Self-Realization through Yoga Meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra





Yoga Sutras 2.1-2.9: 
Minimizing Gross Colorings
that Veil the Self
(Previous Next Main)

Click here to return to the main page of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.Reduce colorings by Kriya Yoga: In these first few sutras of Chapter 2, specific methods are being introduced on how to minimize the gross colorings (kleshas) of the mental obstacles, which veil the true Self. (The later sutras of this chapter deal with the the subtle colorings of mental obstacles).

Living the three practices of Kriya Yoga: The first part of the process of minimizing the gross coloring is called Kriya Yoga, and leads one in the direction of samadhi. Kriya Yoga involves three parts (2.1-2.2):

  1. Training the senses (See article on Ten Senses)
  2. Studying yourself in the context of teachings
  3. Surrender of klishta (colored) thought impressions

(Uses of the word Kriya: It is important to note that the name Kriya Yoga is used in a variety of ways. This is described below in the description of sutra 2.1)

Reducing the colorings: The five kinds of coloring (2.3) are related to spiritual ignorance (2.5), I-ness (2.6), attraction (2.7), aversion (2.8), and fear (2.9). The process of dealing with these coloring moves through four stages of active, separated, attenuated, and seed (2.4). (The process of coloring was first introduced in sutra 1.5)

Transcending four kinds of ignorance: Ignorance (avidya) is the root coloring that leads to the others. It evolves and dissolves in stages (2.4), and is of four types (2.5), including: 1) mistaking the temporary for the eternal, 2) impure for pure, 3) pain for pleasure, and 4) not-self for self.

Foundation: Chapter 1 included the definition of Yoga (1.1-1.4), the principle of uncoloring thought patterns (1.5), practice and non-attachment (1.12-1.16), as well as a framework for focusing (1.17-1.18), stabilizing, and purifying the mind (1.19-1.22, 1.30-1.32, 1.33-1.39). With this foundation, one can now begin the process of reducing the colorings of the thought patterns.

See also these articles: Each of these articles will add a complementary perspective on viewing and dealing with the coloring of the deep impressions of the mind:
Klishta and Aklishta Thoughts 
Witnessing Your Thoughts 
Karma and the sources of Actions, Speech, and Thoughts
Regulating Lifestyle and the Four Basic Urges 
Training the Ten Senses or Indriyas 
Four Functions of Mind 
4 Levels and 3 Domains of Consciousness 
The 5 Koshas or Sheaths


2.1 Yoga in the form of action (kriya yoga) has three parts: 1) training and purifying the senses (tapas), 2) self-study in the context of teachings (svadhyaya), and 3) devotion and letting go into the creative source from which we emerged (ishvara pranidhana).
(tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana kriya-yogah)

  • tapah = accepting the purifying aspects of painful experience, purifying action, training the senses
  • svadhyaya = self-study in the context of teachings, remembrance of sacred word or mantra
  • ishvara = creative source, causal field, God, supreme Guru or teacher
  • pranidhana = practicing the presence, dedication, devotion, surrender of fruits of practice
  • kriya-yogah = yoga of practice, action, practical yoga

These three practices work together: A bit of reflection will show clearly how the three principles (tapas, svadhyaya, ishvara pranidhana) work together. The principles are really familiar to us all, but seeing them clustered together as a single mode of spiritual practice is very useful. The mind can easily remember the three principles together as a single practice; it becomes a companion in daily life.

Reminding yourself of Kriya Yoga: When thinking about life and spiritual practices, it is easy then to remind yourself of this foundation by internally saying such words as, "I need to train my senses, explore within, and let go of these attachments and aversions." Contained in a simple sentence like this is the outline of Kriya Yoga (that simple sentence contains tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvara pranidhana). Then, the many other practices of the Yoga Sutras, along with other practices you might do, can be done in this straightforward context. Remember that this is the gross level of weakening the colored thought patterns, and that this is preparation for the subtler part, which is done in meditation (2.10-2.11).

Ishvara pranidhana: The emphasis of ishvara pranidhana practice is the release or surrender that is done in a sincere, dedicated, or devotional attitude. It is easy to get caught up in debates over the nature of God, Guru, creative source, and teacher. Yoga is very broad and non-sectarian, leaving it open to each individual how to perceive these realities. The more important part is that of letting go rather than holding on to the images and desires of the senses (tapas) and the personal characteristics and makeup uncovered through introspection (svadhyaya). Without such a letting go, the other two of the three practices in this sutra would be of little or no value; you would have knowledge but little freedom.

