1.33 People, People Everywhere
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 33 | COMMENTARY
Maitri-Karuna-Upekshanam Sukha-Dukha-Punya-Apunya-Vishyanam Bhavnatah Chitta-Prasadnam.
मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षाणां सुखदुःखपुणयापुणयविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रासादनम् ॥१.३३॥
Maitrikarunamuditopeksanam sukhaduhkhapunyapunyavisayanam bhavanatascittaprasadanam ||1.33||
By cultivating attitude of friendliness towards the happy, compassion towards the miserable, delight towards the virtuous and indifference towards the unrighteous, one can attain peace of mind and overcome the obstacles.
Human Beings are social animals, much dependent on the societal structure to grow, develop and turn into adults who help to make the world better. Our moods and our attitude towards people make a great deal of our state of mind. We all encounter people up to no good, out to disrupt plans and cause havoc because that is who they are. Many people are hurtful. Many are committed to morally compromised acts, and many who have made misery their identity and use that misery to pull others down too. There are people who are successful and then there are those who are jovial and charming. It is not what people do, what how we react to what people do that we can control. In this sutra, Maharishi Patanjali gives the secret to dealing with people in our lives.
The sutra reads that there are 4 types of people (a gross simplification if interpreted this way). A better understanding is that people are found in broadly 4 states of being –
- Engaged in Righteous acts
- Engaged in Unrighteous acts
Any person can be in these different states at different points of time. There are some qualities of our family members that are endearing, and some utterly annoying. You like your friend’s kindness, and but his stubbornness makes you want to punch him. And some cases are not so simple. Even if we don’t want to, sometimes jealousy arises when someone tastes success. We get into conflict with ourselves, arguing that this is not who we are. We usually create a distance from someone we are jealous of. We are mostly full of contempt for those who have no moral compass. We are stuck in both “good” and “bad”, letting the mind run in one direction or the other. If we can control our reaction to the acts and states of being of other people, we can keep our mind peaceful, not get distracted and continue towards our goal.
1. Friendly towards the happy – You are a real friend if you are happy when the friend achieves something and is happy. You don’t try to upstage him, bring him down or become resentful. It can be practiced the other way around to keep the mind peaceful. For all those that are happy and successful, have a friendly attitude towards them. Now, the attitude is in the mind. You may not actually be friends with such people, but you can train yourself to be happy for them, to appreciate them, and also to take inspiration from them. This keeps the mind on a positive track. It takes some practice to be happy for the successful for resentment is very easy now-a-days. Once you are happy for them, their success does not trouble you, and it does not dwarf your happiness in any way. You do not grovel in self-pity even if things are not as fortunate for you. In fact, it boosts your happiness further. This allows you to learn good things from them and yourself become happier and more successful.
2. Compassion for the Miserable – Misery is part of life, and more often than not, there is something that we can do about it if we are really looking to get out of it. On the other hand, it is very easy to build an identity around our misery, to make it an excuse for our failures, vices, and shortcomings. We make friends with people just so that we would have an ear to tell how unfair the world has been to us. It is not that misery is to be condescended – it is not to be glorified. We must not pity the miserable, we must be compassionate towards them. A compassionate mother of an ill child does not tell her son that disease is wrong in affecting him – she teaches him to be stronger and how to take care of himself. If you tell a miserable person that he has absolutely no hand in bringing the misery on himself (which is not true in most cases), we strip that person of his power to set things right. Many people do not want to get out of misery because it is a free-pass card. People will excuse them. They don’t know what they will do if they were not miserable. There is no obligation to associate with such people. Be compassionate for them, help them if you can but be away from them if they are not ready to get better. Protect your mind at all costs.
3. Delight towards the Righteous – It takes strength to be stand beside someone who has integrity of character and the courage to do what needs to be done without complaints. Such people make us very self-aware of our own weaknesses, our own temptations to which we frequently give in and these are not good emotions. We become angry, and instead of truly understanding that we are angry at ourselves, we project the anger on the virtuous people and more often than not, we label them as arrogant and believe they have a superiority complex when in fact we build an inferior complex. When such labels enter the mind, we become cynical, and cannot believe anyone do good without having an ulterior motive. It is a poor state of mind which causes a lot of pain. The mind wants to feel positive, and it tries to repeat things which made it feel positive. Delighting in the acts of the righteous trains the mind to be happy in virtuous acts (use your understanding to see what you categorize as righteous or unrighteous). We start emulating such acts ourself. We start developing a better personality. In the face of the virtuous, we stand tall, and use it as an opportunity to be virtuous as well.
4. Indifferent towards the unrighteousness – This might be the most difficult thing to do. Unrighteousness does not mean only wrong acts. It means anything you may not approve of or dislike. There may be someone you find stupid. Once you label them as stupid, all you can perceive is the label. They stop being a complex human being for you. Your perception is destroyed. Same goes for people you dislike. Every time you encounter them, all you can feel is your dislike, and you view every act and listen to every word of their speech with disdain even if they are speaking something that might be beneficial for you or someone else. It is very easy to feel smug, or superior to people. It then becomes very easy to turn people into labels. It is a violent process if seen objectively – a person is destroyed and made into a word. View people as people.
So many people are engaged in wrongful acts too. They cannot be at peace because their conscience won’t let them at sleep. Your disdain for such people does not let you be at peace – both good and bad are not at peace. Indifference does not mean you do not do anything to prevent wrongful acts. It just means you do not let it cloud your consciousness; you do not let it affect your core. Educate people if they are doing something wrong, but then let it go. Do what you can, but do not be disturbed. Evil is as much a part of the world as Good is. You cannot waste time being desolate about Evil, you do your part to bring Good into the world.