Jan 18, 2013

Sutras 1.5, 2.3. - 2.9. Klesha. A very conceptual article:)

वृत्तयः पञ्चतय्यः क्लिष्टाऽक्लिष्टाः ॥५॥
1.5. vṛttayaḥ pañcatayyaḥ kliṣṭā'kliṣṭāḥ

The category of "klesha" by no means refers to the group of words that should be rather explained than translated. Moreover, the situation with this category translation is just as confusing as it is with other key psycho-technical terms.

The Russian-Sanskrit dictionary offers the following translation variants: 1) torment, suffering, 2) malady, disease; 3) difficulty 4) inconvenience. As we see the semantic field is originally wide enough to make the translation no longer obvious. Other common Russian translations only aggravate the situation by further expanding the field and introducing there the terms of obviously contradictive meaning: love for life, attachment to existence, almost the same as Kama (seems like someone was much affected by neuroses - A. S.), grief, pollutions, destructive emotions, disturbing emotions, negative emotions, mind poisons, etc.

The field of English translations of the word klesha has appeared not to be just wider – it has happened to have a completely different semantic kernel: Afflictions, Mental afflictions, Mental disturbances, Afflictive emotions, Conditioning factors, Destructive emotions, Defiled emotions, Defilements, Dissonant emotions, Disturbing emotions, Negative emotions, Dissonant mental states, Kleshas, Passions, Poisons, Mind poisons, Worldly desire. I.e. while Russian translators in fact develop the explanation of the “klesha” category around the term "suffering", the English ones base it upon "emotion". It would be also interesting to read the variants of German and French schools of oriental studies. I guess it will tell us much about the national mentality but nothing about the main point of “klesha”[1].

It is interesting to note that the number of translation variants of the word "klesha" is much larger than, for instance, that of the "vritti" or "nirodha" categories, and they are more diverse. This happens due to the fact that klesha is one of the most significant categories in Buddhism and thus it bears the burden of religious perception and interpretation, which is sometimes not very accurate. For instance, on the basis of the reasoning that in Buddhism the existence of kleshas is considered to be the cause of the person’s presence in the wheel of life, and such presence was postulated by Buddha as suffering (dukkha [2]), they make a not very logic "conclusion" that klesha = suffering. Just like the citation of emotional states among kleshas enable them to draw a conclusion that klesha = emotions. Of course none of these conclusions stand up to criticism.

There is another trend in translating the category of klesha that actually bears religious character and is based upon inappropriate use of psychological categories. For instance one’s attempt to translate klesha as "affect" shall cause deep surprise of a psychologist. They also try to hide their failure to comprehend the category by means of attributing it with some negative metaphors, for instance, the translation of the word "klesha" as "destructive emotions" leaves the reader deep in thoughts about the issue of which emotions he should consider as constructive and which ones are of destructive character. And in scope of Buddhism such translation is completely absurd since by the data ALL human actions are subject to kleshas.

Thus having made a review of the existing translations and understandings I have to conclude that we cannot rely upon them in comprehension of the considered category. Neither can the word klesha be avoided, since Patanjali uses it in six places and in particular, as we have mentioned above, he says in line 1.5 that "there are five classes of vrittis – those of klesha and a-klesha nature". Therefore the category of klesha is significant for understanding the category of vritti which is of key importance in terms of comprehending the core subject of Yoga according to Patanjali.

However, there is good news here. In lines 2.3-2.9 Patanjali himself introduces the definition of the klesha category, or rather gives their complete list.
In line 2.3 he specifies five kleshas: 

