What are the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali? Well that is most definitely, a very good question! It is a book of aphorisms which embodies the basic philosophies of yoga. Yoga consists of a set of practices which are meant to lead one into a state of higher consciousness. While I won’t get into that here, I thought it would be interesting to share how each Sutra can support and improve aspects of our everyday lives. The one I will talk about in this writing has to do with how we can maintain a state of internal well-being when dealing with people. Seeing as this is something we do every day, many times a day, I thought it would be relevant and helpful for all. Some people lift us up and others bring us down. It is up to us to learn how to nurture our inward steadiness. In the following Sutra, Patanjali outlines some basic skills we can sharpen to engage with others while affording our own mental composure.
I have referenced Sri Swami Satchidananda’s, “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” to bring the Sanskrit and translation for discussion here:
1.33- maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam
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.
This sutra can be helpful in keeping a peaceful mind in your daily life. It is sort of an all-encompassing passage which can be broken down to include four general categories of people that you will cross paths with in your life. These are sukha- happy people, duhkha- unhappy people, punya- the virtuous and apunya- the wicked. How we deal with people and their demeanor or attitudes will directly affect our own personal peace. It may be easiest to interact with people who are sukha-happy. Happy people are uplifting, the energy is contagious. I know when I encounter a joyful soul, I can’t help but feel glee just by speaking with them. To me it is electric, an instant connection of all things that are positive. I learned years ago that if you smile when you answer the phone, the person on the other end can hear the difference in the tone of your voice. This small change can lead to a more cheerful conversation. In my experience, it’s true! Notable especially in conversations with people at the workplace who have called with a complaint of some sort. The more exuberant I am, the quicker the conversation turns into a constructive one. So sometimes smiling is a fake it till you make it type situation 😉
I guess we have to talk about the duhkha or unhappy people next. They are ones that can put more of a damper on our day and interactions with this type of person are often perceived as negative. That is not to say that a close friend who needs help from you in a difficult situation is less deserving of your attention. I’m talking about the people who seem like big jerks. Like the crusty lady taking your order at Tim Horton’s or the rain cloud hanging over the bank teller you dealt with yesterday. These people can leave lasting poor impressions on you. How do we stop the negative energy from affecting our inner peace? We try to cultivate compassion towards them. This may seem difficult at times, especially when we ourselves are in a less than favorable mood. People who come across unhappy often have difficult things happening in their lives that we can’t possibly see from surface encounters. Sometimes people are dealing with their own issues and it is challenging to act upbeat when they are not. We are all human beings and to be empathetic towards those who need it is a kind and insightful way to behave.
The punya or virtuous people are those we can aspire to emulate. Like happy people, the virtuous are positive. They are compassionate and feel empathy, kindness and good will. These qualities are not found everywhere, so when you do find someone with an attitude that reflects genuine virtue, it would be advantageous to befriend them and grow your own virtuous qualities further. Connecting with people your intuition tells you are genuine feels like a true gift. The connection is strong and at times emotionally overwhelming in the best way possible. I value honesty with a high regard and so I feel like my description of this group reflects my reverence.
The last group identified by this sutra is the apunya-wicked. These are people who are often unable to take advice without being insulted. They are in a poor frame of mind and for the most part, people to avoid, if possible. Patanjali says to greet wickedness with indifference. Do not pour your own energy into wicked people. It will disturb your own well-being and come to an undesirable end, even if your intention is to help. I have wondered myself how to tell the unfriendly and wicked people apart. It seems that unfriendly people will be able to identify your kindness towards them and feel gratitude for your compassion, on some level. This can be seen in my telephone example of how conversations seem to become more positive. They are receptive to kindness. The wicked will be further insulted, regardless of the care you express towards them. They are the real jerks, in my opinion.
Well, this was just one verse of the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali. There are 195 of them. This one has some reminders about how we can deal with people in our day to day lives, personally and professionally. At the end of the day, our own sense of well-being and peace of mind is of utmost importance. We can’t possibly give to others honestly if we haven’t first nurtured our own spirit. It is essential for us to continually work on the maintenance of our personal balance. It is once we have established new positive patterns within ourselves that we can retain peace and serenity, where very little can penetrate the powerful, positive force we have become.
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi