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Afflictions of the Mind

by Swami Sivananda

1. What Are the Afflictions

The afflictions are ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and clinging to life


All these disorders ruffle the mind like physical malady. Therefore they are great impediments to meditation. They hang upon man and make the qualities firm. They raise Vrittis and bring about fructification of Karmas by coming to depend upon one another for mutual support. If you eradicate Abhinivesa, Raga and Dvesha currents will die. If you remove egoism, these two currents, like and dislike will vanish. The root for egoism, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesa is ignorance. If ignorance is destroyed by getting knowledge of Purusha through Samadhi, the other four Klesas will die by themselves. The Karmas are supported by afflictions and the afflictions are supported by Karmas. This is mutual support. This is a Chakrika or cycle like the analogy of the seed and the tree (Bija-Vriksha Nyaya). These Klesas develop the Mahat Tattva, egoism and Tanmatras. These are the five ties that bind a man to the wheel of birth and death. The most important knot is ignorance (Hridaya Granthi). This is the fundamental cause. The other four Klesas are the effects of ignorance. Pain and sin are ignorance only. These manifest in those who have forgotten the true all-blissful and eternally pure nature of Purusha. All the above five kinds of afflictions are dealt with separately in the subsequent Sutras.

2. What Is Avidya

Avidya (ignorance) is the field of those that follow, whether they be in a dormant, thinned out, overpowered or expanded condition.


Ignorance is the field or source for the four Klesas, viz., Asmita, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesa. These four afflictions are only modifications or varieties of Avidya only. These afflictions have four stages. In Prasupta state, they are hidden or dormant like the tree in the seed. Videhas and Prakritilayas have got this state. In Tanu Avastha, they are in an attenuated condition like a thin thread. Yogins who do practice have got this state. They thin out one evil Vasana by developing the counter-current or contrary good Vasanas. Anger is thinned out by developing mercy, love and forgiveness. In Vicchinna, they are in an overpowered state for the time being. When the husband fights with his wife, the love Vritti in him is for the time being in an overpowered state. The hatred Vritti is operating during the quarrel. As soon as the fight subsides, the love Vritti will manifest again in him when the wife smiles and speaks kind, loving words. In Udhara state, the Klesas are very powerful. They operate with full force. Vicchinna Avastha and Udhara Avastha are present in worldly persons. They bind one to Samsara. He who has Tanu Avastha can control the afflictions. There is another state termed Dagdha Avastha wherein the Klesas are fried out like burnt seeds. This exists in a full-blown Yogi who is established in Asamprajnata Samadhi.

3. Avidya Explained

Ignorance is taking the non-eternal impure, painful, and not-self as the eternal, pure, happy and the Self or Atman.


Ignorance causes Vipareetha Bhavana (perverted understanding), and the man is rendered blind by passion and various sorts of Raga. He is under intoxication. Ignorance clouds understanding. An ignorant man is a dead man while living. He is a living buried soul, despite his wealth, possession and university knowledge. To take a thing for what is not, is ignorance. It is not a privation of knowledge. It is a Bhava Vastu. It does not mean absence of knowledge. You mistake this perishable body of five elements and various impurities as the pure Self. You think that you are the body only and you have forgotten the real nature of Purusha. This is delusion. This is ignorance.

4. How to Remove Avidya

The method for the removal of ignorance is the continuous practice of discrimination.


Discrimination must be undisturbed. It must become habitual. There must not be any break even for a twinkling of an eye. When discrimination operates, you will have complete inner life in Purusha. All the outgoing tendencies of the mind will stop. The Indriyas will be calm. This practice of discrimination is the cause for destroying ignorance, the cause of the junction of Prakriti and Purusha, leading to various experiences. Discrimination remains shaky as long as false knowledge has not been completely removed.

5. What Is Egoism

Egoism is the appearance of the identification of the power of consciousness with the power of the instrument of seeing.


