Sutra I.33 – Chapter I, Sutra 33

मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम्॥३३॥

maitri-karuna-mudita-upeksanam sukha-duhkha-punya-apunya-visayanam bhavanatah-citta-prasadanam

A serene and peaceful mind (citta-prasadanam) is cultivated (bhavanatah) by being friendly (maitri) towards happy people (sukha), compassionate (karuna) towards those who are suffering (duhkha), delighted (mudita) with those who are virtuous (punya) and disengaged or undisturbed (upeksa) by those who are doing harm (apunya).

PRACTICAL LIVING     The previous sutra (sutra I.32) explained the importance of choosing ONE thing and committing to it for a long period of time. This sutra suggests one solution to focus on to cultivate more inner calmness, more peace, more ease in life: relationships.  A wise Yogi, TKV Desikachar, once said that the way we know Yoga is working for us is if our relationships are getting better. What??!! Yes, think about it. Our relationships, especially the closest ones, are a clear mirror of our internal state. When we are feeling good, confident and optimistic our social interactions reflect that: they tend to be smoother, more positive and even more meaningful. The opposite is also true.

Since relationships are such a huge part of our daily living and also have the potential to bring so much joy, Patanjali suggests that we practice our Yoga throughout our day while we relate to others. He summarizes people’s actions into 4 different categories and tells us that we have 4 great ways to (re)act to those to cultivate more calmness, more peace, more clarity:

  • maitri: for those who are happier than us – be happy for them and celebrate with them. Often we feel jealous that someone else is happier than us, poisoning ourselves and often ruining others’ success.
  • karuna: for those who are suffering, or not as happy – have compassion for them,  acquiring a softness and considerateness towards the other person. This requires us to leave the “me-centered” perspective we are in most of the day, worried about MY growth, MY finances, MY happiness…and approach a “you-centered” approach – being there for those who may need us, even if it’s only for 2 words, or one minute. Frequently when someone else is suffering we judge them, closing ourselves to a relationship with that person, allowing the ego to say things such as “If only he/she got a job, then…”.
  • mudita: for those who do good deeds and are successful – praise them and be delighted for them. The ego also manifests as envy when we see others succeeding, reaching their goals, or even having a life we wish to have.
  • upeksa: for those who do bad things – Patanjali suggests that we avoid them, get distance and focus on something else. Remain emotionally uninvolved, understanding that these people are themselves suffering and don’t see clearly. This does not mean, walk away from a violent act. It means, do what you have to do without having to give them advice or a life lesson. Often people who are doing harm are defensive and don’t want help.

It is important to remember that the entire purpose of Yoga is to cultivate more inner peace FOR ME. Therefore, through this sutra Patanjali has no intention in making us believe that we will change other people’s lives directly. These suggestions are for us to find more inner stability ourselves. The beauty, however, is that the happier and calmer I am, the more those who surround me feel that.

Patanjali is suggesting that we replace tendencies such as jealousy, hatred and anger with those of friendliness, joy, compasssion and detachment. Positive psychology says that this might be a hard replacement to make for some people. It therefore suggests that we begin by using tools such as loving kindness meditation, a technique done alone, which helps us open our hearts and change our attitudes towards others as a result (read the next section for detailed instructions on this meditation).

Since this is a difficult technique for some people (i.e. having an attitude of compassion for a person that has hurt you or someone you love), he suggests 6 other techniques for us to choose from in the following sutras. As we explore the next few sutras, choose ONE that resonates with you, that see yourself committing to for a long period of time and with enthusiasm.

IN THE YOGA WORLD     This sutra presents the simple concept that there are four types of locks out there: happy, unhappy, virtuous, and non-virtuous. Coincidentally, we have 4 keys to work with: friendliness, compassion, enthusiasm and detachment. By carrying these 4 keys at all times with us, we ensure that we can always open a door whenever we find a lock, moving from a state of vikshipta (restlessness and anxiety) to a state of prasadanam (peaceful bliss).

