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What are the Kleshas and how do we work with them in yoga?

The Kleshas are mental states or afflictions that hinder our spiritual growth and lead to suffering. In yoga philosophy, they are considered the root causes of human ignorance and suffering. There are five main kleshas:

1. Avidya (ignorance)

2. Asmita (egoism)

3. Raga (attachment)

4. Dvesha (aversion) and

5. Abhinivesha (fear of death).


1. Avidya, or ignorance, is the primary klesha. It refers to our lack of knowledge about our true nature and our interconnection with all beings. Avidya keeps us trapped in a cycle of suffering by preventing us from realizing the impermanence of material possessions and the illusion of separateness. By cultivating self-awareness and seeking wisdom, we can gradually overcome Avidya and understand our inherent divinity. Translation: A=non Vidya=true sight.


2. Asmita, or egoism, is the identification with the self as separate from others. It creates a sense of superiority or inferiority and fosters an illusion of individuality. Egoism can manifest as pride, arrogance, or low self-esteem, and it prevents us from recognizing the interconnectedness of all beings. By practicing humility, compassion, and selfless service, we can transcend the limitations of the ego and cultivate a sense of unity with others. Translation: Asmi-ta=Egoism, in hindi it means pride.


3. Raga, or attachment, is the desire to possess and cling to pleasurable experiences, objects, or relationships. It arises from the mistaken belief that external things can bring lasting happiness. Attachment keeps us trapped in a perpetual cycle of craving and dissatisfaction, as no external object or experience can fulfill our deepest longings. By cultivating detachment and focusing on inner fulfillment rather than external gratification, we can break free from the grip of attachment and experience true contentment.


4. Dvesha, or aversion, is the opposite of attachment. It is the tendency to avoid or push away unpleasant experiences, objects, or people. Aversion arises from a fear of discomfort or pain and prevents us from fully experiencing and learning from challenging situations. By developing equanimity and acceptance, we can embrace all aspects of life, both pleasant and unpleasant, and cultivate inner strength and resilience.


5. Abhinivesha, or fear of death, is the most deeply rooted klesha. It is the innate instinct of self-preservation and the fear of annihilation. This klesha drives many of our thoughts, emotions, and actions, as we constantly seek security and avoid situations that threaten our existence. By realizing the impermanence of life and cultivating faith in the inherent goodness of the universe, we can overcome the fear of death and live with a sense of freedom and fearlessness. When we face our F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real), of perceived death, we can become free.


In daily life, the kleshas can manifest in various ways and cause suffering. For example, attachment can lead to excessive materialism, obsession with success, or codependent relationships. Aversion can result in judgment, resentment, or avoidance of challenging situations. Egoism can manifest as selfishness, pride, or a need for validation. Ignorance can keep us stuck in limiting beliefs or prevent us from recognizing our interconnectedness. And fear can stop us from experiencing the present moment.

To use the kleshas in daily life, we need to cultivate self-awareness and observe how these mental afflictions arise in our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

By developing mindfulness and non-judgmental awareness, we can catch ourselves when we are caught in the grip of the kleshas and consciously choose a different response. The yogi’s say we develop “the crest jewel” of discrimination.

Through practices such as meditation, yoga, and self-reflection, we can gradually weaken the kleshas and cultivate their antidotes. Wisdom, humility, detachment, acceptance, and faith.

Which Klesha have you struggled with and how has it manifested in your life?


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10 commentaires


Anna Maria
Anna Maria
26 oct. 2023

this one is a hard one! I think I have hit certain ones through out my life. The most resent one is the Abhinivesha, or fear of death. With my mother passing this past May, selfishly I didn't want to her to pass and to leave me and the family, she was truly the heart and the hold of the family, everyone had a VERY special relationship with her. Being by her side on her death bed and in and out of consciousness was scary. Her body and mind were literally telling her two different things and her being aware what was happening and feeling her anxiety and sadness that she told me "she wanted more time and wasn't re…

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En réponse à

I feel for you on this one. And wonderful that you are facing life with less fear as a learning. It seems like you are also describing Raga- Attachment to your mother's life and your relationship. what do you think?

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Anika Talwalkar
Anika Talwalkar
25 oct. 2023

The klesha I've struggled with most is raga, or attachment. I used to be quite anxiously attached to friends and partners in the past and really had a tough time adjusting to changes in those friendships, breakups and so on. That's the one I've spent the most time working on, feeling self secure and sufficient and it's honestly made my life so much better. I regularly do things alone like going to events and parties, meals and so on and feel such a deep sense of fulfillment from those experiences.

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Thank you for this comment, it's clear you understand and have integrated this Klesha in your personal development!

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I think I struggle the most with Dvesha ( avoidance) in my life. I have struggled with anxiety my entire life and one way I have used I cope with it , is to avoid the trigger. It’s not particularly helpful to do this, as one can really paint them into a proverbial corner. Life can get smaller and there are less things to experience, when a person is avoiding everything.

Additionally, when everything is being avoided it’s hard to be present in life. I found I’d be worried about either future possibilities , or ruminating over past moments.

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En réponse à

I totally relate to this understanding of Dvesha!

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I think, I was struggling with all of them but always in different timeline of my life. When I was kid , I had a fear of death in my dream - Abhinivesha, teenager - Avidya/ignorance learning in the school, listen my parents and more. As adult - Asmita, Raga, Dvesha but I hope, I consummate/improve them and worked hard to let them go. I thing, I still have to work most on the Raga. But of course we are not 100% perfect and we have to learning every day a little bit of everything. It is everywhere around us.

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It's wonderful that you can connect all the Kleshas to you life experience. In terms of Abhinivesha, consider what do you not do or say because you fear psychological death. It's a good contemplation:)

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Sergio Alex Cofré
Sergio Alex Cofré
13 oct. 2023

the raga Klesha is being one of the most significant and harder for me, due to many time I’ve experienced this kinda felling and the process for accept, admit or continue with my daily normal life without heaviness was challenging, however every day I’m spending it in different contexts and in different levels, even though I do let it go .

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En réponse à

Good for you! Letting go of heaviness can be a real effort and mindset change. Studies in neuroplasticity are so amazing and helpful for depression.

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