Dvesa (aversion) is the fourth of the klesa-s (causes of suffering) according to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.Dvesa manifests when we have a negative experience that causes pain or suffering (dukha). It can be seen as a protective mechanism. Dvesa is based on past experience: if we know something has hurt or wounded us we want to avoid that situation again at all costs.This seems like a reasonable need.

But as with all the klesa-s, our reactions are often unconscious which does not necessarily make them rational!

What if avidya or wrong perception (the root of the klesa-s) is lurking somewhere in the background? For example – we argue with a friend and it leaves us feeling upset. We might try to avoid them for a while so that the pain does not return. This avoidance is dvesa. But does the avoidance really make us happy or does it continue to cause pain each time we see that person? The issue is not resolved by ignoring it. Perhaps if we looked more deeply at the cause of the argument we might see that we have misjudged some information or put our own spin on the issue. Here is avidya (false perception) sitting at the root of the problem, as it often does. How we view things may not be accurate!

When suffering has occurred, aversion will naturally follow. For example – we might not want to eat a certain food because last time it made us sick. Or go into a certain café or shop because we find the staff rude. Perhaps we have an aversion to cooking because we don’t believe we are good enough at it? We all have our own little patterns of dvesa lurking within!

The challenge is deciding whether the aversion is reasonable or not. Is it excessive? Does it prevent us from leading happy and fulfilled lives?

Phobias are an extreme example of dvesa (aversion) – a completely irrational reaction to something that in probability is not going to cause us harm. The root cause of phobias can be hard to pinpoint and the result can be very extreme physical and emotional reactions!

The Yoga Sutras suggest meditation or reflection as a tool to prevent suffering of the klesa-s such as dvesa. When we give the mind space to move away from a problem that is overwhelming we begin to see its’ effects more clearly. Perhaps there is a pattern in our behaviour that causes us to get stuck time and time again? Recognition that there is suffering is the first step towards change. It can be easier to live in the muck than pull our way to the surface!

So keep getting onto the yoga mat and taking that time out to reflect…and allow the impact of the klesa-s to become less and less!

Next week the final klesa….fear (abhinivesa).

By Jill Harris