The Hindrances to Seeing Clearly

In attempting to understand how the mind works, it is popular to use the analogy of a computer. While perhaps helpful for a moment, this inclination shrinks our minds down to something humans have created. This limiting self referencing feeds the concept of the body as a machine with parts and serves the rational gods. Within this analogy, the vrttis (the fluctuations or movements) are described as the “software” that runs off the “firmware” or the “operating system” of the kleshas.

The kleshas, described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, are the “colorings of” or “hindrances to” seeing clearly. The writings from over 2000 years ago and from a much older oral tradition correspond to what neuroscientists are just starting to “prove.” As biological beings, with seemingly temporary physical encasings, we are designed to avoid danger, survive and continue what we know. These tendencies create pattens that without observation can concretize and feel like truth. The yogi aims to see these limiting beliefs and allow them to dissolve into greater perceived Truths.

2.1 The practice of yoga consists of self discipline (tapas), self-study (svadhyaya), and dedication to Ishvara.

2.2 Yoga is for cultivating samadhi and for weakening the hindrances (kleshas).

2.3 The kleshas are ignorance (avidya), the sense of a separate self (asmita), attraction (raga), aversion (dvesha), and clinging to the status quo (abhinivesha).

avidyā asmitā rāga dveṣa abhiniveśāḥ kleśāḥ

2.4 Avidya is the cause of all the others, whether dormant, attenuated, intermittent, or fully active.

2.5 Avidya is seeing the transient as eternal, the impure as pure, dissatisfaction as pleasure, the non-Self as Self.

2.6 Asmita is the misidentification of the power of seeing with what is seen.

2.7 Raga arises from dwelling on pleasant experiences.

2.8 Dvesha arises from clinging to unpleasant experiences.

2.9 Abhinivesha is the automatic tendency for continuity; it overwhelms even the wise.

2.10 These subtle kleshas can be overcome by reversing the natural flow (pratiparasava) and returning towards the source.

2.11 Their effects can be reduced by mediation (dhyana).

2.12 Past actions, rooted in kleshas, give rise to experiences in present or future births.

2.13 As long as the root exists, the effects will be experienced as birth and in the quality and duration of life.

2.14 Joy is the result of right action, sorrow of wrong action.


Translation borrowed from The Wisdom of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: A New Translation and Guide by Ravi Ravindra