and science, disease manifests not so much from physical forces, but from a disconnection with our source or spirit. Whenever we are able to recognize and realize who we really are, healing is accelerated.

When we study Patanjalis yoga sutras we see the reasons for this separation are defined in the Kleshas Sutra II-3; Avidya (ignorance of our true nature), is the prime cause of forgetting. Avidya is the individual cosmic hypnosis or illusion imposed on all forms that makes them express, perceive, and interact with one another as though each has its own separate reality. When we strive to become compassionate beings we realize our ability to help others is directly affected by our own belief in this most basic of concepts.

Compassion and Yoga Are One

By constantly refining and rediscovering the many yogic practices each person is able to gain the benefits of healing. Many times the actual healing was not solely a physical cure, but a rebalancing of the energies that flow through the body, the mind and the emotions, touching the spirit. This rebalancing enables everyone to gain a sense of peace and clarity, especially when making decisions and changes based on the highest level of healing.

Yoga is the creation of this balance of energies and it grants the natural intelligence of the body and mind to correct itself. It is for this reason that most of the gentle and compassionate practices can positively affect any disease or imbalance. By facilitating the alchemy of connecting hearts and souls with spirit, we remember that inherently, we are all one!

Ordinarily much of humankind is dumbfounded by the alluring participation of illusory sense experiences, and clings to various delusive material forms as though they were the reality, the cause and even the security of his or her existence. The yogi however, is ever conscious inwardly of the sole reality and spirit, and sees maya and avidya (universal and individual delusion) as merely a flimsy web holding together the atomic, magnetic, and spiritual forces that give him a body and a mind with which to play a part in the cosmic drama of the Divine’s creation.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Looking for a Guru?

Do you wonder where to start, where to look to find a guru? You’ll find there are all kinds and types of gurus; often “guru” indicates a title for a teacher or a guide in most any subject, such as music, dance, art and sculpture, but especially religion and spirituality. We may find gurus’ range from musicians and storytellers to those whose message is transmitted without ever speaking a word. But what they all have in common is the ability and appointed authority to unveil some truth. For all too many, that authority is self-appointed, but for others it is a result of a long lineage or it is divinely appointed, the latter two helping the ego/mind (self w/small “s”) merge with the divinity within. You may call this divinity within, the Soul, Self, Jiva, Atman or whatever, but nonetheless it is immortal. There was never a time that it didn’t exist. There will never be a time that it will not be. The ego/mind is not immortal and never will be. It ceases to be at the moment of death, and according to yoga philosophy there’s an essence of what this egoic self has learned and accumulated in regard to spiritual value that continues into the next life, even if that life doesn’t find embodiment for hundreds or even a thousand years.

Yet this ego/self can become immortal if it so chooses. Naturally, this choice involves a clear decision, commitment, discipline, and Divine Grace, which often manifests in the form of a guru. Once the decision is made, a succession of teachers generally begins to appear; helping, teaching and guiding the aspirant or student. The ongoing quality that matters most is sincerity. We can make mistakes, wander from the path, and make short-term and careless choices, but if this is all done within a consistent framework of sincerity, then we’ll continue to get the guidance we need. In the process of preparing the ego/self to merge with the Divine within, negative qualities are stripped away, but only at the rate the aspirant can tolerate. Our rescue, within the bounds of our karma, is commonly afforded to us as we struggle, and eventually, we will meet our true guru.

Once we start looking we’ll see all sorts of self-appointed individuals hanging out their “guru shingle”. Sadly, they are mostly “wanna-be’s,” who “think they are” or “wish they were” – would-be spiritual leaders who have made a decision that this is their calling, perhaps in spite of their immaturity. Some of them are sincere, but many more are not. A true guru is never self-appointed. They are selected and trained by those who are already established as true gurus and sadgurus or else they’re genuine celestial enlightened ones (Avatars) who appear here from time to time. In reality, there are very few true gurus.

