In my classes on the Yamas and the Niyamas I talk about these three Malas that prevent us from seeing ourselves clearly.
The concept of the Malas comes from Tantric yoga scriptures. These scriptures provide us with an explanation of the nature of the Universe, a chart of principles of existence. This chart is called “The 36 Tattvas” and describes how “the One” (the source) becomes “the Many” (all that exists). In other words; What is the Universe and how do I fit in?
It is one thing to read and learn about “everything being one,” it is quite another to experience this at all times. We all have moments in our life where we feel that we are connected, that we have an insight into deeper parts of ourselves and we perceive oneness. More often though, we feel separate and different. This experience of differentiation comes from a power called Maya. Maya has three ways in which it operates; the three Malas. They are:
1. Anava Mala
Creating feelings of unworthiness, the source of incompleteness we experience. It gives rise to feelings of insecurity and sadness. Connected to the heart.
2. Mayiya Mala
Perception of difference, a separateness between us and the world. Creates comparison to others. It gives rise to feelings of jealousy and anger. Connected to the mind.
3. Karma Mala
The capacity for limited activity, the feeling of inability to act, not doing enough. It gives rise to feelings of worry and fear. Connected to the body.
These Malas are part of our existence, part of the fabric of who we are. As such, there is no need to get upset about it or even trying to “rid” ourselves from these perceptions. Yoga can teach us to become observant when these Malas come up. We cultivate the power of discernment to help us see that even though we feel a certain way, it is not who we are. With this increased awareness, we work with the Malas and not against them and we will be able to see ourselves as we truly are: Pure Consciousness.
For more information on the Tattvas and Malas, see the book “The Splendor of Recognition” by Swami Shantananda. Thanks to Samantha Coe for raising the question.