Loving-kindness meditation (mentioned above) is an ancient practice that has been proven to enhance people’s happiness and well-being levels. A beautiful ritual that I have committed to on a daily basis follows the basic guidelines below:

– Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed for 10 minutes (set an alarm if this will help you keep your mind off the time).

– Sit comfortably (on a chair or on the floor) with a straight spine.

– Close the eyes and begin to slow down the breath, in and out through the nose.

– Notice the movement on the chest and abdomen with each inhale and exhale.

– Then choose one person you love, and with each breath, say mentally to yourself the following phrases (one breath per phrase):

May he/she feel safe

May he/she feel happy

May he/she feel healthy

May he/she live with ease

– Repeat this, sending your love to this person with each breath.

– Next, expand your visualization to other loved ones, your family or other friends, later including people that are not very close with, like the person you bought your coffee from this morning.

– End by sending this love to everyone, people you both know and don’t know.

‘bhavanatah’ implies that this requires repetition, it’s a practice that is cultivated through time. This idea of practice is repeated throughout the sutras, starting with sutra I.1 and sutra I.12, which both talk about commitment and the understanding that in order to change, action is required. Can you include a 10-minute loving-kindness meditation practice into your day?

INSPIRATIONAL PERSON     Budu is like a brother to me. We have known each other since Sutra I.33-Budukindergarden and have been close friends since then. He is a positive, smiley, optimistic and fun-loving person! He is one of those friends you want around because of his lightness, his ability to bring comfort and just a laid-backness to any situation. Recently we had some beautiful conversations about people and the nature of change. His perspective was so open, so clear, so well-rounded. His ability to understand that people change, that people have different perspectives and opinions really opened my eyes. His words showed me the four behaviors in action: love, compassion, enthusiasm and detachment. Budu, thank you for the many years of beautiful friendship, of shared history, of laughter, of wonderfulness! Te adoro MUITO Buduzito!

Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!

Thanks and next week we will look at how the breath can change our state of mind and quality of life!

13 thoughts on “Sutra I.33 – Chapter I, Sutra 33

  1. I think it’s a little funny with the timing of my life with work at the moment and just now reading this sutra. I say this because it’s just been a little rough and I’m definitely needing to work on the maitri category. We just had our reviews recently, and this is the first year in 8 that I received an “achieves expectations” rather than “exceeds expectations”. Silly, I know, but definite ego buster. With that said, one of my coworkers that I really enjoy who has worked with the company for a lesser amount of time just got a promotion, so needless to say, jealousy is raging in my head. I’m having a hard time feeling happy for this person because I already am so unhappy with my job that is a hard thing to do. Also, I feel like this could possibly be making me “that guy” that you’d want to detach from mentioned above. So, I think it’s time for me to do the loving-kindness meditation into my daily routine. Thanks for the suggestion in the sutra. 🙂

  2. This sutra is a layout of how I turned my relationships around during my anxiety transformation. I was always alright with the maitri’s, karuna’s, and muita’s, but the upeksa’s were where I struggled and still do. My only goal I life is to help people because I know when I was in a time of need, that was my only wish. Back in the day, I used to give EVERYONE a life lesson speech when they were down, wanted advice, ect. No matter how many times ‘Rachel’ broke up with ‘Jake’ I was always the friend she could bitch to when no one else wanted to hear it. Now a days, I pick and choose my speeches. One because I then avoid repetition in wasting my time trying to fix other relationships, I avoid conflict, and don’t feel down when I can’t help someone. I’m excited to try the mediation exercise as well. I feel it will help me greatly to love the one’s around me even more<3

  3. Hang out with the right crowd :). We are all entitled to choose our peers or to be with our favorite ones. Thus, choose wisely. We definitely want to be with our loved ones, with the funny, witty friends and not with the Debbie downers. Although if our friends are a bit of a frowner, we could tolerate or listen to their stories and encourage them to feel better without letting them dragging us down. (treat them with care, yes :)). At work, if i am surrounded with a group of experts, i feel much more confident and gain lots of benefits through learning their experiences and guidance. Otherwise, if i sit through a meeting with people arguing about certain things without much experience, it could be a waste of time sometimes.