A true guru is endowed with spiritual gifts to give, and they give them (sometimes lavishly), to students, disciples, spiritual aspirants and on occasion to complete strangers. A true guru genuinely knows the appropriateness of the gift and can “see” how it will be applied. Although only a sadguru has this ability to know all possible outcomes, true gurus may not. Even still, a clear direction is apparent to the true guru which points strongly to how the gift will be employed. This is how the appropriateness of the gift is determined. All the while, the gift increases the ability of the ego/self to eventually merge with the Soul or Self and that is the determining objective.

All spiritual teachers, even ones who have reached the state of an advanced adept, are not automatically gurus, unless and until some divinely oriented appointment for the function arrives. As is the case for many advanced adepts, this appointment to become a true guru may never arrive.

The Grace of The Supreme flows through each true guru in wonderful and different ways; they’ve been embraced by Love and realize with every facet of their being that Love is both the method and the destination. It is the means and the end. There is no way to achieve a state of Love other than by loving. For the Divine or Truth speaks directly to the heart; the mind cannot apprehend Truth or the Self in its entirety, as a matter of fact, it can’t come close. It would be like trying to put the ocean in a teacup. It is easy to see how you can pour the contents of a teacup into the ocean and it becomes one with the ocean. But it’s a bit harder to dissolve the mind in the heart.

It seems astounding that some of the Avatars of the East (Shankaracharya, Vyasa, Buddha) and others do not agree on the finer points of what establishes Truth, or Reality, or the nature of the Self, and so on. They all see the same light, but don’t have the capacity to see it all at once so they each expound on it somewhat differently. Dattatreya, when asked to comment on the differences between Dvaita (dualism) and Advaita (Non-dualism), between Saguna (Realization with form) or Nirguna (Realization without form), looked kindly at the questioner and said, “If you are still concerned with such things, you still have a ways to go.”

Both teachers and gurus will agree that Love will take you all the way to the utmost goal of human existence, but true gurus are blessed with a unique set of skills and tools to help the finite part of us merge with the infinite part of us; dissolving our identification with the ego/self, moving us as expeditiously as possible into that state of being where we realize unity because we have attained it.

Of related interest, click on: This entry was posted in GENERAL, RAE INDIGO, TEACHER TRAINING, YOGA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , on by .

The Problem of Thoughts & Yoga’s Solution

To quote Eckhart Tolle, “Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it’s considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from being. It also creates a false mind-made self that casts a shadow of fear and suffering.”

To put things in proper perspective takes real intelligence (Buddhi – to be awake; to understand; to know), not more mind chatter. Then it is possible to realize that thought is only a tiny aspect of our intelligence. Tolle goes on to say: “All the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.”

The obsessive thinking mind and yoga practice – a bad mix

When the ego-self (established by the thinking mind) is the one performing asana, the mind is actively engaged in self-criticism, comparing your performance with others, thereby judging yourself and those around you. Your mind becomes restless, agitated and engaged in internal conflict while your body is engaged in performing asanas. This internal conflict causes you to be emotionally reactive to whatever is happening at any given moment during your practice and you are engaged in the posture of ego which is contrary to the purpose of yoga – the deconstruction of the ego.

In the Yoga Sutras (1:2) Patajali defines the purpose yoga by saying, “Yoga means stopping the mental modifications.” (chitta vritti nirodah). There is no exact English translation, but roughly translated these Sanskrit words mean… chitta = stuff of the mind, vṛitti = modification (altering perception) and niroda = to control (find tranquility).

Basically this means that whatever form of yoga you are practicing, the highest priority and the fundamental purpose for the practice is to eliminate mental agitations and emotional reactions. Whenever performing yoga asanas, it is necessary to change from an ego-driven posture that is externally placing the body in a so-called “yoga asana,” while internally, the mind is engaged in conflict. This equates to practicing conflict and calling it yoga. So it stands to reason that in order to convert this ego driven posture into true yoga asana, you need to remove the ego-mind (which is continually engaged by external motivation).