Egoism is the identification of the Seer with the power of seeing. Drik, the Seer, is the Purusha. Darsana is the instrument of seeing. The instrument of seeing is Antahkarana. Purusha joins with the Antahkarana and appears as if he is one or blended with the Antahkarana. Purusha has the Abhimana of 'I' in the Anatma - Antahkarana. The Antahkarana is mistaken for the sentient Purusha or Atman. This is Asmita. When you get anger, pain, misery, contentment, etc., you associate yourself with the Vrittis and say: I am angry. I am miserable. I am happy. When the Atman is associated with the Antahkarana, the experiences of objects take place. Separate yourself from the Vrittis and the Antahkarana and stand aloof as the witness in your original all-blissful nature. This is Kaivalya. The means for destroying this egoism is given in Sutra II-10.

6. What Is Raga

Attachment is the attraction to pleasure.


Through the memory of pleasure enjoyed previously, the attachment or desire that arises towards pleasure or the means of pleasure (Sukha Sadhana, i.e., objects) is Raga. The desire for 'thinking on pleasure' (Sukha Chintana), is included under Raga. Egoism is the root cause for Raga. This is the reason why Raga is described after egoism. When pleasure is remembered, attachment is proceeded by the remembrance of the pleasure in consequence of the enjoyment thereof. Wherever there is pleasure, there is Raga side by side. Why are you very much attached to your wife? Because you derive pleasure from her. You love money; you are attached to money, because you can get various objects that can give you pleasure, through money. Everyone of us is in search of happiness. But attempt to get happiness is made in the wrong direction, in external objects, in the lap of the mother, toys, books, in University degrees, in wife, in money, in son, in honour and power. There is something dearer than a son, there is something dearer than a wife, there is something dearer than wealth, there is something dearer than this Prana or life itself. That 'dearer something' is Atman or Purusha, who is hidden in our heart. The search should be made within by withdrawing the mind from the objects, by controlling the Indriyas, by practising Yama, Niyama, concentration, meditation and Samadhi. Refer to Sutra II-10 for the removal of this Raga.

7. What Is Dvesha

Aversion is that which dwells on pain.


Through memory of pain from experiences, aversion comes towards pain and objects that give pain. This is Dvesha. You try to get rid of objects that give pain. Man shuns pain and runs after pleasure in this world. No one teaches him to seek pleasure. The mind is born of Ananda. So, it runs after pleasure.

Dvesha is the root cause for human sufferings. Wars, splits, dissensions, sectarian quarrels, murders are due to Dvesha. Wherever there is Dvesha, there is jealousy side by side. Jealousy is the intimate companion of Dvesha. Jealousy is petty-mindedness. It is a great pity to find that the minds of even highly educated persons who preach on the platform are filled with jealousy and hatred, and petty-mindedness. What a shame! As they are intelligent, they devise cunning methods and plans to destroy others, to get the whole fame and respect for themselves. A petty-minded preacher sows the seed of discard, disharmony everywhere. He is a pest and a menace to the society. He is a man of all evil. There is no redeeming feature in him. He does more harm than good. This Dvesha, aversion, should be completely annihilated. The remedy is given in Sutra II-10.

8. What Is Abhinivesa

Abhinivesa is the strong desire for life, supported by its own potency, established all the same even in the learned.


In all living beings exists the self-benediction: May I continue to exist. May I live on. This self-benediction cannot exist in him who has not experienced the nature of death. By this the experience of former life is inferred. The experience of death in the previous birth remains as a subtle Vasana in next birth that this should be separated from this body. This Vritti is Abhinivesa. This Vritti will not remain in a man who has no experience of death. We infer from this that there had been previous birth in a man, from his fear of death. Even worms have got fear of death. This fear of death exists in both the learned and the ignorant. This fear cannot be explained by Pratyaksha, inferential and Sabdha Pramanas. The fear is common in both the literate and the illiterate. The past experience of pain of death is there in your mind. Therefore you are afraid of death in this life. This is the reason for the strong desire for life.

9. How to Remove Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesa

They (the afflictions) are to be destroyed when they are in subtle state by raising opposite modifications.