Meaning of Ishvara: In the Upanishads, the word Īśvara is used to denote a state of collective consciousness. Thus, God is not a being that sits on a high pedestal beyond the sun, moon, and stars; God is actually the state of Ultimate Reality. But due to the lack of direct experience, God has been personified and given various names and forms by religions throughout the ages. When one expands one's individual consciousness to the Universal Consciousness, it is called Self-realization, for the individual self has realized the unity of diversity, the very underlying principle, or Universal Self, beneath all forms and names. The great sages of the Upanishads avoid the confusions related to conceptions of God and encourage students to be honest and sincere in their quests for Self-realization. Upanishadic philosophy provides various methods for unfolding higher levels of truth and helps students to be able to unravel the mysteries of the individual and the universe. (from Swami Rama in the section What God Is from Enlightenment Without God)

Modern versions of Kriya Yoga: Some modern teachers and institutions consider the entire Yoga Sutras to be Kriya Yoga, although Patanjali only relates the term Kriya Yoga to these three foundation practices. Often, breathing practices with attention along the spine (sushumna) are included, along with other physical practices. It is useful for the student of Yoga to be aware of these different approaches, so as to not get confused by the various public offerings. These adjunct practices themselves are very useful, whether or not you consider them to be a part of Kriya Yoga, or separate practices coming from Pranayama (breath practice, 2.49-2.53), Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, or Tantra Yoga, for example. In addition, the word Kriya literally means actions, and one might ask a teacher or ashram, "What is your Kriya?" meaning to inquire, "What kind of practices do you do and teach here?" Thus, many practices might be included in the phrase Kriya Yoga. To the Himalayan Masters, Kriya Yoga is a part of the whole of Yoga.


2.2 That Yoga of action (kriya yoga) is practiced to bring about samadhi and to minimize the colored thought patterns (kleshas).
(samadhi bhavana arthah klesha tanu karanarthah cha)

  • samadhi = deep absorption of meditation, the state of perfected concentration
  • bhavana = to bring about, cultivate
  • arthah = for the purpose of
  • klesha = colored, painful, afflicted, impure
  • tanu-karana = minimize, to make fine, attenuate, weaken
  • arthah = for the purpose
  • cha = and 

Reasons for Kriya Yoga: This sutra provides the context and reason for doing the Kriya Yoga (tapas, svadhyaya, ishvara pranidhana):

  1. Kriya Yoga purifies the mind, allowing the gross level of the colorings (2.3) to be weakened (2.4).
  2. Kriya Yoga is an early stage of the journey, which leads directly towards samadhi. 

Seeing the systematic process: It is most useful to see the systematic nature of these practices, whereby you first do the gross level of stabilizing the mind, such as through the methods in Chapter 1 (1.30-1.32, 1.33-1.39). Then, the gross colorings (kleshas) are attenuated through Kriya Yoga, which is the subject of the sutras discussed in this section (tanu-karana means attenuating the kleshas or colorings, afflictions, or impurities). Then, building upon that foundation, the subtler attenuation is done (2.10-2.11), and the breaking of the alliance with karma (2.12-2.25).

There is a very important principle in this sutra. That is, the means of reducing the kleshas is suggested. We might encounter many explanations, definitions, discussions, or debates about the meaning of the word klesha, but it is clear from the next sutra (2.3) that they have something to do with mental habits like attractions and aversions, with which we are all familiar. It can be argued that the meaning of klesha is extremely subtle, however, it also has very practical application to even the beginning level of meditator. Again, every one of us knows the problems caused by our attractions and aversions.

Here, this sutra is telling us that the means of weakening (though not yet eliminating) those negative habits of mind is the three-fold method in the last sutra (2.1). While students of meditation might struggle with all of the seemingly complex principles, here is a simple suggestion that has only three parts. That is very, very useful in that these three principles of tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvara pranidhana are relatively easy to understand at some level, and are highly effective in weakening the mental clutter.


2.3 There are five kinds of coloring (kleshas): 1) forgetting, or ignorance about the true nature of things (avidya), 2) I-ness, individuality, or egoism (asmita), 3) attachment or addiction to mental impressions or objects (raga), 4) aversion to thought patterns or objects (dvesha), and 5) love of these as being life itself, as well as fear of their loss as being death.
(avidya asmita raga dvesha abhinivesha pancha klesha)

  • avidya = spiritual forgetting, ignorance, veiling, nescience 
  • asmita = associated with I-ness
  • raga = attraction or drawing to, addiction
  • dvesha = aversion or pushing away, hatred 
  • abhinivesha = resistance to loss, fear of death of identity, desire for continuity, clinging to the life of
  • pancha = five
  • klesha = colored, painful, afflicted, impure; the root klish means to cause trouble; (klesha is the noun form of the adjective klishta)