Whenever a student of yoga is able to connect with the part of themselves that is aware beyond any ego-conditioned perception, they have an opportunity to change their reactions to external circumstances. These “knee-jerk” reactions are automatic and unconscious, arising out of the past (or the anticipated future) and can only be dismantled in the present moment. Even though these unconscious reactions tend to happen automatically, there is a part of us that is conscious and can become a witness, thus changing the reaction. When we are able to change our reaction, we can change from our very core and that will change us from the inside, instead of simply altering our external conditions. This is your divine potential, your inherent “Self”. Accessing this Self (or divine potential) has nothing to do with what we’re doing, but how (or from where) we are doing what we’re doing. 

Five kinds of thoughts

According to Patanjali, there are only five kinds of thoughts. Although there are countless thought impressions that come into the field of the mind (chitta), which form the source and substance of the barrier (or veil) covering the true Self (Divine consciousness), they all fall into one or more of these five categories. In other words; while there may be many individual thought impressions, there are not countless types of thoughts to deal with, but only these five. This can help students and practitioners of yoga greatly in seeing the underlying simplicity of the science of Yoga, without getting lost in the apparent multiplicity in both the gross and subtle realms. These five thought impressions are:     

The Problem of Thoughts & Yoga’s Solution1. Pramana/right impressions (or though

The Ego According to Yoga Philosophy

Sooner or later everyone asks the question “what is the ego?”, and the general definition is usually something like this: “the ‘I’ or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.”

But yoga goes a little further and sees it as reflected consciousness; a part of the soul’s pure consciousness that reflects in the mind and functions as the subjective knower, establishing the dichotomy of the observer and the observed, the experience and the experiencer. Therefore the ego is a fictitious character established by the mind, and the mind is simply a subtle form of energy (it has no consciousness of its own). The mind however, acts “as if” it’s a conscious entity, because of soul’s consciousness reflecting on it, or working within it.

Only a very small part of the sun’s light, when reflected from the moon’s surface, makes the moon appear as if it generates a light of its own. We may say “by the light of the moon”, but that light in reality is actually the sun’s light reflecting from the moon’s surface. Similarly, only a small part of soul’s pure consciousness, when working in the mind, identifies itself with the mind and its limitations, and thus feels itself limited. So then, the ego is not only reflected consciousness but also limited consciousness. Limited consciousness naturally equates to limited intelligence, limited understanding and limited ability of perception. Our eyes are not all-seeing and have a limited vision. From the eye’s limited perspective the earth seems flat; but the truth is, the earth is round. Since we see only a small portion of the earth’s circular surface (the horizon) it appears to us as flat, but when seen from a jetliner at 36,000 feet our perspective is expanded and we begin to appreciate the “roundness” of the earth’s horizon. This correlates to the ego’s limited ability to perceive things in the bigger perspective, so instead of seeing the whole (or undivided “oneness”) it sees everything in parts and falsely identifies each part as being separate and independent of the other parts.

The ego is the self or ‘I’ in our mind around which all our thoughts, feelings and experiences seem to revolve. The ego-self is the author, writing the script for all our thinking, feeling and desires. It is the subjective enjoyer and the “experiencer” of all our activities and the results of those activities. Whenever we say “I think, I feel, I see, I love, I enjoy, I hate, I fear, etc.” we are referring to our ego-self. This ‘I’ with which we are so familiar is our limited duplicate ‘I’ not our true ‘I’. It is this false (reflected or duplicated) ‘I’ that experiences all our pleasures and pain, all our joys and suffering. Our real ‘I’ – the Self (with a capital “S”) is the Soul in us that lies behind the ego. This limited ego-consciousness needs to be withdrawn from the mind and dissolved in the Self (like a baby salt doll thrown into the sea) or else have its effects annihilated by non-identification and non-attachment with the physical body and the thinking mind.