  4. Pingback: Sutra II.11 – Chapter II, Sutra 11 | weeklysutra

  5. I love the idea that my perception and approach to relationships is within my control. I have a tendency to get hung up on the concept of fairness – it always seems that the traits I lack are the ones that get rewarded out in the world. As I write this thought, I recognize my wounded ego – I am working hard to let go of this perceived slight. Even if I try and move my awareness from a place of self-centeredness, I see that others suffer the same: why are certain people, certain traits, certain personalities, certain abilities valued by the collective more than others? I despair at these injustices. I also realize that we are all complex, and that we all carry and perpetuate various forms of injustice and judgement – just some differently than others. I cannot change the world, but what I can do is be aware of and change my own behavior. If someone is happy, I feel joy for them. If someone is successful, I feel pride at their accomplishments. If someone is suffering, I feel and behave compassionately. And if someone is cruel or perpetuates harm, I acknowledge it but I do not let it affect me. In fact, if someone perpetuates harm, I hope to feel compassion for them as well. Not pity, but rather to meditate on a feeling of love toward that person despite their actions. I am looking forward to learning the other methods to approach these relationships.

  6. I feel I am pretty good at the detachment technique. I have realized that you cannot change people and either I accept them as they are, or I decide that they are not a good fit in my life and I let them go. I don’t hang on to ideals of how I think people should act. I don’t expect people to act in any other way than to be who they are and have shown themselves to be. I detach from the drama so many grab onto and perpetuate. I don’t like how the negativity affects me so I release those people and situations from my life as best as I can. Occasionally those people are family, so I do my best to be happy for them and their accomplishments or bring words of encouragement if needed, and try to leave it at that. I absolutely love this loving-kindness meditation. This world needs to much more love and less hate and unhappiness. The place to start is with me :o)

  7. I do pretty good with maîtri, karuna, and mudita. I struggle with upeksa. Once I have been hurt by someone and I know the relationship will not improve I struggle with keeping my emotions out. I trying keeping my distance and when I am in a situations that doesn’t allow me to I try to be as detached as I can. I love the meditation it has become my daily morning and nightly centering.

  8. I really had to work with this one this past month. My family has a harsh view of me and it is hurtful. I had to speak my truth and detach from unkind words. I was surprised how much it affected me. In the end my detachment was helpful and allowed for better communication with my sisters. I work hard sometimes at work accepting people who seem to handle tough situations with ease, and then I remember to be happy for them. That has also helped me to feel more content and less frustrated with myself. Good stuff.

  9. I love the concept of having the keys to use when you hit these doors or blockages. Becoming more aware of how I see and interact with people and my reaction and how I process it afterward are something I am working on. The full circle of result that working on yourself will then result in better relationships shows that I am on the right path. I have been a people pleaser my whole life. While I LOVE helping people, I still felt this void in my own cup. I now realize when I practice gratitude, yoga, breathing, meditation that I fill my own cup so that my interactions are more true and grounded.

  10. This sutra makes me think of a phrase “lead by example”. Just knowing that I have choices and the keys to make choices everyday is so calming. Recognizing that I make the choice to be happy for someone, or jealous, compassionate of judgmental, celebrating someones else’s success or resenting it, and upeksa, accepting that some people are just going to do bad things and not feel like I have to try and fix it has brought some peace to my mind. I think I usually and the happy, compassionate, praising person, but I know I think I should really try to fix someone, and in truth they may not want to be fixed at all. Also, knowing by living my life in alignment with this sutra I am able to give a calmer place to the people I know and love. Love the calmness that comes from the mediation also

  11. My family laughs at me because I am always losing my car keys. Wish I’d had these keys years ago. Having been a single mom, I remember being jealous and feeling uncomfortable around some of my married friends. They would try to include me in gatherings or outings, but I always felt like a “third wheel”. Reflecting on this, I see how I really missed out on a lot of opportunities to connect with and spend time with great people. And I wasn’t any happier for it. So I’m glad to have this maitri key now. And I hope I can find it when I need it…for their sake and mine.

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