Wednesday, April 1, 2009


He who suffers much will know much.
-- Greek Proverb

The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.
-- Ben Okri

I've been sitting on this blog post for a long time, trying to find my way into it. It's hard to write about suffering, but I've experienced so much loss and change in the past year that it's getting so I can't write about anything else. Yoga philosophy refers to five kleshas, or afflictions that cause our suffering. This article is a discussion of the kleshas in the context of difficult losses, including suggestions for practices that work with the kleshas. In it, Bo Forbes provides the following useful description:

AVIDYA: The inability to see things for what they are; this causes you to mistake transient, ego-related matters for permanent, soul-related ones.
ASMITA: The tendency to overidentify with your ego; this keeps you from connecting with your soul.
RAGA: The flame of desire that causes addiction to pleasure; this discourages you from leaving your comfort zone for more evolved territory.
DVESHA: The aversion to pain; this creates a quicksand-like cycle of misery and self-hatred that sucks you under and suffocates your will to evolve.
ABHINIVESHA: The fear of death or a clinging to life; this dilutes your focus and interferes with your ability to experience the spiritual freedom that is the goal of yoga.

I've been reading Stephen Cope's book Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. In it, Cope describes four erroneous beliefs that underlie the delusion of the kleshas (p. 64):

  1. The belief in the permanence of objects
  2. The belief in the ultimate reality of the body
  3. The belief that our state of suffering is really happiness
  4. The belief that our bodies, minds and feelings are our true Self

So here we are again: loss shatters our belief in permanence and forces us to examine our delusions. It awakens us to the nature of our suffering and drives us in the search to realize the full potential of our being. Cope suggests that pain, loss, and disappointment can be key motivators in leading people to release their attachments to past, future and sense of self, and to progress in their spiritual practice.

He also quotes Bhagwan S. Rajneesh's commentary on the Yoga Sutras:

Yoga means that now there is no hope, now there is no future... Total despair is needed... A moment comes to every human being when he feels total hopelessness. Absolute meaninglessness happens to him. When he becomes aware that whatsoever he is doing is useless, wheresoever he is going, he is going to nowhere, all life is meaningless - suddenly hopes drop, future drops, and for the first time you are in tune with the present, for the first time you are face to face with reality... When you are not moving into the future, not moving into the past, then you start moving within yourself - because your being is here and now. You are present here and now.
You can enter this reality.

So with each disappointment, with each departed friend, with the end of love, with each death, I am trying to find my way into yoga, into the here and now. I am suffering, but I feel the path opening inward and I have a lot of faith.

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