Yoga and meditation practice both teach us to slowly and steadily drop this identification and all its attachments. As the ego-self is gradually and progressively trained through yoga and meditation to drop its attachments, it becomes free and spontaneously withdraws inwards. Step-by-step, in deep prolonged meditation the ego-consciousness first withdraws from the body and then it withdraws from the mind. As it begins disconnecting itself from the activities of the mind and withdraws inwards it becomes aware of its original source and its oneness with that source. This process continues until the ego has expanded itself to the point of complete annihilation in the Soul (again, like the salt baby in the sea). Once the duplicate or reflected ‘I’ has merged with the real ‘I’ this is called Self-realization, samadhi or illumination, and this merging (union) is the object and true goal of all yoga and meditation practice.

“The I-ness or egoism (asmita), which arises from the ignorance, occurs due to the mistake of taking the intellect (buddhi, which knows, decides, judges, and discriminates) to itself be pure consciousness (purusha).”Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2:6

And, we’ll end this article with a quote from Krishnananda “The ego is trying to practice yoga. Oh, what a pity! The ego cannot practice yoga, because the ego is to be destroyed in yoga. So how can it practice yoga? Here we have a strange difficulty, and it has to be overcome with a strange technique; that is yoga itself. Yoga is achieved by yoga itself; there is no other means.”

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

Obstacles to Spiritual Awakening (Self-realization)

Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves.” is a famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote urging everyone to aim high and have lofty aspirations. But suppose we actually raise the level of our aspirations even higher and aim for the very highest achievement possible in life, and “Hitch our wagon to infinity!”

Before all the non-duality “pundits” start questioning if “purpose” is really necessary let’s just consider the notion that if there is any purpose at all to life, then it is Self-realization, awakening to the eternal Self (aka Atman – pure consciousness), or to put it another way for those of a religious disposition, it is to find God within. Compared to this everything else seems immature.

So, we should make the most of this opportunity. It really doesn’t matter if you believe in reincarnation or not, this particular life holds a golden opportunity for us to achieve the highest possible purpose of human life.  For all those who do believe reincarnation is real, it is apparent how very precious and rare human birth is, and for all those who believe there is only one “go ‘round,” Then it would surely be a injustice to yourself to waste this opportunity. But, either way, since we’re here anyway, why not set our sights for highest high.

Here is a list and description of 5 major obstacles that commonly prevent us from fulfilling our great journey to Self (or God) Realization.

Major Obstacles to Spiritual Awakening (Self-realization):

1. Ignorance:

Spiritually, what is meant by ignorance is that most people are simply not aware that they actually have an infinite, divine aspect which can be recognized and then fully abided in. There are many who will be surprised that there are sages living today who have awakened to their Infinite nature and lived life from that realization. If you are one of these people, what you need to consider is that there is this possibility, and then explore your inner blockages and obstacles in order to discover if there is any truth to this assertion.

If we outright reject this claim that this aspect of our being exists, it doesn’t matter to life or anyone else, it only means we’ll miss the whole purpose and meaning of our birth. By waking up, or attaining the state of Self-realization, we will finally be free from delusion, and able to fully express our true self and live the life we were inherently destined to live.

2. Compromise:

There are times in life when compromise is the fair thing to do, but spiritually how we approach compromise in our lives means taking a closer look at Divine (or universal) laws. They dictate we don’t settle for less. When we compromise ourselves spiritually we are not using our spiritual gifts to the fullest. Sometimes it means we’re squandering those gifts, and not compromising can sometimes be really hard, but nobody ever said that doing the right thing spiritually would always be easy; although, ironically everything seems to fall into its rightful place when Self-realization is the underlying theme of our lives. So, let this great work begin, lighting your way forward to the truth.

