Lesson III: What makes you suffer? In what ways do you possibly mentally or emotionally “crucify” yourself? In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali discusses FIVE CAUSES OF SUFFERING that everyone faces. What do you think these five challenges are?
We all fall prey to the ups and downs of the human condition and face the same “problems.” In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali addresses the causes of human suffering. When I lead workshops on this topic, I ask participants to jot down the things that cause them suffering. You might take a moment to think about or even write down what you suffer over before reading further. Do you suffer over your job, your kids, your finances, your relationships, your looks or your bad habits? Patanjali tells us that there are five problems all humans face. He calls them the five afflictions or “kleshas” in Sanskrit. What do you think these five challenges are?
In Book II, sutra #3, (BKS Iyengar’s translation) Patanjali says—“The five afflictions which disturb the equilibrium of consciousness are: ignorance or lack of wisdom, ego, pride of the ego or the sense of “I,” attachment to pleasure, aversion to pain, fear of death and clinging to life.
By ignorance, he does not mean lack of factual knowledge, but the absence of an understanding of the spiritual flow of the universe. This spiritual ignorance called “avidya” or “without-seeing” is the greatest blindness of all and the root of the other four sources of suffering.
The ego and its ME-MY-MINE syndrome is a great source of suffering that causes us to feel separate, make comparisons, and perceive injustices. The little, “lower” ego-self blows little things out of proportion into big traumas and dramas. How easy it is to become jealous or feel slighted. We forget that each one of us is the same bundle of Divine Awareness plagued with a host of human foibles.
We have our attachments to the way we want things to be, pleasurable experiences to be pursued, and our aversion to things we don’t want, so many hurts to be avoided. Either way, we are not being in the present moment. We are attached to how it was in the past, or dreading what will happen in the future. Wanting things to be other than they are causes suffering. Change can only occur when we accept things exactly as they are and move on.
Fear of death and clinging to bodily life cause us to add suffering to any pain or “dis-ease” our bodies might encounter. Some pain in life is inevitable, but suffering is the emotional drama that we add to any condition. What do you do that causes your own suffering?
While three of the yoga sutras are about poses, the other 192 sutras address how to live life without suffering. Part of practicing yoga is learning that suffering is a choice. Learn what the sutras say about transcending suffering in our next issue.