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Why Do We Suffer?

The Yoga Sutras outlines the theory of psychological suffering and the keys of how to remove suffering. Other texts, such us The Four Nobles Truth and The Bhagavad Gita also teach us the root of all suffering and how to remove it.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explain The Five Kleshas: Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dvesha, and Abhinivesha.

Avidya, is often translated as ignorance, this can be misleading as Avidya means simply not-knowing, ignorance here refers to a lower form of knowledge that can block us from discovering the higher knowledge that is the truth. This is the knowledge of the outgoing mind that tends to be superficial, partial, and divisive in its action, rooted in the limitations of desire, the senses, the body, and our karmic conditioning. Avidya is a false knowledge, that arises from the attachment and identification that we have with the human mind, body, and senses which are attached to time/space. This is the lack of the knowledge of the Self.

Self-reflective questions such as “who am I?”, “Why I was born?”, “Where I am going after the death of my body?”, and “Where I am coming from?” can be important tools to dispel avidya.

Asmita, the sense of I am that arises from the ego. This is a consequence of avidya, of the lack of Self-knowledge. Asmita is ego and arrogance. We create an image or idea of ourselves as a separate being, and we identify ourselves with our physical body and mind. We think we know when we do not know. The identification of the body and mind as our true Self creates separation because we perceive ourselves different from the rest. We take our false knowledge, that is divisive and biased, as the real truth. We create a concept of ourselves, and others based on external influences and misconceptions. Asmita tarnishes our knowledge with self-interest and ego-based agendas. We project what benefits us to be true and what does not benefit us to be false. We create a limit identity for ourselves based upon the body and mind, and this identity is bound by time, space, and death, in which our inner identity and consciousness is lost and forgotten.

Raga & Dvesha, from the prior kleshas these two will arise as a form of understanding the world from a place of duality and division. Hate/love, fear/courage, sadness/joy, desirer/avoidance, etc. Because of ignorance and ego, we live our lives from a place of duality running towards what we perceive to be good and running away from what we perceive to be bad; although many times what we think is good, eventually brings suffering and disappointment into our existence.

Abhinivesha, means total immersion, in this case we become immerse in the wheel of suffering and in blind attachment. This is the complete submersion in a world of dualities, deep-seated conditioning, trauma, and addition.


According to the Yoga Sutras when we remove avidya (ignorance) the other kleshas will follow. We must cultivate the knowing of the Self, and focus our attention on our inner work, when we live our lives outside of ourselves, focusing on what is out rather than in, that outer knowledge becomes the root of our inner ignorance. As long we base our reality outside of ourselves, we cannot see our inner reality.

Practicing complete silence and concentration through mediation, practicing self-reflection and contemplation, and observing the mind can help us, according to the Yoga Sutras, to reach states of samadhi. Dr. Frawley said that “Samadhi is the direct experience of reality and direct perception of Being itself. It is abiding in the state of the seer and knower as detached from the outer objects and qualities, thoughts and emotions.”

Samadhi cannot be defined exactly, yet it can be compared with pure light, the sense of boundless space, deep inner peace, and blissful contentment. Samadhi brings a unifying and unitary awareness, the understanding that we are part of every being, and every being is part of ourselves. The illusion of separation dissolves, and we become part of the oneness.

To remove avidya, we need to embrace an entirely different sense of reality that the one that we have been cultivating through our human experience. Removing avidya requires self-discipline and self-awareness; the way is simple but not easy. Through the principles and practices of Ayurveda, we can live in harmony with nature bringing our physical body back into balance; through the practice of yoga and pranayama we can connect with our breath and prepare our mind for meditation; and through the appropriate practice of mantra chanting and repetition, we can create states of awaken for the Self.

We must bring our prana, “life force”, attention inwards toward the inner Self; observing the fluctuations of our mind and senses from a place of non-attachment as if they had nothing to do with us; letting go; understanding that we are not the mind neither the body, they are just instruments of our true Self (atma, soul) but not who we really are. Creating stillness and cultivating inner peace through the practice of Yoga (not only with asana but by living a yogic-sattvic life of pure love, self-discipline, self-awareness, compassion, and surrender).

When we realized that life is just an experience of the Self, and not the other way around, we can put end to our suffering.


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