Transcend Suffering Through the 5 Kleshas
Life is a tapestry of experiences—ups, downs, joys, sorrows, and the pleasures and pains of life. One experience that can be particularly challenging is that of suffering. The great wisdom tradition of Vedanta reminds you that, in the absence of enlightenment, life contains suffering.
Unlike pain—an uncomfortable physical, mental, or emotional experience—suffering is the state of being caught up in your painful situation and identifying with it as an aspect of your being. In other words, pain is what happens to you; suffering is your interpretation and reaction to that pain. Therefore, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. But what are the roots of suffering, and where do they come from? According to Vedanta, there are five specific causes of suffering—the five Kleshas.
In Sanskrit, the word Klesha means poison and refers to a negative mental state that obscures the mind and allows the conditions of suffering to arise. By transcending them, you can be liberated from suffering. The following looks at each Klesha in turn.
Not Knowing the True Nature of Reality
This is the state of ignorance or Avidya that arises when you forget your true nature as spiritual beings. Your real identity is that of pure, unbounded awareness. You are immortal and eternal, and encompass timeless focal points of consciousness that were never born and will never die. You are the infinite potential of all that is, all that ever was, and all that will ever be.
Unfortunately, the turbulent activity of material life has overshadowed this understanding from your conscious awareness. And when you don’t grasp this essential truth of who you are, you set the stage for the other four Kleshas to arise.
Identification with a False Sense of Self
Once you have forgotten your true self, you substitute a false identity in its place. This constricted self is the ego; the moment-by-moment fabrication of your self-image that defines itself by the positions and possessions of life. Known in Sanskrit as Asmita, this is the veil or covering that hides your true nature and causes you to become trapped in unbridled egoism.
A great deal of suffering is caused by the ego’s need for approval and the resulting offense taken whenever its needs are not met.
Attachment to Objects of Desire
Raaga, or attachment, is the act of clinging or grasping to something which is illusory or impermanent. When you are deeply attached to something, it is an indication that you are afraid it of it being taken away. This creates a deep-seated sense of insecurity within you because you know that whatever you have might be lost—so you hold on even tighter.
Attachment causes suffering by instilling in you a background current of fear, tension, anxiety, and dread of loss that is the inevitable byproduct of life on the material level.