Klesas have two states, gross and subtle. When they are in a state of Samskara, they are subtle. When the Yogi enters into Samadhi, these Klesas are burnt up like burnt seeds and are dissolved along with the mind in the Purusha through the fire of knowledge. Svaroopa-nasa of the mind takes place when the mind moves inward towards the Purusha and gets Laya (dissolution) in the Purusha during Asamprajnata Samadhi. By raising opposite currents or waves of thoughts, the subtle Samskaras of Klesas should be destroyed. Hatred ceases not by hatred but ceases by love. This is the method suggested in this Sutra. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana method. Habituate the mind to contraries. Do always virtuous actions. Develop Sattvic qualities. These good Samskaras will act as antidotes to the Samskaras of Klesas. The method of Pratipaksha Bhavana is described in Sutra II-34.

10. How to Remove Evil Thoughts

When obstructed by improper or evil thoughts, take to thinking on the contrary good thoughts.


This is a practical exercise for spiritual development. If lust troubles you when you are practising Brahmacharya, entertain counter divine thoughts. Think of the glory of Brahmacharya and its marvellous benefits and the troubles brought about by lust. If a desire arises to injure any one, think of love and its benefits. If the habit of telling lies again manifests, think of the advantages of speaking truth and disadvantages of uttering falsehood. In this way, you can remove all defects by developing counter virtues or habituating the mind to contraries.

11. What Is Pratipaksha Bhavana

When evil thoughts such as injury, falsehood, etc., whether done, caused to be done or approved of through greed, anger or delusion, of slight, medium or great intensity and in infinite ignorance and misery, take to the method of thinking contrary good thoughts or habituate the mind to contraries.


If you hurt another man, or cause another commit injury to others or even approve of another doing so, it is sinful. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. If you injure another, it is bound to react on you whether in this moment or at a future date. When thoughts of injury come to you, think of the benefits of non-injury. This is the method of Pratipaksha Bhavana.

If you entertain contrary thoughts, all evil thoughts that obstruct Yoga will die.

You may fail in your attempt twenty times, but slowly you will gain inner spiritual strength. If you send a strong current of anger towards another, it will harm your enemy and pass even to the corner of distant lands and pollute the atmosphere there and come back again to you and harm you.

For destroying the following evil Vrittis, raise the opposite good Vrittis given against each: -

Lust (Kama).. Brahmacharya, Mumukshutva.

Anger (Krodha)...Love, Kshama (forgiveness), Daya (Mercy), Maitri (friendship), Santi, Dhriti (patience), Ahimsa.

Pride (Mada)... Humility (Namrata or Vinaya).

Greed (Lobha)...Honesty, disinterestedness, generosity, Santosha (contentment), Aparigraha (non-covetousness).

Jealousy (Irshya)...Nobility (Udarata), magnanimity, Mudita (complacency).

Delusion (Moha)...Viveka (discrimination).

Vanity, Hypocrisy (Dambha)...Simplicity.

Darpa (arrogance)... Politeness, Hri (Modesty).

Cunningness... Arjava (crookedness) (straightforwardness).

Harshness... Mildness.

Attachment (Raga)...Vairagya.

Insincerity (Asraddha)...Sraddha (faith).

Chanchalatvam (Fickleness)... Determination (Nischaya Vritti).

12. The Root of Afflictions

The impressions of works have their root in afflictions, and are experienced in this life and in the unseen future births.


Klesas are responsible for works. They goad a man to do works and thereby enjoy the fruits of his actions. Suppose you do a very charitable act in this birth. The impression of this act is imbedded in a subtle form in the subconscious mind. It will give you fruit either in this or in any future birth. The sum total of all Samskaras is called 'Asaya.' Samskaras and Vasanas coexist. These impressions become ripe for fruition either good or bad when it is their time. Karmas are Anaadi or beginningless. In the Gita, you will find: Gahana karmano gathi - mysterious is the path of action. The law of Karma is inscrutable. It is difficult to say what sort of Karmas will cause leprosy or epilepsy, whether the fruit that you enjoy now is the result of one Karma or a combination of several Karmas.