See also the Five Kleshas section of Witnessing Your Thoughts 

A most important practice in Yoga: Cultivating self-awareness of the five kleshas is one of the most important foundation practices in the entire science of Yoga. Note that in Chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutra, the first four sutras describe or define Yoga, and that the very next sutra (1.5) introduces the concept of the many levels of thought patterns being either klishta (colored) or aklishta (uncolored). Now, in this current sutra (and Kriya Yoga in general), the concept is expanded, describing the nature of the five individual kleshas. In Kriya Yoga, the gross level of coloring is dealt with (2.1), while the next few sutras begin the process of dealing with the subtler colorings (2.10-2.11, 2.12-2.25). It works in stages, first reducing the gross, and then the subtle. To be aware of the practice of self-awareness or witnessing of the kleshas of our own mind is a very useful thing to do.

The five kleshas: Each of the five kleshas are described separately in the forthcoming sutras:

  • Avidya (2.4, 2.5) = spiritual forgetting, ignorance, veiling, nescience 
  • Asmita (2.6) = associated with I-ness
  • Raga (2.7) = attraction or drawing to, addiction
  • Dvesha (2.8) = aversion or pushing away, hatred 
  • Abhinivesha (2.9) = resistance to loss, fear of death of identity, desire for continuity, clinging to the life of

Four stages of kleshas: The five colorings (klishta) of individual deep thought patterns are in one of four states. These are described in the next sutra (2.4), as part of introducing specifics about the nature of the five kleshas themselves.

Allow streams of individual thoughts to flow: One of the best ways to get a good understanding of witnessing the kleshas (colorings) is to sit quietly and intentionally allow streams of individual thoughts to arise. This doesn't mean thinking or worrying. It literally is an experiment in which you intentionally let an image come. It is easiest to do with what seem to be insignificant impressions.

For example, imagine a fruit, and notice what comes to mind. An apple may come to mind, and you simply note "Attraction" if you like it, or are drawn to it. It may not be a strong coloring, but maybe you notice there is some coloring. You may think of a pear, and note that there is an ever so slight "aversion" because you do not like pears.

Experiment with colorings: Allow lots of such to images come. One of the things I have done often with people is to grab about 10-15 small stones in my hand, and ask a person to pick one they like. Then I ask them to pick one they are less drawn to (few people will say they "dislike" one of the stones). It is a very simple experiment that demonstrates the way in which attractions and aversions are born. It is easier at first to experiment with witnessing thoughts for which there is only slight coloring, only a small amount of attraction or aversion.

You can easily run such experiments with many objects arising into the field of mind from the unconscious. You can also easily do this by observing the world around you. Notice the countless ways in which your attention is drawn to this or that object or person, but gently or strongly turns away from other objects or people.

Though it is a bit harder to do, notice the countless objects you pass by everyday for which there is no response whatsoever. These are examples of neutral impressions in the mind field.

Gradually witness stronger colorings: By observing in this way, it is easier to gradually witness stronger attractions and aversions in a similar way. When we can begin the process of witnessing the type of coloring, then we can start the process of attenuating the coloring, which is discussed in the next section.


2.4 The root forgetting or ignorance of the nature of things (avidya) is the breeding ground for the other of the five colorings (kleshas), and each of these is in one of four states: 1) dormant or inactive, 2) attenuated or weakened, 3) interrupted or separated from temporarily, or 4) active and producing thoughts or actions to varying degrees.
(avidya kshetram uttaresham prasupta tanu vicchinna udaranam)

  • avidya = spiritual forgetting, ignorance, veiling, nescience
  • kshetram = field, breeding ground 
  • uttaresham = for the others
  • prasupta = dormant, latent, seed
  • tanu = attenuated, weakened
  • vicchinna = distanced, separated, cut off, intercepted, alternated
  • udaranam = fully active, aroused, sustained

Systematically reduce the colorings: These colorings (kleshas) are either: 1) active, 2) cut off, 3) attenuated, or 4) dormant. We want to be able to observe and witness these stages so that we can systematically reduce the coloring. Then the thought patterns are no longer obstacles to deep meditation, and that is the goal. (See the articles on Klisha and Aklishta Vrittis and Karma and the sources of Actions, Speech, and Thoughts)

Four stages of coloring: The starting point is to observe what is the current state of the coloring of individual thought patterns. This self-awareness practice becomes a gentle companion in daily life and during meditation:

1. Active, aroused (udaram): Is the thought pattern active on the surface of the mind, or playing itself out through physical actions (through the instruments of action, called karmendriyas, which include motion, grasping, and speaking)? These thought patterns and actions may be mild, extreme, or somewhere in between. However, in any case, they are active.

