Philosophy Discussion, 2/3/15 and 2/5/15

This week in our philosophy discussions we will address the last of the five kleshas (afflictions; causes of suffering): Abinivesha. According to Sutra II.9, abinivesha is the fear of death/clinging to life. Abinivesha is said to affect even the wise.

Here is what some of the commentators say regarding this sutra:

Love of life is sustained by life’s own force. This urge for self-perpetuation is so strong that it does not spare even the wise, and is an affliction for them and the ignorant alike. If even a highly educated, scholarly person cannot easily remain unattached to life, it is not difficult to gauge the feelings of an average individual. Abinivesha is an instinctive defect which can be transformed into intuitive knowledge and insight by practicing yoga. While practicing asana, pranayama or dhyana (concentration), the sadhaka (practitioner) penetrates deep within himself. He experiences unity in the flow of intelligence, and the current of self-energy. In this state he perceives that there is no difference between life and death, that they are simply two sides of the same coin. He understands that the current of self, the life-force, active while his is alive, merges with the universe when it leaves the body at death. Through this understanding, he lose his attachment to life and conquers the fear of death. This frees him from afflictions and sorrows and leads him towards kaivalya (liberation). (Iyengar)

The Self is eternal and unchanging, but due to ignorance (avidya, or the notion “I am this mind-body complex”), there is always the fear of its extinction. So long as ignorance is not removed by achieving Self-knowledge, the fear of death will exist in some form. If the “I” believes it is the mind-body complex, then it thinks “I” will die when the body dies. But the “I” is actually the eternal Self, so it cannot be affected by any changes to the mind or body. (Baba Hari Dass)

One feels secure only in the climate of continuity; abhinivesha is thus a search for security. It is one of the strangest things of life that man seeks security and continuity for that which is forever in a state of flux. Life is eternally dynamic and is therefore ever discontinuous. Abhinivesha is an effort to put the dynamic into a framework of the static; it is an effort to impart a quality of continuity to that which is discontinuous. (Rohit Metha)

Clinging to life requires attachment — an emotional dependence caused by:
The fear of annihilation
The habit of depending on self-effort to sustain our lives
Relying on sense experiences for happiness
Past-life recollections of dying