A powerful Karma, good or bad, may bring fruits in this very birth. All Karmas do not produce their results all at once, nor does one Karma succeed another. From the Sanchita Karma, accumulated works, a certain portion is taken out for being worked out or exhausted in one birth. This forms the Prarabdha or fructescent Karmas of the present life. The works that you do now, current works or Agami (Kriyamana) are added to the sumtotal of works, Sanchita. The granary store of a merchant represents Sanchita Karma. The things that are kept in his shop correspond to the Prarabdha. The things that are sold daily represent Agami Karma. This is a rough analogy to illustrate our point. Ripe Karmas produce fruits under proper circumstances. Intense Tapas brings fruits at once.

Nandikesvara, Visvamitra and Markandeya did lot of Tapas and enjoyed the fruits in the same birth. Nahusha attained the position of Indra on account of his good deeds in his previous birth; but he was transformed into a serpent in the same birth on account of his sinful deeds in the same birth. The law of Karma is inexorable.

13. The Effect of Afflictions

The root being there, its fruition comes through class, life and experience.


The root means, the root in the form of Klesas or afflictions. The results of Karma are threefold. They are Jati or class or species, life and experience of pleasure or pain. If there are Klesas, then only you will enjoy the fruits of Karma. From this it is inferred that the Yogi who has destroyed the Klesas will not have the fruits of Karma. Just as the paddy loses its power of sprouting when the husk is removed, so also, the Karmas lose their power of bringing fruits when the Klesas (husk) are destroyed by the Yogi. The Yogi destroys the Klesas by getting discrimination between Prakriti and Purusha.

It is not that one action is the cause of one life only. As we see in our lives different sorts of experiences, happy and painful, we infer that many ripe Karmas amongst the accumulated Sanchita join together and bring one life. One important Karma will direct the course of this life. It will be the ruling factor of this life. Many small Karmas will bring sometimes pleasure and sometimes pain. If you do any action, the tendency to repeat such actions (or Vasanas to goad you to do similar actions) are formed. If the tendencies are good, you will have to increase them through Viveka or discrimination.

If the tendencies are bad you will have to restrain them through Vairagya. You must try to do virtuous actions. Jiva can do actions in the other worlds also to a small extent. But, generally Heaven or Svarga is a world for enjoyments only. This Mrityu Loka (world of mortals) only is Karma Bhumi or world of actions.

There are only three kinds of actions viz., white (virtuous), black (vicious) and white-black (mixed actions). The actions of a Sannyasi are neither white nor black. The impressions of white actions brought about by the practice of Kriya Yoga destroy the black ones which have not begun to fructify. White actions bring pleasure. Black actions bring pain.

14. Fruits of Afflictions

They (class, life and experience) have pleasure or pain as their fruit according to the cause, virtue or vice.


In Sutra II-13, it is stated that the fruit of afflictions comes through class, life and experience. In this Sutra, class, life and experiences are denoted by the word 'they'. Virtuous and vicious actions cause class, life and experience. As soon as these three are formed, the experience of pleasure and pain takes place according to virtue or vice. Karma has its origin in afflictions. Fruition has its origin in Karma.

15. Destroy Afflictions

Their modifications (five afflictions of mind) are to be destroyed by meditation.


In Sutra II-10, instruction is given to destroy the subtle form of Klesas which are in the form of Samskaras. Here the way to destroy the gross form of Klesas which are in the form of Vrittis is described. The gross dirt of a cloth is removed by applying fullers-earth. The fine dirt is removed by the application of soap. There may be traces of subtle dirt in the cloth so long as the cloth is not destroyed. Even so, the gross dirt of the mind - 'Klesas' - is removed by Kriya Yoga. The gross Vrittis are destroyed by meditation. In Samadhi, even the subtle form of Klesas (Samskaras) are destroyed along with the destruction of the mind. Regular, systematic meditation is necessary. It must become habitual.