2. Distanced, separated, cut off (vicchinna): Is the thought pattern less active right now, due to there being some distance or separation. We experience this often when the object of our desire is not physically in our presence. The attraction or aversion, for example, is still there, but not in as active a form as if the object were right in front of us. It is as if we forgot about the object for the now. It is actually still colored, but just not active (but also not really attenuated).

3. Attenuated, weakened (tanu): Has the thought pattern not just been interrupted, but actually been weakened or attenuated? Sometimes we can think that a deep habit pattern has been attenuated, but it really has not been weakened. When we are not in the presence of the object of attachment or aversion, that separation can appear to be attenuation, when it actually is just not seen in the moment.

This is one of the big traps of changing the habits or conditionings of the mind. First, it is true that we need to get some separation from the active stage to the distanced stage, but then it is essential to start to attenuate the power of the coloring of the thought pattern.

4. Dormant, latent, seed (prasupta): Is the thought pattern in a dormant or latent form, as if it were a seed that is not growing at the moment, but which could grow in the right circumstances?

The thought pattern might be temporarily in a dormant state, such as when asleep, or when the mind is distracted elsewhere. However, when some other thought process comes, or some visual or auditory image comes in through the eyes and ears, the thought pattern is awakened again, with all of its coloring.

Eventually the seed of the colored thought can be burned in the fire of meditation, and a burnt seed can no longer grow.

Where does all of this go? Through the process of Yoga meditation, the thought patterns are gradually weakened, then can mostly remain in a dormant state. Then, in deep meditation the "seed" of the dormant can eventually be burned, and a burned seed can no longer grow. Then, one is free from that previously colored thought pattern.

Example: An example will help to understand the way these four stages work together. We'll use the physical example of four people, in relation to smoking cigarettes, because the example can be so clear. The principles apply not only to objects such as cigarettes, but also to people, opinions, concepts, beliefs, thoughts or emotions. The principle also applies not only to gross level thoughts, but the subtlest of mental impressions.

  • Person A: Has never smoked and has never felt any desire to smoke. When Person A sees a cigarette, he recognizes what it is. There is a memory impression in the chitta, but it is completely neutral--it just is a matter or recognition. It is not colored; it is aklishta. (The thought of cigarettes might be colored by aversion, if he is offended by smoking, but that is a different example.)
  • Person B: Has smoked for many years, but then quit several years ago. Occasionally she still says, "I'd kill for a cigarette!" but does not smoke due to health reasons. Her deep impression of cigarettes remains colored, and is actively playing out in both the unconscious and conscious, waking states. At times, the impression of cigarettes might not be active, such as when she is asleep, or doing some other distracting activity. However, at the latent level, the impression is still very colored in a potential form.
  • Person C: Has smoked for many years, but then quit several years ago. He always says, "Oh, no, I don't want a cigarette; I never even think about it." At the same time his gestures and body language reveal something different. He may have very colored mental impressions of attachment, but they are not allowed to surface into consciousness. There is separation from the thought pattern, but the coloring has not truly been attenuated (even though it goes into latent form during sleep, or when the mind is distracted). This kind of blocking the coloring is not what is intended in Yoga science.
  • Person D: Smoked for many years, but then quit several years ago. After some time of struggling with the separation or cutting off phase (Vicchinna), she then sat with this desire during meditation, allowed the awareness of the attachment to rise, gently refrained from engaging the impressions, and watched the coloring gradually fade. During that time, the thought patterns were sometimes active, sometimes separated, and sometimes temporarily dormant. However, it is now as if she were a non-smoker. The desire has returned to seed form or is completely gone, not only when asleep, or when the mind is distracted, but also when in the presence of cigarettes in the external world.

Notice the stage of individual thoughts: We want to observe our thinking process often, in a gentle, non-judging way, noticing the stage of the coloring of thought patterns. It can be great fun, not just hard work. The mind is quite amusing the way that it so easily and quickly goes here and there, both internally and through the senses, seeking out and reacting to the objects of desire. (See also the article on the four functions of mind)

There are many thoughts traveling in the train of mind, and many are colored. This is how the mind works; it is not good or bad. By noticing the colored thought patterns, understanding their nature by labeling them, we can increasingly become a witness to the whole process, and in turn, become free from the coloring. Then, the spiritual insights can more easily come to the forefront of awareness in life and meditation.

