What’s bugging you? 

For centuries, humans have been wondering what causes their emotional strife, and the answer has been thoughtfully outlined in the Yoga Sutra’s description of the five kleshas, otherwise known as afflictions or troubles.

The foundational klesha is ignorance, or avidya. In Sanskrit, vidya means knowledge, so avidya is the lack of knowledge. If we were to have all the knowledge of the universe, we would become omniscient and all other fears and troubles wouldn’t have room to manifest. If we are experiencing a troubling time, often the most useful thing to do is to notice and observe the details of what is happening and how you react to the details; taking in knowledge of yourself and lessening your ignorance.

Ego is known as asmita. It is what distinguishes me, mine, and fosters likes and dislikes for the many experiences in life. It is not the truest self, but is often honored as such. If we honored our egos all the time we would become very petty people.

Raga is known as the attachment to pleasure. Netflix binges and staying in bed all day is good when you are too sick to get up, but on a normal day it usually results in depression. In a way it is also the flipped coin of avoiding pain, which has its own name as well. Aversion to pain is called dvesa. When we avoid a difficult conversation, it often plagues our mind until we can face the situation head on. When we are in a yoga pose and are scared of hurting ourselves, our bodies might contort in a different harmful way to avoid the discomfort of stretching a muscle that has a habitual tightness.

Of course, fear of death has its own category, it is called abvinivesah. This can also be considered clinging to one’s life, and is most evident when someone feels that life is a neat, tidy, permanent package that we can clutch onto. In reality it is immeasurably vast, discontinuous, and not ours to hold on to. For those wishing for a more comprehensive explanation of these broad claims, try reading texts discussing Buddhist philosophy or the metaphysics of yoga.

These meddlesome aspects of humanity are echoed in the Buddhist Five Hindrances. They can be seen across many cultures, and humanity suffers frequently in the name of ignorance. We are free to liberate ourselves in tiny moments, taking each baby step at a time, as we observe what pains us, understand it better, and find an ounce of transcendence in day to day life.

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