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Home: Maya-Material Energy: 5 Kinds of Sufferings

Maya Causes 5 Kinds of Suffering

There are many kinds of material suffering that affect all living beings. An important part of the spiritual journey includes understanding these sufferings and the unhappiness they produce.

bondage of maya Unhappiness, sorrow or suffering is a byproduct of the influence of maya. This influence is sometimes referred to as a type of "bondage". This bondage is not in the form of actual bonds, like a rope, chains or any other kind of restraint. It is subtle and ever-present. Its effect ends only when it is eliminated forever.

We don't see this bondage or recognize it, so we think we are free and independent, but we are not. Complete freedom from maya (and suffering) only happens at the time of God realization. Maya isn't eliminated through our own personal effort. It ends only through God's divine power of grace.

Until then, material or mayic bondage is the source of all of our limitations. Because of this we don't experience unlimited Divine happiness. Even though the soul is a part of God, because it is within this material energy, it can't go to God.

Mayic bondage is of two types -- original and formed. Original means eternally we have been in mayic bondage. The prime form of bondage is the mind itself. This is sometimes called the "veil" of maya, because our vision of God is completely obscured. Although we practice bhakti yoga meditation with the mind, it is initially because of the mind that we don't perceive and experience God.

Formed bondage means that on the base of our original bondage, we create additional bondage in the form of mental attachments and all their affiliated emotions.

Kinds and types of material suffering

Every human being is affected by five forms of material bondage that create suffering.

  • Pancha klesha
  • Pancha kosha
  • Tri-karma
  • Tri-tapa
  • Tri-guna

These are described in more detail below.

Pancha klesha: 5 afflictions

Panch klesh --The Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanjali describe five maladies that afflict every material being. These are:

  1. Avidya -- ignorance (the source of the remaining maladies),
    the original veil of maya
  2. Asmita -- false pride or ego
  3. Raag -- affection for objects of the senses
  4. Dvesh -- animosity towards objects of the senses
  5. Abhinivesha -- fear of death

Pancha kosha: 5 material sheaths

pancha There are five (pancha) material sheaths (kosha)that envelop the soul like concentric rings, each more subtle than the succeeding one. Each succeeding kosha affects or controls the activity of the preceding kosha. These are:

  1. Annamaya kosh -- the food sheath
    The food sheath is the gross, physical body. It includes the five organs of perception (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch), and the five organs of action (prehension, locomotion, articulation, excretion, procreation). It is called food sheath because food or anna enabled it to come into being, it is maintained by food, and it ultimately ends up as food or the constituents of food.
  2. Pranamaya kosh -- the vital air sheath
    There are five vital airs that correspond to five physiological functions of the mind and body. They are called the five pranas. Together they constitute the vital-air sheath. They have been given this name because they are related directly to your breath.

    1. Prana (in breath) -- affects faculty of perception: the functioning of the five senses
    2. Apana (out breath) -- affects faculty of excretion: eliminates, "throws out" or evacuates the wastes of the body
    3. Samana -- affects faculty of digestion; digests food received by the stomach
    4. Vyana -- affects faculty of digestion; distributes digested food to different parts of the body through blood stream
    5. Udana -- affects the faculty of thought-absorption: takes in fresh knowledge

    These five faculties (pranas) are sharp and clear in youth. With age, the pranas lose their strength and vitality. This is why sight, hearing, etc. begin to fade with time and also the faculties of excretion, digestion and circulation become weak in old age. Our capacity to absorb and accept new thoughts and ideas is also reduced in old age.

    The vital air sheath (prannamaya kosha) is subtler than the food sheath (annamaya kosha). It controls the food sheath. When your pranas function properly your physical body remains healthy and strong. When they work inefficiently the body is adversely affected.

  3. Manomaya kosha -- the mind sheath
    The mind is comprised of passions and emotions, feelings, thoughts and impulses. It is full of likes and dislikes. The mental sheath controls the vital air and food sheaths. For instance, when the mind is disturbed, the physiological functions (pranas) and the physical body are affected.
  4. Vigyanamaya kosha -- the intellect sheath
    The intellect thinks, reflects, reasons, discriminates, judges, etc. It analyses and distinguishes between pairs of opposites. It controls the above three sheaths.
  5. Anandamaya kosha -- the bliss sheathThe bliss sheath consists only of mental impressions or tendencies in seed form called vasanas. When you are in deep, dreamless sleep you are in bliss sheath. When you cross the bliss sheath and move to other sheaths, you experience the dream and waking states of consciousness.

    Vasanas are inactive in deep sleep, but they manifest in the form of thought in the dream state, and actions in the waking state. Consequently you experience mental agitation, be it great or small, positive or negative, as long as you remain in the dream and waking states. When you enter deep, dreamless sleep, all your mental agitations cease and you experience undisturbed peace and bliss. This is why this sheath is called the 'bliss' sheath.

    However, the bliss experienced in deep sleep is material -- not to be confused with God's absolute divine bliss!

The five sheaths above may also be classified in another way:

  1. Gross body = the food sheath and a portion of the vital air sheath; actions and perceptions here are due to thoughts and feelings coming from the subtle body
  2. Subtle body = the subtle portion of the vital air sheath, and the mind and intellect sheaths; feelings and thoughts here are due to vasanas coming from the causal body
  3. Causal body = the bliss sheath

Tri-tap - 3 Kinds of Misery

There are three kinds of miseries that afflict every material being in maya. These are:
  • Daikhik tap -- physical/mental suffering (such as anger, greed, jealousy, lust, etc., and physical diseases)

  • Daivik tap -- suffering we experience from the environment (cold, hot, windy, rainy, etc.)

  • Bhoutik tap -- suffering we undergo from others (insults, anger, physical abuse, etc.)

Tri-guna - 3 Qualities of Maya

Tri-guna -- Every material living being is constantly undergoing the constant fluctuations of the three gunas of maya:

  1. Sattva
  2. Rajas
  3. Tamas

We experience these as part of our destiny (prarabdh karma) in the form of sanskaras or mental fluctuations that affect our mood, understanding, behavior and desires, and in the form of environmental changes in the world around us. Click here for a more in-depth discussion of how these qualities affect us.


The science of unhappiness gives us the tools to understand the kinds and types of maya mentioned above that affect us all.

Fortunately the scriptures of Hinduism, the teachings of Saints and bhakti philosophy tell us it's possible to eliminate the influence of all of these forever and attain our ultimate aim of perfect divine bliss.