Why Should We Practice Yoga? #3

Yogic Strategy to End the Suffering

The cause of all human suffering is because of actions influenced by the Klesas (ignorance, ego, attractions, repulsions and fear). We suffer because we don’t know who we are; we identify ourselves with the body, mind and experiences; we grasp and cling at objects and experiences which are ever changing and transitory; we are afraid of pain, of losing something, of death. Blinded by the Klesas, we do wrong things at wrong times (a perfect example comes to mind is that of a wedding of a politician’s son at a time of deadly Coronavirus pandemic:-)) .

How can we develop the discrimination/wisdom to do the right thing at the right time? How can we rise above the illusions and miseries of life to attain freedom from endless suffering ?

Yogic philosophy proposes a 4-step strategy to achieve this goal:

Heyam (Symptom) -> Hetu (Cause) -> Hanam (Goal) -> Upayam (Means)

Heyam – Suffering that’s likely to occur in future should be anticipated and avoided. We must learn to contain and control actions rooted in Klesas, and do whatever it takes to anticipate and reduce the misery.

Hetu – The main cause of Suffering is misidentification/ignorance of Reality. In each of us there is an entity that perceives (Purusa or Consciousness). This entity is different from what is perceived (Prakrti or Matter) such as the mind, body, senses, objects and experiences. But we fail to see this distinction due to the effects of illusion. Prakrti is subject to change, but we do not recognise these changes. This lack of clear understanding produces misery.

Hanam – The goal is to remove this misidentification and attain Freedom from suffering. Freedom is the absence of Karma caused by Klesas that produce disturbing and painful effects. As misidentification decreases, there will be corresponding increase in clarity (Viveka). This is the path to Freedom.

Upayam – The means for attaining Freedom must be directed towards developing clarity so that the distinction between Matter (Prakrti) and Consciousness (Purusa) becomes apparent. With constant and disciplined effort, the persistent intrusion of Klesas will be reduced and eventually eliminate their painful effects. Once a beginning is made towards developing discrimination, the foundation of Yoga is laid. The first step in this direction is to recognize that certain tendencies of our mind are responsible for producing misery. If these tendencies are not curtailed, we will not be able to break free from the endless Karmic cycle.

What can we do to recognize and correct the tendencies influenced by Klesas? Yoga Sutra proposes some definitive steps for achieving this. Constant practice and inquiry into different methods of Yoga gradually reduces the causes of suffering such as misidentification, ego, fear etc. Then the ability to discriminate improves and the distinction between Consciousness and Matter becomes more and more evident. Now everything can be understood without any errors. When the mind is cleared of the obstacles that cloud real perception there can be no errors in perception and our actions will be freed from regrettable consequences. The 8-step Ashtanga Yoga — Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi — is the method proposed by Patanjali to attain freedom from all Suffering.

Yogrishi Sai

|| End of the 3-part article on “Why Yoga’? My thoughts are influenced by the tradition of Sri Krishnamacharya, TKV Desikachar and interactions with fellow teachers. Copyright reserved ||


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