The Yoga Tutor

The Pancha Klesha

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 364 ]

Pancha Klesha: The Five Obstacles To Spiritual Growth

~ Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Translation: The lack of awareness of Reality, the sense of egoism or “I-am-ness,” attractions and repulsions towards objects (of the senses) and a strong desire for life are the great afflictions or causes of all miseries in life.

According to Maharishi Patanjali, there are “five hindrances,” or obstacles to spiritual growth:
  1. Avidya (ignorance)
  2. Asmita (egoism)
  3. Raga (cravings)
  4. Dwesha (aversions)
  5. Abhinivesha (clinging to life)
These pancha klesha, or five afflictions, are the motivating factors which drive humans to act in such ways as to produce and perpetuate karma, a subject that we will begin to explore in the next lesson. The pancha klesha are also considered the five roots of all the problems of human existence.

Avidya is said to be the 'mother klesha' from which all others spring forth, and rightly so. The base from which all obstruction to positive growth arises is lack of knowledge.

Why? Because if one is possessive of true knowledge (sat), then one understands the unity in everything, the oneness of the Self and the Universe, and hence, does not suffer from the afflictions of the ego (asmita). The erroneous belief of an individual, separate, self-originating being arises out of ignorance.

From this faulty foundation of belief, one constructs an entirely illusionary world, one in which one sees them self as separate from their surroundings, thereby developing a dualistic relationship with the world around them. This makes one crave (raga) to make things from 'without' part of their 'within'. They also become averse (dwesha) to things from 'without', that they do not desire 'within'.

With this worldly view, one lacks the fundamental awareness of one's true nature, a fundamental awareness necessary for evolution of the consciousness. Instead, in this ignorance one becomes further and further bound to material existence, exemplified in an inability to separate one's self from one's physical existence, and hence clings desperately to this life (abhinivesha).

This is the all-too tragic inevitability of our de-spiritualized cultures and societies today, where deep and profound understandings are not gained during life. As an ultimate result, most are gripped with a sudden and painful 'reality' at the moment of their death, which they are unable to understand. Death becomes an utterly shocking existential crisis which one has not the time left, nor the needed guidance to comprehend, and hence exits this world in great pain and fear, carrying with them all of the same ignorance and unawareness from this life, straight into the next.

These five inborn psychological dispositions, the pancha klesha, are rooted in the subconscious mind, known as the chitta. It is, therefore, in the complete eradication of the subconscious (pratiprasava) only that the pancha klesha themselves are dissolved. With minimal contemplation, it should be obvious to the yoga sadhak the obstructions that the pancha klesha place upon the path of truth and understanding...


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

"The Science of Yoga is a course worthy of

leather binding and an honored place in the
finest libraries in the world 
... It is indeed a masterful work."


Dr. John Michael Christian


Learn More About
The Science of Yoga Course

Yoga Affiliate Program
Free Yoga Lessons
Get Your Free Copy
Yoga in India
The Yoga Masters Course