Kleshas of Yoga versus Kleshas of Ayurveda

By Pandit Atul Krishna Das, AWP and Monica B Groover, Phd, AWP
(Founders- San Diego College of Ayurveda)

In Ayurveda, we study the Three Kleshas that include internal, external and environmental. In Yoga we study the five kleshas that arise from within. The aim and objective of yoga is to ultimately cleanse and balance the mind. The Asana practice is also aimed towards training the mind and ultimately samadhi.

The goal of Ayurveda is a little bit more broad--and Ayurvedic Practitioners who use Ayurveda and Yoga both as a modality to reach their life's objective are concerned with all kind of suffering.

The three kleshas in Ayurveda are:

1. Adhyatamika -- Internal--arising from within (This includes the Five Kleshas of Adhyatmika)

2. Adhibhautika -- From other entities--including bacteria, virus, parasites, quarrel with friends, comments from others--o
r perhaps a fender bender

3. Adhidaivika -- Given to us by mother nature---Tsunami, Fires, Floods, Typhoon, Earthquakes.

The five kleshas that afflict the Citta (Mind) given by Sri Patanjali are:

avidyā = ignorance

asmitā = To become sad and depressed, Dejection.

rāga = desire; attraction for material things

dveṣa = Enemity, revulsion; aversion to other entities

abhiniveśaḥ = Entanglement of mind, Consciousness wrapped up and illusion. (, False identification--I am this physical body --instead of I am this soul. )

Now, the question is with so many kleshas mentioned in different texts, how to reconcile all of them.

This is an excellent question as it illustrates what we like to call the "non-linear concepts" that occur so often in study of Vedic sciences such as Ayurveda, yoga, sankhya, etc.

Since yoga is focused internally, the five kleshas which are adhyatmika in nature, specifically related to the mind, are given special focus. The three kleshas discussed in Ayurveda, in sankhya, and in various literatures such as Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavata-Purana, etc. are broader in scope.

So, all the Five kleshas of Patanjali are under the purview of Internal Kleshas or Adhyatmika section of Vedic Kleshas.

There is a popular representation of Durga-devi riding on a tiger (representing rajo-guna and tamo-guna, the qualities of passion and ignorance) and carrying a trishool or trident. The three teeth of the trident represent the three kleshas which afflict the embodied being who tries to enjoy pleasures rather than using the human form of life for upliftment.

There is another explanation given in other yoga literatures describing six enemies: lust (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), madness or intoxication (mada), illusion or bewilderment (moha), and matsarya (envy). Again these are really adhyatmika in nature and the yoga practitioner is urged, at the very outset of starting on the path of yoga practice, to know them clearly and avoid them.

Astanga-yoga refers to eight parts beginning with yama (following rules), niyama (observing restrictions), asana (sitting postures), pranayama (breathing control), pratyahara (withdrawing from engagement of the senses with sense objects), dharana (becoming steady or fixed), dhyana (entering a state of meditation) and finally samadhi (achieving a trance state of full absorption in the object of meditation). Avoiding these five or these six is included in the second part (niyama).

In yoga practice the mind is considered the cause of bondage and suffering in this world, largely due to our tendency to pursue sensory pleasure and lose sight of what is important. The mind is also considered to be the instrument of liberation from bondage through yoga practice, so the focus is almost entirely on these adhyatmika kleshas. From a practical point of view, we sometimes have very little ability to change circumstances that cause us grief, but we can change our perspective. Consider a person who is relatively poor and has very little but is very satisfied with basic necessities versus someone who has good income and lots of money but is never satisfied. This is a good example of how, from the perspective of yoga practice, the mind is the one thing we have which can change and adapt.