Yoga sutras of Patanjali 1.33

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By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness

In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.

Sri Swami Satchidananda says even if you ignore all the other sutras, you could follow this one and gain benefit. In this sutra, Patanjali says there are 4 types of people we will meet – happy, unhappy, virtuous and non-virtous. I am rather uncomfortable with categorising / labelling people in this seemingly reductive manner, but I can see what it is getting at. The labels are fluid, and just because someone is ‘non-virtuous’ at one stage in their life, does not mean there is no hope for them.

Bearing in mind that what we are trying to achieve is serenity of mind, Patanjali gives us states of mind to cultivate. When we meet a happy person, we should cultivate friendliness, rather than jealousy for their happiness or what they have.

When we encouter sad people, we should show compassion and help them. At times, these people may cause us to feel irritated or frustrated – we might want to help them, but may not know how.

When we meet virtuous people, we should show delight and try to imitate them. Rather than feeling intimidated or jealous of what they have achieved, we should try to emulate them, and show happiness and goodwill.

Patanjali says when we meet non-virtuous people, we should disregard them or be indifferent towards them. I find this difficult, as instinctively I want to help everyone. Swami Satchidananda says there is still hope for these people, but they have to experience things for themselves, and will rarely take advice anyway. I suppose I can reconcile this somewhat by thinking that if I model what being ‘virtuous’ looks like, then they might have the realisation for themselves that things need to change.

All of these attitudes Patanjali suggests do not deny our feelings to the contrary, E.g. if someone in our family has the flu (sadness) and we have to change our plans, we may still feel annoyed that we have to change our plans. The goal is not to not feel that, but rather to notice that it is there, be mindful of it, but try to cultivate an attitude of support instead. This will lead to more serenity of mind than feeling irritated.

A very simple, but useful summary:

When faced with someone who displays… Try to cultivate…
Happiness Friendliness
Unhappiness Compassion
Virtuosity Delight
Non-virtuosity Indifference

 

 

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