Train the mind about coloring: An extremely important part of attenuating, or reducing the coloring of the colored thought pattern is to train the mind that this coloring is going to bring nothing but further trouble (This is described in Sutra 2.33).

It means training the mind that, "This is not useful!". This simple training is the beginning of attenuating the coloring (The process starts with observing, but then moves on to attenuating). It is similar to training a small child; it all begins by labeling and saying what is useful and not useful. Note that this is not a moral judgment as to what is good or bad. It is more like saying whether it is more useful to go left or right when taking a journey.

Often, we are stuck in a cycle: Often in life, we find that the colored thought patterns move between active and separated stages, and then back to active. They go in a cycle between these two. Either they are actively causing challenges, or we are able to get some distance from them, like taking a vacation.

Break the cycle: However, it is possible that we may never really attenuate them when engaged in such a cycle, let alone get the colorings down into seed form, when we are stuck in this cycle. It is important to be aware of this possibility, so that we can intentionally pursue the process of weakening the strength of the coloring.

Meditation attenuates coloring: This is where meditation can be of tremendous value in getting free from these deep impressions (2.11). We sit quietly, focusing the mind, yet intentionally allow the cycling process to play out, right in front of our awareness. Gradually it weakens, so we can experience the deeper silence, where we can come in greater touch with the spiritual aspects of meditation.


2.5 Ignorance (avidya) is of four types: 1) regarding that which is transient as eternal, 2) mistaking the impure for pure, 3) thinking that which brings misery to bring happiness, and 4) taking that which is not-self to be self.
(antiya ashuchi duhkha anatmasu nitya shuchi sukha atman khyatih avidya)

  • antiya = non-eternal, impermanent, ephemeral
  • ashuchi = impure
  • duhkha = misery, painful, sorrowful, suffering
  • anatmasu = non-self, non-atman
  • nitya = eternal, everlasting
  • shuchi = pure
  • sukha = happiness, pleasurable, pleasant
  • atman = Self, soul
  • khyatih = taking to be, supposing to be, seeing as if
  • avidya = spiritual forgetting, ignorance, veiling, nescience

Vidya is with knowledge: Vidya means knowledge, specifically the knowledge of Truth. It is not a mere mental knowledge, but the spiritual realization that is beyond the mind. When the "A" is put in front of Vidya (to make it Avidya), the "A" means without.

Avidya is without knowledge: Thus, Avidya means without Truth or without knowledge. It is the first form of forgetting the spiritual Reality. It is not just a thought pattern in the conventional sense of a thought pattern. Rather, it is the very ground of losing touch with the Reality of being one with the ocean of Oneness, of pure Consciousness.

Meaning of ignorance: Avidya is usually translated as ignorance, which is a good word, so long as we keep in mind the subtlety of the meaning. It is not a matter of gaining more knowledge, like going to school, and having this add up to receiving a degree. Rather, ignorance is something that is removed, like removing the clouds that obstruct the view. Then, with the ignorance (or clouds) removed, we see knowledge or Vidya clearly.

Even in English, this principle is in the word ignorance. Notice that the word contains the root of ignore, which is an ability that is not necessarily negative. The ability to ignore allows the ability to focus. Imagine that you are in a busy restaurant, and are having a conversation with your friend. To listen to your friend means both focusing on listening, while also ignoring the other conversations going on around you. However, in the path of Self-realization, we want to see past the veil of ignorance, to no longer ignore, and to see clearly.

Avidya is confusion of one for the other




Avidya is the ground for the other colorings: Avidya is like a fabric, like a screen on which a movie might then be projected. It is the ground in which comes the other four of the colorings described below. Avidya (ignorance) is somewhat like making a mistake, in which one thing is confused for another. Four major forms of this are:

  • Seeing the temporary as eternal: For example, thinking that the earth and moon are permanent, or behaving as if our possessions are permanently ours, forgetting that all of them will go, and that our so-called ownership is only relative.
  • Mistaking the impure for the pure: For example, believing that our thoughts, emotions, opinions, or motives in relation to ourselves, some other person, or situation are purely good, healthy, and spiritual, when they are actually a mixture of tendencies or inclinations.
  • Confusing the painful to be pleasureful: For example, in our social, familial, and cultural settings there are many actions that seem pleasure filled in the moment, only later to be found as painful in retrospect.
  • Thinking the not-self to be the self: For example, we may think of our country, name, body, profession, or deep predispositions to be "who I am," confusing these with who I really am at the deepest level, the level of our eternal Self.

Both large and small scales: As you reflect on these forms of Avidya, you will notice that they apply at both large scales and smaller scales, such as the impermanence of both the planet Earth and the object we hold in our hand. The same breadth applies to the others as well.

I am a tomato: Imagine that I said to you, "I am a tomato." What would you think? At first, you might smile and wait for the punch line of the joke. What if I said it again and again, "I am a tomato." What if you came to discover that I really believed that I am a tomato? You would probably think I was crazy and want to have me locked up. Yet, this is exactly what we do with many aspects of life and relationship to the objects of the world. We identify with them and mistakenly think that, "This is 'who' I am." This is avidya, the veiling or ignorance that prevents us from seeing clearly. We come from a country and think we "are" that country. We say, "I am American," or "I am Indian," etc. We follow a certain path or teacher and say, "I am Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, or Muslim." We say, "I am a daughter, son, father, mother, sister or brother; I am the doer of this or that action; I am good or bad, I am happy or sad." Actually, none of these are ultimately "who" I am. One who begins to intuit that "who I am" is beyond all of these has begun the journey of seeing beyond the ignorance called avidya, and is on the journey to realization of the True Self, by whatever name you call that, whether Purusha, Atman, Self, Soul or something else. It is a journey of yoga meditation and contemplation, leading one from the ignorance or avidya of the not-self to knowing that, which we truly are.

Avidya gets us entangled in the first place: In relation to individual thought patterns, it is Avidya (spiritual forgetting) that allows us to get entangled in the thought in the first place. If in the moment the thought arises, there is also complete spiritual awareness (Vidya) of Truth, then there is simply no room for I-ness to get involved, nor attraction, nor aversion, nor fear. There would be only spiritual awareness along with a stream of impressions that had no power to draw attention into their sway. Witnessing this Avidya (spiritual forgetting) in relation to thoughts is the practice.

A mistake of direction: Avidya is a sort of mistake of direction (not meaning that manifestation of people or the universe is a mistake). One direction leads you into greater suffering, while the other leads towards the eternal joy.


2.6 The coloring (klesha) of I-ness or egoism (asmita), which arises from the ignorance, occurs due to the mistake of taking the intellect (buddhi, which knows, decides, judges, and discriminates) to itself be pure consciousness (purusha/drig).
(drig darshana shaktyoh ekatmata iva asmita)

  • drig = consciousness itself as seeing agent (purusha)
  • darshana-shaktyoh  = the instrument of seeing, power of intellect or buddhi to observe (darshana = seeing; shakti = power)
  • ekatmata = identity, with oneself (eka = one; atmata = selfness
  • iva = appearing to be, apparently as if
  • asmita = I-ness

Finest form of individuality: Asmita is the finest form of individuality. It is not I-am-ness, as when we say, "I am a man or woman," or "I am a person from this or that country." Rather, it is I-ness that has not taken on any of those identities.

Mistake of thinking it is about me: However, when we see I-ness or Asmita as a coloring, a klesha, we are seeing that a kind of mistake has been made. The mistake is that the thought pattern of the object is falsely associated with I-ness (Asmita), and thus we say that the thought pattern is a klishta thought pattern, or a klishta vritti. We incorrectly come to think that this or that thought pattern is who I am.

The image in the mind is not neutral: Imagine some thought that it is not colored by I-ness. Such an un-colored thought would have no ability to distract your mind during meditation, nor to control your actions. Actually, there are many such neutral thought patterns. For example, we encounter many people in daily life whom we may recognize, but have never met, and for whom their memory in our mind is neither colored with attraction nor aversion. It simply means that the image of those people is stored in the mind, but that it is neutral, not colored.

Uncoloring your thoughts: Imagine how nice it would be if you could regulate this coloring process itself. Then, if there were an attraction or aversion, we could un-color it, internally, so as to be free from its control (or attenuate it). This is done as a part of the process of meditation. It not only has benefits in our relationship with the world, but also purifies the mind so as to experience deeper meditation.

I-ness is necessary for the others: In relation to individual thought patterns, the coloring of I-ness is necessary for attraction, aversion, and fear to have any power. Thus, the I-ness itself is seen as a coloring process of the thoughts. The practice is that of witnessing this Asmita (I-ness), and how it comes into relation with though patterns.

Like the filament confusing itself with the electricity: The klesha of asmita is like the filament of a light bulb confusing itself with electricity. The filament is the finest, most essential part of the light bulb, but it still pales in comparison to the electricity that is the true source of the light coming out of the bulb. Similarly, buddhi, at its finest level is a very superior instrument when compared to the other levels of mind, energy, and body. However, even buddhi is little compared to the pure consciousness, or shakti, that is the driving force behind not only buddhi, but all of the other, grosser levels of our being. The coloring, or klesha of asmita (the I-ness) thinks that it is the consciousness, forgetting the truth of the matter, and that is the mistake that blocks Self-realization. This I-ness arises the instant that the wave forgets (avidya) that it is also ocean.


2.7 Attachment (raga) is a separate modification of mind, which follows the rising of the memory of pleasure, where the three modifications of attachment, pleasure, and the memory of the object are then associated with one another.
(sukha anushayi ragah)

  • sukha = pleasure
  • anushayi = sequential attraction to, closely following, secondary accompaniment, resting on
  • ragah = attachment, addiction

Next arises attachments: Once there is the primary forgetting called Avidya (2.5), and the rising of individuality called Asmita (2.6), there is now the potential for attachment, or Raga.

It is not that "I" am attached. 
Rather, the thought is colored
"I" then identifies with the thought.

Attachment is an obstacle, but not bad: Raga is not a moral issue; it is not "bad" that there is attachment. It seems to be built into the universe and the makeup of all living creatures, including humans.

Degree of coloring: Where we get into trouble with attachment, is the degree of the coloring. If the coloring gets strong enough to control us, without restraint, we may call it addiction or neurosis, in a psychological sense.

Gaining mastery: In spiritual practices, we want to gain mastery over the attachments. At meditation time, we want to be able to let go of the attachments, so that we might experience the Truth that is deeper, or on the other side from the attachments.

Attachment is a natural habit of mind: However, in the process of witnessing, we want to be aware of the many ways in which the mind habitually becomes attached. If you see this as a natural action of the mind, it is much easier to accept, without feeling that something is wrong with your own mind. The habit of the mind to attach can actually become amusing, bringing a smile to the face, as you increasingly are free from the attachment.

Witnessing is necessary for meditation: In relation to individual thoughts, attachment is one of the two colorings that is most easily seen, along with aversion. To witness attachments and aversions is a necessary skill to develop for meditation. The ability to let go of the train of thoughts is based on the solid foundation of seeing and labeling individual thoughts as being colored with attachment.

Notice the moment just after pleasure: Think of times just after you experience something pleasureful. A good example is some snack food that you enjoy, such as a sweet. Notice what happens when you put a small piece of the sweet in your mouth. There is a burst of that delicious flavor, which brings an emotional joy. But then, remember what happens a second or two later. There is another emotional burst that comes right behind the enjoyment, and that is to repeat the experience. This is the meaning of attachment, or raga. In the definition above, anushayi is explained as being sequential, or closely following. It is this second wave of emotional experience, or desire, that is the attachment. It is different from the enjoyment from the first piece of candy. 

Attachment and memory: Just like eating the sweet or candy (above), a memory of that experience may suddenly arise at some other time. In a flash, that memory is experienced as enjoyable. If that pleasant memory were to simply arise and then drift away, back into the mind field from which it arose, there would be no problem. However, just like with the original piece of candy, it does not stop there. There is this second wave, closely following the rising memory, in which an active desire starts to grow. This second wave is the attachment. Once again, it is not the original enjoyment of the sweet that caused a problem. Even the memory of that experience arise is not, in itself, such a big problem. The problem is in that second burst, or wave, and that is called attachment. 

To witness this secondary process during daily life and at meditation time is an extremely useful practice to do. It provides great insight into the subtler nature of raga, attachment. In turn, it allows a far greater level of skill in learning non-attachment, vairagya, which is one of the two foundation practices of Yoga (1.12-1.16). By learning to witness the thinking process in this way, the colorings (klesha) gradually attenuates, as was introduced in sutra 2.4 and elsewhere.

Breaking the alliance: Three types of modifications of mind are mentioned in this sutra: attachment, memory, and sequence or memory. To break the alliance between these, and between seer and seen is the key to freedom from the bondage of karma in relation to attachment. Breaking of such alliances is discussed in upcoming sutras (2.12-2.25).


2.8 Aversion (dvesha) is a modification that results from misery associated with some memory, whereby the three modifications of aversion, pain, and the memory of the object or experience are then associated with one another.
anushayi dvesha)

  • dukha = pain, sorrow, suffering
  • anushayi = sequential attraction to, closely following, secondary accompaniment, resting on
  • dvesha = aversion or pushing away, hatred

Aversion is a form of attachment: Aversion is actually another form of attachment. It is what we are trying to mentally push away, but that pushing away is also a form of connection, just as much as attachment is a way of pulling towards us.

Aversion is just 
another form of attachment.

Aversion is a natural part of the mind: Dvesha actually seems to be a natural part of the universal process, as we build a precarious mental balance between the many attractions and the many aversions.

Aversion is both surface and subtle: It is important to remember that aversion can be very subtle, and that this subtlety will be revealed with deeper meditation. However, it is also quite visible on the more surface level as well. It is here, on the surface that we can begin the process of witnessing our aversions.

Aversion can be easier to notice than attachment: In relation to individual thought patterns, aversion is one of the two colorings that is most easily seen, along with attachment. Actually, aversion can be easier to notice than attachment, in that there is often an emotional response, such as anger, irritation, or anxiety. Such an emotional response may be mild or strong. Because of these kinds of responses, which animate through the sensations of the physical body, this aspect of witnessing can be very easily done right in the middle of daily life, along with meditation time.

Attenuating the colorings: Notice the process of attenuating the colorings in the next section. To follow this attenuating process, it is first necessary to be aware of the colorings, such as aversion and attachment. Gradually, through the attenuating process, we truly can become a witness to the entire stream of the thinking process. This sets the stage for deeper meditation.

Breaking the alliance: Three types of modifications of mind are mentioned in this sutra: aversion, memory, and sequence of memory. To break the alliance between these, and between seer and seen is the key to freedom from the bondage of karma in relation to aversion. Breaking of such alliances is discussed in upcoming sutras (2.12-2.25).


2.9 Even for those people who are learned, there is an ever-flowing, firmly established love for continuation and a fear of cessation, or death, of these various colored modifications (kleshas).
(sva-rasa-vahi vidushah api tatha rudhah abhiniveshah)

  • sva-rasa-vahi = flowing on its own momentum (sva = own; rasa = inclination, momentum, potency; vahi = flowing)
  • vidushah = in the wise or learned person
  • api = even
  • tatha = the same way
  • rudhah = firmly established
  • abhiniveshah = resistance to loss, fear of death of identity, desire for continuity, clinging to the life of

See also this article: 
Abhinivesha section of Witnessing your Thoughts

Protecting your false identities: Once the ignorance or veiling of our true nature (avidya, 2.4, 2.5) has happened, and individuality (asmita, 2.6) has arisen, along with the association with seemingly countless attractions (raga, 2.7) and aversions (dvesha, 2.8), there is a natural urge to protect that precarious balance of false identities.

Two inclinations: There are two natural inclinations after the individual false identities have been constructed:

  1. Love for continuation: The false identity is strongly held onto, even though it is a phantom. It is perceived to be "me" even though it is a construct of attractions and aversions. Even the aversions are clung to as part of the balancing act of false identity.
  2. Fear of discontinuation: Any perceived threat to those false identities is taken to be the threat of cessation or death. It is not just a fear of death of the physical body (though that might be the strongest attachment), but also the fear of death of any of the false identities.

Nobody is exempt: It is very common for seekers to fall into the trap of thinking that intellectual studies and understanding is sufficient on the spiritual path. This is particularly true in relation to practices such as described in the Yoga Sutras, where one can do endless analysis and debate of the Sanskrit sutras. Intellectual understanding is no protection whatsoever in relation to these colorings (kleshas) and the natural fear that arises in relation to their inevitable demise.

Understanding the need for uncoloring: We are so thoroughly entangled in our attachments and aversions that even reading about coloring and uncoloring might have little effect. We continue to say, "But, I am this or that; I want this or that." How often do you say, "If only I were completely free from all of my attachments and aversions"? We tend to only want to let go of the painful ones, while holding on to the pleasureful ones. The Yogi gradually comes to see how even the pleasureful attachments contain the seed of pain (2.15), and are thus to be set aside as well (2.16), so that he or she can truly rest in the true nature of the Self (1.3).

Wanting to keep things as they are: Once the balance has been attained between the many attractions and aversions, along with having the foundation I-ness and spiritual ignorance, there comes an innate desire to keep things just the way the are.

The resistance to losing the delicate balance
among the false identities is called 
fear of the death of those identities.

Fear of change: There is a resistance and fear that comes with the possibility of losing the current situation. It is like a fear of death, though it does not just mean death of the physical body. Often, this fear is not consciously experienced. It is common for a person new to meditation to say, "But I have no fear!" Then, after some time there arises a subtle fear, as one becomes more aware of the inner process.

Fear is natural: This is definitely not a matter of trying to create fear in people. Rather, it is a natural part of the process of thinning out the thick blanket of colored thought patterns. There is a recognition of letting go of our unconsciously cherished attachments and aversions. When meditation is practiced gently and systematically, this fear is seen as less of an obstacle.


The next sutra is 2.10 

Home   Top 




This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.