3. Confusion:

It’s hard to say which is worse, the ignorant or the confused, but most likely it’s the confused. They are the ones who have good health, they are aware that Self-realization is the true purpose of life, they have the right necessities (food, clothing and shelter), but they find excuses to chase after other things (mostly material) endlessly. This begs the question, what is wrong? At least the ignorant were clueless; they simply did not know any better.

At some point or another we are all bound make this mistake, and oftentimes repeatedly. And perhaps we even ask ourselves, what the hell am I doing? So confusion means we lose sight of the fact that the true purpose of life is Self-realization, awakening, and enlightenment.  This needs to be the guiding force of our life.

4. Laziness:

Being lazy is just pathetic. Those who are ignorant don’t know any better, the confused are trying to build castles in the sand, but what in the world are lazy folks doing?

They know what is at stake, have plenty of idle time plus good health, but are just mindlessly wasting their limited opportunities. There are endless forms of mindless, distracting entertainment to keep them drugged and serving the purpose that secular society demands. From this the lazy must break free in order to be free.  Make some effort, show a bit of willpower, turn off the TV, stop browsing the web, following the mainstream media nonsense, and then infuse some balance into this life. If the lazy will only begin to gather momentum and break the cycle of inertia, they will be unstoppable.

5. Impatience:

Achieving the highest goals in life is not going to be easily accomplished overnight. We currently exist in an instant gratification society, are being subliminally trained to become quite an impatient lot. This can be easily seen not only in the use of medical drugs for muscle building, weight loss, pain relief, etc., but also in our love relationships, when intimacy and romance are bypassed in favor of sex.

This impatient attitude has seeped into the spiritual arena as well, and we need to realize there are no shortcuts to Self-realization; we will have to stay on the path for as long as it takes. Without losing sight of the goal, we may still enjoy the journey.


Two valuable keys to awakening are meditation and yoga. And again it is stressed that this awakening is the real reason for human birth. Even though enlightenment has absolutely no material value, without it, life itself has no true value. If (or when) we decide we don’t want to have lived such a meaningless life, we need to wake up and claim our inherent birthright of knowing that we and the divine are “One.” This is union, and this union alone is the true and real purpose of yoga.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500 

The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

Meditation (known as Dhyana in Sanskrit) was part of ancient yoga and remains one of the most essential features of yoga practice. Meditation is basically the most direct way to connect to supreme or essential “Self” (Atman) through developing deeper consciousness. And in addition to its spiritual significance, meditation and yoga are practiced together to establish and maintain optimal health and wellness.

In these modern times the practice of yoga training has become more estranged from meditation than in the past, with the primary focus often being on asana (poses), but nonetheless meditation still remains crucial to even the most fundamental understanding of the science of yoga. With the widespread attraction to yoga from today’s contemporary students, the question frequently arises as to whether meditation is really necessary to appreciate the full scope of what yoga practice has to offer.

This question will easily be answered once the student realizes that yoga and meditation are bound together as intimately as breathing and air. It is futile to attempt to practice one without the other. The very question of whether meditation is necessary to perform yoga properly indicates a general lack of understanding in regard to both subjects.

Yoga is meditation. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s fast or slow, hot or cold; all forms of yoga practice rely on the basic principles of meditation to occur. Yoga practice is a form of exercise as well, but it is exercise at its most highly evolved level, meaning yogic exercise is, in itself, a form of meditation.

Meditation brings consciousness to every action taken. In order to correctly perform yoga asana the mind needs to be active along with the body. This consciousness in action takes the form of counting breaths, holding poses, correcting alignment and smoothly sequencing from one position to the next. This activity takes place in accordance with a deliberate “mindfulness” that is the true essence of every yogic session.

Meditation recognizes that the mind is supervising this physical activity, but there is much more that the mind can be occupied with. The addition of Mantras, Mudras, introspective thoughts and even visualization will more fully occupy the mind so that the energies expended by the body are all working toward a single constructive purpose, to bring complete mindfulness and total awareness into every action.

