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Lesson 6 - The Five Emotional Disturbances

In the Lesson - 4 you learned several obstacles to Yoga. In addition to these obstacles certain emotional fluctuations or disturbances also hinder your progress. This lesson is going to elaborate these disturbances.

Emotion can be described as a are strong feeling about something. Yoga identifies five emotions that are disturbing in nature. They are - Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dwesha and Abhinivesha. Let's try to understand each of these emotional disturbances one by one.

Avidya means ignorance. Yoga and Upanishads time and again proclaim the same fact - "I am Bramhan". Avidya means ignorance about this very fact. We all ignore this fact and identify ourselves with this non-eternal material world. Suppose that you are tracking in a deep forest. Suddenly you came across a piece of rope and immediately you feel that it is snake. You start shaking with fear. Why this happens? Because of ignorance. You don't know the real nature of the "snake" and hence you take false thing as true. This ignorance is the root cause of the remaining four disturbances.

Asmita means ego or I-feeling. Ego is the consciousness that identifies Atman with this gross body. We all perform so many Karmas and while doing them we always identify ourselves with them as a doer. When we speak words it is the power of Bramhan that is responsible for it but we say - "I" am speaking. Thus "I" eats, "I" sees, "I" enjoys and "I" dies. In normal English the word ego is often used to indicate an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others. However, Asmita has much broader meaning. It is applicable to every flavor of "I"-ness. Let's take another example. Suppose that one fine day you left for the office in joyous mood. You had just finished your meditation. Your mind is full of Sattvic thoughts such as "I am Bramhan" and "All the universe is one". So far so good. You get into the local train and while doing so a co-passenger steps onto your new shoes. The moment this happens you forget that you are Bramhan. You forget that all the universe is one. Your ego awakens. You identify yourself with your body and angrily utter some ugly words. This is Asmita.

Raga means a feeling of anger born when pleasure is prohibited. Imagine that you wish to travel by bus to some place. You get into the bus and happen to notice a vacant window seat. Feeling happy you immediately rush to grab the seat. But just then a fellow passenger grabs it instead. Suddenly anger rushes in your mind and you start arguing with him. This is Raga.

Dwesha refers to aversion or hatred when you taste sorrow. Suppose that your colleagues complain about your mistake to your boss. He yells at you and warns of a strict action if you repeat your mistake. You feel hurt and start hating your colleagues. This is Dwesha.

Abhinivesha means clinging to life. We all have fear of death. We love this life so much that even a thought of death scares us. It is often said that death is not bad but the fear of death is. A 90 year old person who has enjoyed his life to the fullest still feels that he should remain alive. This is Abhinivesha. The Abhinivesha exists because of our attachment with this body and world around us. Except for a few advanced Yogis and Sanyasins Abhinivesha can be seen in every individual living being.

All these emotional disturbances are to be destroyed only when they are subtle. Once they become gross they rule you. To understand this observe yourself whenever you are angry. You will find that anger "builds" up and at some point it bursts. If you learn to destroy the anger when it is just "building up" then you can get rid of it easily. The same thing can be said about other disturbances also. You must control them when they are in subtle state else they will control you.

These emotional disturbances can be destroyed through various means. What are they? That is what you will learn in the next lesson.

Just to summarize this lesson:

  • Yoga identifies five emotions that are disturbing in nature
  • They are - Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dwesha and Abhinivesha
  • Avidya means ignorance
  • Asmita means ego or I-feeling
  • Raga means a feeling of anger born when pleasure is prohibited
  • Dwesha refers to aversion or hatred when you taste sorrow
  • Abhinivesha means clinging to life


Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant and trainer by profession specializing in Microsoft web development technologies. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he is also a yoga mentor, meditation teacher, and spiritual guide to his students. He is a prolific author and writes regularly about software development and yoga on his websites. He is programming, meditating, writing, and teaching for over 27 years. To read more about him go here. More details about his Kriya and Meditation online course are available here.

Posted On : 13 October 2006

Tags : Yoga Patanjali Raja Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Meditation Courses