Emotional Distress - Klesas


The different kinds of Emotional Distress (S. Klesas or Klistomanas) are the afflictions of mind that taint or defile comprehension of realities (dharmas).

Before the development of the idea of the twelve-fold wheel of dependence on origination, Sakyamuni taught this threefold formula for the second noble truth about origination:
Emotional distress creates causative actions (karmas)
Karmas create the resultant sufferings (duhkhas)
Sufferings create emotional distress (klesas)

Emotional troubles (S. klesas , J. bonno) are usually listed as the following ten:

Improper Intent (Motive)

Improper View (Opinion)


Greed, Sensual desire


Lack of believe in cause & effect




Clinging to views




Belief in the ego, egocentrism


Conceit, Pride


Belief in extremes, seeing things only in terms of the two extremes




Belief that rituals or asceticism will somehow lead to salvation or enlightenment

Generally speaking, the first four (greedy desire, anger, stupidity, and conceit) are considered the emotional troubles (klesas) of improper intent.

Also, generally speaking, doubt and the five false views (lack of belief in cause & effect, clinging to views, clinging to extremes, belief in the ego, and belief that rituals or ascetic practice will lead to enlightenment) are considered improper views.

Most kinds of emotional distress are conceptual errors (false views or opinions - darsana-heya klesas) and can be eliminated by the path of insight, which is proper knowledge of the four truths. This is completely true of doubt and the five false views, and partially true of the first four.

The most intractable kinds of emotional distress (bhavana-heya klesas) must be eliminated through the cultivation of meditation practice because they are habitual and ingrained compulsions. This applies to the first four, the emotional troubles of improper intent.

Through Buddhist practice:

Improper motive become Proper Intent:
1. Greed becomes generosity
2. Anger becomes patience & endurance
3. Stupidity becomes wisdom
4. Conceit becomes embracing of the precepts with humility
5. Doubt and distraction becomes mental (meditative) concentration

Improper views become Proper Views:
6. Lack of belief in cause effect becomes faith in cause and effect and understanding of karma and retribution (the temporary or provisional spiritual reality)
7. Clinging to views becomes understanding of the dialectic of emptiness
8. Believe in extremes becomes understanding of the middle way
9. Believe in the ego becomes understanding of Nirvana
10. Believe that ascetic practices or rituals will lead to salvation becomes understanding of the true path of enlightenment.

The teaching of the 108 kinds of emotional distress addresses the issue of dealing with emotions in detail.


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