Readings from Class: More of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra 1.33
Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali 1.33:
I.33 maitrî-karuñâ-muditopekæâñâä sukha-duïkha-puñyâpuñya-viæayâñâä bhâvanâtaå citta-prasâdanam
I have focused my study and practice on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33 (Chapter 1, verse 33) more fully over the last month. During this process, I have continued to share different translations and commentary on this sutra in classes.
“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.” – Sri Swami Satchidananda
From The Heart of Yoga:
“Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali 1.33: In daily life we see people around who are happier than we are, people who are less happy. Some may be doing praiseworthy things and others causing problems. Whatever may be our usual attitude toward such people and their actions, if we can be pleased with others who are happier than ourselves, compassionate toward those who are unhappy, joyful with those doing praiseworthy things, and remain undisturbed by the errors of others, our mind will be very tranquil.” – T.K.V. Desikachar
“Patanjali suggests that we cultivate friendship toward the happy, compassion toward the miserable, goodwill toward the virtuous and indifference toward those who are sinful. The choice of his words is deliberate. By cultivating friendship toward the happy we learn what it is to be happy and content with what is. By cultivating compassion toward the miserable we can see our own miserableness. Practicing goodwill toward the virtuous can help us to overcome our natural tendency toward jealousy. Indifference toward the sinful keeps us from judging and hating others.” – Judith Hanson Lasater, “The Ten Most Important Sutras”
The latter insight is from Judith Hanson Lasater’s article “The Ten Most Important Sutras” posted on her website. She has a great section on it that includes some of her writing. It is quite rich, so make time to visit.
[On a side note: I am grateful to have had the good fortune to study with her a year ago as she taught a workshop on The Lower Back and the Sacroiliac Joint: anatomy, asana and therapeutics at Back Bay Yoga.- I was very impressed and inspired by this exemplary, joyful sage. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to be in her presence which will be for her Restorative Yoga training in 2014.]
I must say that with this practice I do feel a difference, moving in the direction of citta vritti nirodha (Sutra 1.2), minimizing the fluctuations of my mind. I am really grateful for the ability to catch myself get triggered by people or situations and see my mind “go there.” Once the trigger is observed, my habits (any propensity to make assumptions, perceptions, pigeon-hole or dismiss) come to attention. This is when I do my best to proceed skillfully – start taking some focused breathes to find some space. With regular practice and the space to breathe, my personal challenge is to stop the auto-response and minimize how much the wheels start spinning. I am trying to release from the endless replay of scenarios/conversation and be more present and open.
Of the four types of people described in the sutra above, I am most challenged by the 4th type — “the evil or harmful people and events” and the applicable practice of indifference or equanimity in these scenarios. As some students have pointed out, this practice may seem like a pipe-dream or achievable only by the “holy” or cloistered among us.
I have caught myself quickly pigeon-hole someone who has appeared rude or when I sensed “negative vibes” as evil or harmful. In an effort to apply the teachings on the sutra, I strive to acknowledge similarities and my own imperfections and how I may be or have been capable of similar actions. As a result I am shifting my perception from taking things personally and seeing their behavior as “less than” ideal or mindful – as more of a mistake, than malicious. This realization is helping me see how much of this is my own perception or something I am putting upon them vs. “reality.” This has allowed some space for connection.
As I mentioned in class, this Sutra is truly rich, and always applicable as we cannot control people and events outside ourselves. When it comes to the people who may have “wronged us in the past,” these associations and triggers seem to persist ever more powerfully. Sutra 1.33 can be especially useful during holidays or other family gatherings. Please Do Not take my word for it, try it yourself.