अविद्यास्मितारागद्वेषाभिनिवेशाः क्लेशाः ॥ ३॥
2.3 avidyāsmitā-rāga-dveṣābhiniveśāḥ kleśāḥ

avidyā - is usually translated as ignorance (in Buddhism-oriented schools of translation), nescience, unenlightenment, the lack of proper vision, since "a-" is a negative prefix, and "vidya" can be conveniently translated as knowledge;
asmitā - is traditionally translated as egoism, self-identification. However these terms are too emotionally and mentally tinged, that is why in scope of verbatim reading: asmi - I am, -tA – the abstract noun suffix, I would suggest a somehow clumsy but more appropriate term "I-ness" (“Me-ness”);
rāga is traditionally translated as passion (once again, conveniently, due to Buddhism), aspiration, desire. However, its literal translation is "paint, color, dying". And it is far from the category of "passion.";
dveṣa - is often translated as hatred, yet the dictionary offers for this word a fairly wide range of meanings from the viewpoint of emotional colouring: non-acceptance/antagonism, antipathy, hostility and hatred itself;
abhiniveśāḥ is usually translated as fascination with being/existence, fear of death; however, the structure of this word is: abhi (extremely) + ni-vesha (entry) - from the verb vish (to enter). Thus a more precise variant would be “extreme engagement”;

So we’ve got 5 terms that according to Patanjali are united by a common feature that he has unfortunately failed to mention and that will help us to understand the meaning of klesha in case we manage to find it. We can immediately see that in terms of such view upon the five listed words this feature does not come as obvious. Indeed, upon such understanding of kleshas two of them belong to the world of emotions (raga and dwesa), one is a cognitive process (avidya), one is pseudo-moral (myself-ness) and the last one is of completely unclear nature (for the purpose of scientific approach let us call it the existential one J - the abhinivesha). Maybe the proposed interpretations of these words are not entirely accurate in some small yet important details? Just like it was with translation variants of smriti as memory or memories, and nidra as sleep or dream that we have discussed in the section dedicated to vritti .... Let's try to think in a more profound way.

Let's start with the word avidya. Generally speaking the term vidya stays not for the knowledge in the meaning accustomed to us yet it means something more. Sometimes in order to emphasize it they translate the word vidya as magical knowledge, but it creates some poor connotations. On the other hand there is a detailed description of the class of creatures, the Vidyadhars (literally, the keepers of knowledge) who are in fact people endowed with supernatural power. Moreover, their knowledge (vidya) is personified is a spirit (usually a female one) that can be attained through performing an appropriate ritual or can be lost subject to misbehavior. They are opposed to the Siddhas who were considered as creatures of a higher class containing their abilities (the siddhas) in themselves [3]. There are two obvious connotations: one is to shamanism and the shaman's guiding spirit [4], the other one is to the category of Prajna in Buddhism. The latter one was also often personified in a woman performing sexual act with the one who knows upaya (the yab-yum). But for us now it is important that vidya is not just any knowledge but the knowledge of some certain order.

But let us turn to the Yoga Sutras text. Patanjali gives a direct definition of each klesha that we can make use of. However, since it is a delicate subject that is topical for conscious and unconscious frauds, we shall not be relying upon any of the available Yoga Sutra interpretations and shall make an interlinear translation.

2.3 avidyāsmitā-rāga-dveṣābhiniveśāḥ kleśāḥ

The line does not require translation and contains the list of kleshas that we have already made use of.
Here comes the definition of avidya:

अनित्याशुचिदुःखानात्मसु नित्यशुचिसुखात्मख्यातिरविद्या ॥ ५॥
2.5 anityāśuciduḥkhānātmasu nityaśucisukhātmakhyātiravidyā 

anitya- nonpermanent;
aśuci - impure;
duḥkha - unpleasant;
an-ātmasu - the one that does not relate to Me / Ego;
nitya – constant;
śuci – pure;
sukha - pleasant;
atma - Self;
khyātir - perception;
avidyā  = avidya.