Once these concepts are fully grasped it it becomes apparent that for people who chose to practice asana, meditation is absolutely required. Meditation cannot be some abstract idea that is separate from the whole of yogic science; meditation in fact, is the beginning and end of all yogic methods and techniques.

If you are among those who are confused (or even disturbed) by the concept of meditation, it may be helpful to think of it in a more straightforward manner. So consider this; meditation can be looked upon as a means of encouraging and hastening the attainment of the state of enlightenment through mental concentration, clarity of mind and self improvement.

Additionally, meditation is something that returns us to being in the present moment. It is a deep connection, through a heightened awareness of oneself, in relationship with the things and people all around. Meditation and yoga combined are known to be helpful in recovering from breathing problems, boosting the immune system, reducing cholesterol levels and increasing energy and stamina, resulting in an improvement of overall health and an enhanced sense of connection to the Divine Spirit within.

Yoga & the 5 Kleshas

Directly following Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (book II) which describes Kriya Yoga, he explains the five main reasons we are bound, these are known as the Kleshas: [1]

  • 1. Ignorance (Avidya)
  • 2. Ego (Asmita)
  • 3. Attachment to Pleasure (Raga)
  • 4. Aversion to Pain (Dvesa)
  • 5. Fear of Death (Abhinivesah)

These five afflictions are often depicted as a tree. Avidya is the trunk of the tree, and the other four Kleshas sprout from it. The Samkhya emphasis on viveka, knowing the real nature of the universe, is echoed in Classical Yoga’s emphasis on avidya, or ignorance, as the main affliction we suffer. Destroy avidya and all the other afflictions go away.

Asmita is the ego. The problem with ego is not the fact that we have one; it is useful and even necessary to have an ego in order to function and live. The problem arises when the ego believes it is the Self. If all we do is in service of the little self, our life will be sorrowful. When we serve our higher Self, liberation becomes possible.

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra there are five Kleshas (aka afflictions, colorings) described (Book II-3); those Kleshas, like clever sorcerers, can knock you off balance, sidetracking from your quest for spiritual evolution.

1. Avidya (Ignorance): The inability to see things for what they really are.

Yoga Sutra (Book II-4): “Ignorance is the breeding place for all the others whether they are dormant or attenuated, partially overcome or fully operative.”

(Book II-5): “Ignorance is taking the non-eternal for the eternal, the impure for the pure, evil for good and non-self as self.”

Vidya means spiritual knowledge. The prefix ‘A’ changes the word into its opposite; without (or absence of something). Thus Avidya means the absence of spiritual or Self knowledge.

The following is an excerpt from Gregor Maehle’s commentary on Yoga Sutra II.24: “… Ignorance is the belief system that results from false knowledge (viparyaya). This false knowledge makes us believe that we are the body, that are our emotions and thoughts. Viparyaya is defined in sutra I.8 as wrong knowledge without foundation in reality. Reality is that which is permanent. Returning to the metaphor of the TV screen, we can note that, however many pictures are displayed on the screen; none will ever stick to it. New pictures will always replace them. Once the film is over, the screen will be empty. The only thing permanent here is the screen, which means the screen is the reality, whereas the pictures are only fleeting images superimposed on the screen. Although there exists a certain proximity between screen and images, both will remain forever separate. The screen won’t take on the quality of the images, nor will it altar them.

“Similar is the case with the seer and the seen. There is a certain proximity between our true nature as the immutable consciousness and the constantly changing seen, which is the body, emotions, thoughts, and so on. However, in reality they touch as little as do a screen and the images displayed on it.”

2. Asmita (Ego): The sense of “I-am-ness” or the tendency to identify with your ego.

Yoga Sutra (Book II-6): “Egoism is the identification of the power that knows with the instruments of knowing.”

The problem with ego is not the fact that we have one; it is useful, even necessary to have an ego in order to function and live. The problem arises when the ego believes it is the Self. If all we do is in service of the little self, our life will be sorrowful. Only when we recognize and serve our higher “Self” does liberation become possible.

