Home' Australian Yoga Life : sample issue Contents australian yoga life • december-february 2010
ignorance, ego, attraction to pleasure,
aversion to pain, and clinging to life.
When the mind leads you towards these
tendencies, it becomes distressed. When
it leads you away from these tendencies,
it remains tranquil. But these aren't
simple negative tendencies like jealousy
or greed; these afflictions are built into
the human condition. Can mere
understanding loosen their grip?
THE FIRST KLESHA
Patanjali says the basic human condition
is ignorance, focusing on the material
world rather than experiencing the
natural state of the universe as primarily
spiritual. The first klesha, then, is avidya,
meaning lack of understanding. This
ignorance leads us to believe that our
individual experience of the universe is
correct. In some ways, it has to be that
way as our experience is the only one we
can truly go by. Yet, yoga says that we can
get stuck in our own limited mindset, as
when we encounter someone's strong
opinion and the person refuses to see
another point of view. Through the senses
we experience the onslaught of life and
through the mind we navigate based on
this limited experience. We are attracted
to the ever-changing arena of the material
and dwell in our own ever-changing arena
of emotions. We are enchanted by the
world. Our condition is that we are
forever looking outward for the source of
happiness and forever being thwarted by
the transitory condition of the world. The
sages say avidya is 'common doom'.
In contrast, vidya is wisdom. True
knowledge allows us to recognise the
unity of the spiritual foundation beneath
all manifestation. When we place our
focus on the spiritual foundation that
has created all physical, mental and
emotional experiences, we recognise the
limitations of the mind. The tradition of
yoga says that divine awareness resides
in each person and is called the atman,
or spiritual self. It is the same as the
awareness of the universe, called
brahman, or the universal divine. True
knowledge, vidya, is the state of
understanding the union of the
individual spirit with the spiritual
foundation of the universe.
Nisargadatta Maharaj, a 20th-
century sage of southern India, said,
"You will be free when you realise that
the pure Consciousness that is listening
now is your true nature. Ignorance is
simply a failure to realise the Self."
Practice: becoming the witness
Rather than focusing on the thoughts of
the mind, consider focusing on the
consciousness that sustains the mind's
ability to think. Everyone has an ability to
step back from an issue to get a broader
perspective. In the same way you might
pull out of a potential or real argument
based on opinions, you can pull out of
the internal chatter of the mind by
remembering that your true nature is the
highest self, or pure consciousness.
Contemplation on your true nature
The word 'universe' means single,
whole. Your true nature is awareness as
an inseparable part of the universe.
Regardless of your personal outlook, the
fact is that you are totally integrated
within the universe. In the same way that
the ultimate nature of the universe is
spiritual as well as material, consider
yourself as spiritual as well as physical.
Take a moment now to open to the
experience or the possibility of residing
in your highest consciousness. Consider
the experience of unity.
THE SECOND KLESHA
The second klesha, asmita, represents
ego, the person-ness of individual being.
In this case, the ego is more than its
negative characteristics of pride or
[Tips for overcoming the
grip of the kleshas]
One of Patanjali's classic statements
is: "The pain which is yet to come can
be avoided." Whenever you notice you
are anxious, confused or feeling
tension, try to bring yourself to the
present moment. Consider the
following suggestions as antidotes to
stress. A calm, clear mind is the best
tool to work out what is important in
life and provides the courage to follow
• Contemplate the opposite. If you are
feeling separate, imagine feeling one
with your life, your surroundings and
the universe that provides for you.
When you are confronted with the
mortality of your body, contemplate
the spirit as immortal.
• Go with the flow and draw
contentment towards you. A
wonder ful aphorism is to say to
yourself, "I want what I have. I don't
want what I don't have." This will
help you align yourself with reality.
• Notice when you are in a state of
wanting. See if you can give yourself
some distance. You could even say,
"My mind is in a state of want. The
tendency for attachment is rising.
Desire is manifesting."
• Try acceptance. When you are
experiencing difficulty in not
wanting, consider opening to the
experience. For example, rather than
pushing away pain, acknowledge it.
Rather than pushing away ideas,
consider them. Even if you are
revolted, you could always embrace
the full experience with such
thoughts as, "I am experiencing the
state of repulsion. I accept my
feelings of disgust."
• Meditate. The great equaliser for
working with any aspect of the mind
is meditation. A steady practice of
meditation encourages the mind to
inquire into issues and reduce
agitation. In time, meditation brings
the experiences of unity and peace.
As we become less reactive to their hold
on us, the chains loosen and, in time, we
can even overcome them.
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