16. Karma in Yogis

Actions of a Yogi are neither white nor black; for others they are of three kinds.


A Yogi is not affected by his Karmas, because, he has no attachment. He is absolutely desireless. Karmas cannot bind him. He works without expectation of any fruits for his actions. He has reached perfection. He works for the uplift of humanity. Yogis acquire no impressions from their actions. White actions are virtuous actions. Black actions are evil actions. Mixed actions are a mixture of good and evil actions. For worldly persons actions are of the above three kinds.

17. Karma and Environments

From these (3 kinds of Karmas), there is manifestation of those desires alone for which the environments are favourable.


When one has taken the body of Deva, the desires and Vasanas of a human being will be in abeyance for the time being. Only those Vasanas of the Deva which are favourable for the suitable environments in which he lives will manifest. The animal desires and human desires will be checked when one has taken the body of a Deva. When the Deva takes again the body of an animal, the animal desires only will manifest at that time. The Samskaras and desires of a Deva will be under check for the time being. The impressions and desires for which the conditions are not favourable, will lie dormant till their time comes in for sprouting or expression.

18. Karmas in a Viveki

To the man of discrimination, all is painful indeed due to the consequences, anxiety and impressions, and also of the contradiction of the functioning of Gunas (qualities).


Pleasure is in reality pain only. In the Gita you will find: The delights that are contact-born, they are verily wombs of pain, for they have beginning and end, O Kaunteya, not in them may rejoice the wise. Pleasure is mixed with pain, sin and fear. Enjoyment increases the Trishna or thirsting for objects. Trishna gives pain. The mind becomes more restless by tasting sensual pleasure. There is fear of loss of happiness. Sensual pleasure is imaginary. It is mental creation. It is Bhranti-Sukha. It is no happiness at all. For a man of discrimination the happiness that is derived from Self-realisation through Asamprajnata Samadhi only is the everlasting, real bliss. The very experience of pleasure creates a desire for more. Desires are endless. When the desires are not gratified, there is uneasiness, disappointment and misery. The anxiety that is caused in taking care of the objects of pleasure brings great pain. The impression that is left in the mind of pleasure creates desires through memory of pleasure and brings pain. Another cause for pain is the natural opposition which exists between the individual actions of the three qualities Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Rajas brings tossing of mind and distraction. Tamas causes delusion, carelessness, laziness, etc. Therefore, everything brings pain for the discriminating. Enjoyment cannot bring satisfaction of desires. Just as ghee when poured over fire aggravates it, so also enjoyment augments the desires. Kamagni increases. Pain comes if the desired object is not attained. Even if the object is obtained, one gets pain if the Indriya is weak and cold as he is not able to enjoy. Can a multi-millionaire enjoy palatable, rich dishes if he suffers from pain in the stomach? Hatred comes towards persons who stand in the way of enjoyment. Too much enjoyment brings diseases. These are all pains from 'Parinama'. The Yogi is afraid of Vasanas and Samskaras that are created during enjoyment. This gives him more pain. A worldly man who has a gross, impure mind is not conscious of the pain.

19. Avoid Misery

The misery that has not yet come should be avoided.


The avoidable is only the future pain. The pain which has passed away has already been explained. That which is being experienced now cannot be the subject of consideration here. Just as in medicine, the nature of diseases, their symptoms, prognosis, diagnosis, therapeutics, methods of treatment, prophylaxis, convalescence, etc., are considered in the treatment of diseases, so also, here, the nature of misery, its cause, strength, source and the means to avert are to be investigated.

20. The Cause of Misery

The junction of the Seer and the seen is the cause of the pain which is to be avoided.