From a spiritual perspective; identification with the ego denotes considering oneself to be distinct and/or separate from others (and the Divine) due to identification with the physical body and impressions (Samskaras) in various centers of the subtle (energetic) body. In other words, the ego-self is allowed to lead our life by us maintaining the false notion that our existence is limited to our five senses, our mind and intellect, and identifying with them to various degrees.

Gregor Maehle refers to the ego in yoga the following way: “In yoga we first learn to observe the body. Once this observation is established, we know that we are not the body but an observing agent independent of the body. Otherwise we could not observe the body. The next step is that we start observing our thoughts. Eventually, from being established in that observation, we know that we are not our thoughts, since we can detach ourselves and observe them like the thoughts of a stranger. Who are we, then, if we are not the body and not the mind (manas, the thinking principle)? The agent that claims ownership of body and mind is called ahamkara — ego. Its function, which is the erroneous commingling or mixing of seer (pure consciousness) and seeing (the mind), is called egoity or I-am-ness (asmita).”

3. Raga (Attachment to Pleasure): raja is wanting, craving, passionate attachment to beings and things. It’s the flame of desire that causes addiction to pleasure and even negative emotions.

Yoga Sutra (Book II-7): “Attachment is that magnetic pattern which clusters in pleasure and pulls one towards such experience.”

Raja can take the form of possessiveness, ownership, liking, attraction etc. It also indicates attachment to people, things, and ideas. The sense that “This is ours,” “This is mine.” It’s the most common cause of quarrels, violent conflicts, and even war. In a broader scale it’s often expressed as race, nationality; my country, my money.

In the book “Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy,” Gregor Maehle writes that: “…desire, (raga), and with it all addictions, is a clear form of misapprehension or ignorance (avidya). A drug addict might say ‘I just can’t help it; I need the drug!’ In this statement, the needing of the drug, which is the hankering after a remembered pleasure, is consciously connected with the faculty of I.”

Raga and the following Klesha (Dvesa) are often considered opposite sides of the same coin.

4. Dvesha (Aversion to Pain): The aversion to pain, this aversion emerges from previous experiences of pain and suffering. It can create a quicksand like cycle of misery and self-hatred that sucks you under and suffocates your will to evolve spiritually.

Yoga Sutra (Book II-8): “Aversion is the magnetic pattern which clusters in misery and pushes one from such experience.”

Oftentimes we can easily become subconsciously driven to avoid previously painful experiences. Our desire to protect ourselves limits our options in life, clouding our ability to see and think clearly. We tend to mistake the person, situation or object that caused us pain with the painful experience itself. When this happens we end up going to great lengths to avoid situations that we are afraid of; regardless of whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual. Fear and hatred are the inevitable downfalls of excessive aversion.

*Note on both Raja and Dvesha: These excessive ‘attachments’ and ‘aversions’ that are being examined here are very different from the intelligent, careful and well-considered choices we are also capable of making when our perspective changes through the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavanam (a method recommended by Patanjali that helps us catch these destructive and distracting thoughts, and redirects our minds back toward the Yogic path). By cultivating opposite perspectives (by actively cultivating thoughts of the opposite nature) whenever a destructive thought arises, we increasingly expose ourselves to new, uplifting options. It can even be as simple as formulating the opposite thought.

The path of Yoga is one that helps us become aware of our unconscious thoughts and actions; gradually moving toward a life full of consciously chosen thoughts and actions. Each posture and each breath enables us to discover a fresh opportunity to distinguish between skillful, conscious decision making and subconsciously driven motivations of fear and desire.

5. Abhinivesha (Fear of Death): The fear of death (or a clinging to life).

Abhinevesha is the last of the five Kleshas. Georg Feuerstein says of this Klesha: “It is the impulse towards individuated existence and as such is a primary source of suffering.”