Basically all words except for the atma - anatma dyad are easy for understanding and do not admit of doubt. Regarding the said pair of words, as if “inspired” by somewhat obscure Indian philosophy, one may have a great mind to translate it as the Atman and non-AtmanJ. But let's refrain from doing this and remember that, first, Patanjali himself is the predecessor of philosophy and he does not introduce new complex categories without explaining them directly in the text, and second, that the great men use to speak in a simple way. That’s why in order to translate the word atma let us take the simplest variant – I. Then the meaning of the line and avidya shall become clear. A person in the state of avidya takes the things that are impure, impermanent, unpleasant and not unrelated to his ego for something pure, constant pleasant, for the Me (I). Here I will explain about the "Me". What most people take for their ‘Me’ is in very deed only a set of programs, roles and stereotypes. Any personal advance (not only in scope of yoga) is feasible only subject to one’s disengagement with this set. As s wise man of old times said "Yoga ends with the words: "This is me” J. However not everybody is able to perform at least some partial disengagement. Rather often such disengagement may happen subject to influence of some external circumstances when one’s traditional roles come in conflict with modified reality or with each other. In such situations a person shall either go through an existential experience rising above his roles (this experience being that chitta-vritti-nirodha - but here I'm jumping ahead of myself) or he shall become a victim of a bad neurosis. The reluctance to disengage with one’s accustomed, habitual self is the avidya.

In terms of the given reasoning we start to see the specific feature that is common for all kleshas. Let us translate the following line:

दृग्दर्शनशक्त्योरेकात्मतेवास्मिता ॥ ६॥
2.6 dṛg-darśana-śaktyor-ekātmatevāsmitā 

dṛg - (from drish) – the One who sees;
darśana - the point of view (in Indian philosophy they referred to darshans, in particular, as to the key systems of thought);
śaktyor - of the two powers;
eka-аtmata - the only (identical) being;
iva – as if;
asmi = asmita.

Thus we shall develop the translation (that happens to differ much from those traditional ones):

2.6 The person’s identification with his point of view is the asmita.

There is obviously the criterion of advance laid here. A person can develop only in scope of critical reevaluation of his views and their renunciation. The core point of the term asmita (ego-ness) also becomes clear – it means the inability to see and to hear the knowledge that lies beyond the limits of one’s Ego.

The following two lines dedicated to raga and dvesa are also easy to translate:

सुखानुशयी रागः ॥ ७॥ 
2.7 sukhānuśayī rāgaḥ 

दुःखानुशयी द्वेषः ॥ ८॥
2.8 duḥkhānuśayī dveṣaḥ 

We already know the words suhkha and duhkha, while the word anushayi that is common for both lines is translated as “to hold on to”, i.e. it means “the attachment”. Thus, raga and dvesa are the attachments to some pleasure and displeasure. And here we cannot but recollect Milarepa with his conceptual saying that “the problem does not come from desires but from one’s attachment to them”.

Patanjali does not give the definition of abhinivesha having confined himself to observation that it is inherent even to a man of wisdom, but apparently a compound word with such a rich structure does not require any explanation. So let us leave the translation that we have made: the "extreme engagement."

Now we are well placed to do the generalization. The five factors that Patanjali has referred to as kleshas are nothing else but the man's inability of disengagement. Taking into consideration the complexity of the term avidya we can even say – one’s inability of transcedenting or metanoya. The most appropriate Russian word for translating the term klesha might be the “narrow-mindedness” in the meaning we use it in the phrase "a narrow-minded person". But having given such explanations I shall further leave this word in text without translation.

[1] Having reconsidered the issue once again after the text of the article had been already written I have come to the conclusion that such emphasis we find in English and Russian translation versions can be explained. The English school of Buddhist studies was being formed in the post-Victorian era when the Western culture has not yet assumed its emotionalism as inspired by psychoanalysis, and the ideals of spirituality were associated with Protestant ones. Thus the first researchers have unconsciously projected these ideals upon Buddhism. Hence comes the rejection of emotionalism that was attributed to Buddhism. And regarding the “sufferings” of Russian intelligentsia no comments are required.

[2] Though I consider this traditional translation of the word dukkha to be not much accurate. But as they say, “this is a completely different story”.

[3] See Somadeva “The Ocean of Stories”.

[4] In general, in order to understand the subject matter of any esoteric system one needs to understand the essence of shamanism. Since it is there that the groundwork of any psycho-technical system is laid, including Yoga, Hesychasm, Sufism, Tantra and so on (though by drawing this phrase I shall lay myself open to a number of haters who are proud to belong to some particular unique teaching J).

No comments:

Post a Comment