maitrī karuṇā mudito-pekṣāṇāṁ-sukha-duḥkha puṇya-apuṇya-viṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaḥ citta-prasādanam
To preserve the innate serenity of the mind, a yogi should
be happy for those who are happy
be compassionate toward those who are unhappy
be delighted for those who are virtuous, and
be indifferent toward the wicked
(translation by Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti Yoga)
The study of this sutra on a bright, sunny February morning in India was one of the (many) highlights of Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training. After meditation every morning, our teachers Jules Febre and Lady Ruth introduced a short text from scripture, be it Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita or another source. We took the time to translate, break down, ruminate over and chant the texts.
As explained by our teachers, this particular sutra explains how we can preserve our serenity of mind. These are the four 'keys' presented by Patanjali. Within these four keys there is always a way of responding to a situation that is both responsible and appropriate.
The last part - 'be indifferent toward the wicked' - was one that Jules ji and Lady Ruth took time to explain in depth. Too often, it's easy to define people by their deeds, or label people in certain ways due to their actions. They cautioned us against this, and urged us to resist responding to bad deeds with bad deeds. This would in fact keep those cycles, that energy, continuing. As explained further by Shyam Ranganathan, "Patanjali does think that the proper attitude towards evil is not wrath or anger, but equanimity." He also notes that in Patanjali's view, no person is truly evil, and "showing compassion to those who are unyogic in their lifestyle and behavior is an opportunity for us to practice yoga."
Being happy for those who are happy and delighted for those who are virtuous is not as easy as it seems, is it? Oftentimes, another person's happiness or success can cloud our own mood, as jealousy, ever so slight or not, seeps into our thoughts. "Wow, she got that promotion already? But she's 5 years younger than me!" "He's obviously doing well only because his parents helped him get to where he is today." How do such thoughts help us, or others? They don't, really.
"не так важно, что происходит вокруг,
важно как мы реагируем на это."
As I was mulling over this sutra I took a break for a moment (admittedly, to check Instagram). And what popped up on my feed from one of my devotee friends in Kazakhstan? The quote above from HH Radhanath Swami. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, given that I'd just been studying the yoga sutras and Bhagavad Gita at the Ecovillage run by Swami ji. The quote translates as such:
It's not so important what is happening around us -
What's important is how we react to it.
And there you have it. We can't always control what comes our way in life, but we can chose how we react to it. This is what's crucial to our own state of mind, for our own wellbeing. And of course, our own wellbeing has a ripple effect on the happiness of those around us. Patanjali's four timeless keys presented in this sutra serve as guidelines. I plan to remind myself of these keys as often as possible, building this sutra into my morning routine. I hope for the humility to apply it with grace to situations that are uncomfortable and difficult, and with ease to those situations that call for happiness and joy.
May this sutra serve as a tool in daily life for you as well!