Yoga Sutra (Book II-9):“Flowing by its own energy, established even in the wise and in the foolish, is the unending desire for life.”

Many believe that this fear is not limited to physical death; it is the fear of the cessation of the “ego-I” narrative (Asmita) that we as individuals are “creating” during our lifes’ experience. We cling to this “ego-I” narrative because of ignorance (Avidya) of the impermanence of the mind body experience by perpetrating the misperception of ego (Asmita) as being who we are. This subsequently dilutes our focus and interferes with our ability to experience the spiritual freedom that is the goal of Yoga.

Gregor Maehle’s commentary regarding Abhinevesha: “…Vyasa deduces from the fact that all beings are afraid of death that they have experienced death and thus life before. The intensity to which all beings cling to life can only be explained through accepting that we have all experienced death as a process to be avoided at all costs.

“Shankara elaborates on Vyasa‘s argument thus: ‘Unless happiness (pleasure) had been experienced no one would pray for it. Without past experience of pain, there would be no desire to avoid it. Similarly, though the pangs of death have not been (in this life) experienced by a man either directly or by inference, the fact of his lust for life points to experience of death previously, just as there can be no experience of birth unless there has been birth.’”

Final thoughts: If this article seems like deep philosophical stuff, it’s because it is. Keep in mind that yogic philosophy developed over thousands of years of time. During most of that time there were some outstanding thinkers and philosophers in India that had nothing else to do but contemplate these larger questions concerning life and death and where we as humans beings fit into the equation.

When you are able to make peace with everyone in your life every day, then there should be no attachment, no regret, and no unfinished business. To quote the motivational speaker, Zig Zigler: “Live every day like it is your last, and one day you will be right.”

We will see a list similar to the 5 Kleshas in Buddhist philosophy called  “the 5 Hindrances.”

The Five Koshas (Part 5 – Anandamaya Kosha: bliss sheath)

Anandamaya Kosha is the fifth and final of the five Koshas (sheaths) and is comprised of a Sanskrit term “Ananda” (bliss – pure joy), Maya, which means “composed of” and Kosha meaning sheath. So, Anandamaya Kosha is the sheath that is composed of bliss.

Anandamaya Kosha is the innermost of the Koshas, the first of the Koshas surrounding the Atman, the eternal center of consciousness. It is also the most subtle body and without its existence life is impossible. It interacts with the other Koshas like the sun affecting our planet. This blissfull body beyond words is generally perceived in flashes of short duration as an undescribable experience where duality ends and “I AM” expresses its unity with the Divine.

This bliss however, is not the emotional bliss that’s experienced at the level of the sheath of mind (Manomaya Kosha). Ananda is a whole different order of reality from that of the mind, for it’s the peace, joy, and love that is underneath (or beyond) the mind, independent of any reason or external stimulus that may cause a happy mental reaction. It is simply “being”; resting in the eternal bliss called ananda.

Yet, even this bliss, however wonderful it seems, must still be recognized as a covering (a sheath); like a lampshade which covers the pure light of consciousness. In the silence of deep meditation, this too needs to be let go of, in order to move beyond the dualistic mind.

When we can transcend the other four sheaths described previously (see links below), we can begin to experience this sense of pure joy which does not need any sensory input or dependance on any of our past experiences or impressions. Anandamaya Kosha is the closest to our true “Self” which is ever pure and ever-unchanging. We can abide in this bliss only as a result of “samadhi”, the last of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s yoga philosophy. Of course, to get there one has to practice the other seven limbs on a regular basis.  

To review the other four Koshas, click on the following…

  1. Annamaya Kosha, food (gross body)sheath
  2. Pranamaya Kosha, air (vital energy) sheath
  3. Manomaya Kosha, mind (mind-stuff) sheath
  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha, wisdom (intellect/intuition) sheath

*Through discrimination and inquiry, may you all abandon your identification with all five of these illusory sheaths which has been established by Avidya (ignorance)!