The cause for misery is the connection between the Seer and the seen. As the Chaitanya Sakti of the Purusha enters the Buddhi, the Purusha, who is only a witness and an Udaseena appears as Drashta. Drishya constitute all objects that are seen and also the instrument Buddhi through which it is seen, Indriyas, elements, etc. Buddhi is very near to Purusha. It is very subtle. Purusha is ever free and full of bliss. When conjunction takes place between the Purusha and mind (Buddhi), it appears to feel pleasure and pain through Adhyasa or reflection. By this conjunction through ignorance, the body, mind, Indriyas and Buddhi are mistaken for the real Purusha. Buddhi by its close contact with the Purusha and as it is very subtle and as the Sakti of Purusha has magnetised the Buddhi, appears like Purusha, just as the reflection of sun in water appears similar to the real sun. This is called Chit-Jada Granthi in Vedanta. This Abheda-Bhranti is Avidya, the root cause for all miseries. Kaivalya comes when this delusion is removed. If the conjunction between Buddhi and Purusha is removed, all miseries will terminate.

21. Definition of The Seen

The seen consists of the elements and the senses, is of the nature of illumination, action and darkness, and is for the purpose of experience (through enjoyment) and absolution.


The Svarupa of the Drishya (seen) is described here. From Pradhana downwards to elements and their combinations, it is all Drishya. Illumination, action and darkness are the functions of the three qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. If Sattva increases, illumination manifests. If there is increase of Rajas, action increases. If there is increase in Tamas, there is more darkness, inertia. Mahat or Buddhi, Ahamkara, Manas, Tanmatras, the five Jnana Indriyas, the five Karma Indriyas and the five gross elements are all modifications or Parinama or Vikritis of Pradhana. The Prakriti takes the Purusha around this world and gives all sorts of enjoyments of this world for his experience and finally makes him free when he gets discrimination between the Purusha and Prakriti. The real Purusha is ever pure and free. He is an embodiment of Bliss, Peace and Knowledge. He is unchanging and immortal. He has no beginning, middle or end. He is unattached.

Get all experiences of this little world quickly. Do whatever you want to get experiences of this dream-world. But, cut the cycle of birth and death quickly in this very birth, nay in this very second. Now, or never. Never forget the goal, ideal and the centre. The experiences will teach you that there is no essence in this physical life. It is all pain. It is all a long dream. There is no real love in this world. You will know that love here is selfish, hypocritical, changing and decaying, and that knowledge of Purusha and Atman only, through Asamprajnata Samadhi, can give real, undecaying bliss and eternal peace and immortality. Prakriti, the elements and this world are your best teachers. Be grateful to them. Get out of the net spread by Maya quickly and realise the Self rapidly with courage and cheerfulness.

22. Ignorance Is the Cause

Its cause is ignorance.


'Its' means, the cause of the junction of the seer and sight, nature and sight, nature and Purusha. In the previous Sutra, the Svarupa of Samyoga and its effects are described. Here the cause of Samyoga is given. To blend or unite the Drashta and the Drishya as one, and to think of this 'I' is Avidya or Bhranti. The Jiva increases the Bhavana of 'I' and 'mine' by mistaking the Anatma body and mind as Atman. The mind, which is saturated with the Bhranti-Vasana, gets Laya in Pradhana during the deluge or cosmic Pralaya and comes back again during projection of this world. Destroy this ignorance. Give up identification with this body and mind. Rise above body and mind and realise the Purusha who is beyond cause and effect, and who is, therefore, Anaadi (beginningless), Ananta (endless) and Nirvikara (changeless). Apply yourself to Sadhana and realise the Purusha. Do not make any delay. The monkey-mind will upset you.

23. The Means for Kaivalya

The Kaivalya, independence of the Seer, is the removal of the conjunction of the Seer and the seen by the disappearance of ignorance.


When you understand fully that the Gunas have nothing to do with the Purusha and that the Purusha is ever free, ignorance vanishes and discrimination dawns. Then and then alone you will attain the state of Kaivalya or Moksha. The scientists try to understand the external physical forces of nature and to control them by suitable methods. The Raja Yogis attempt to control the internal psychic forces of the mind. Physical forces are gross and the inner mental forces are subtle. Those who have controlled the mental forces can very easily control the external physical forces.

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