मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षाणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम्॥३३॥
maitrīkaruṇāmuditopekṣāṇāṁ sukhaduḥkhapuṇyāpuṇyaviṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaścittaprasādanam||33||

Through the cultivation of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion towards those who are suffering, joy towards those who are virtuous, and equanimity towards those who are non-virtuous, there is the calming of the mind.

The Yoga Sūtra 1.33

Maitrī can mean friendliness and kindness towards others, showing charity and good will. When a loved one is sad, stressed or going through a difficult time it can be easy to share your kindness with them, to support and uplift them in times of need.

Navigating others and their apparent need of kindness and goodwill can be a lot more difficult compared to those we know and love. It can be easy to judge others and maybe even with our best intentions and motivations the receiving person might not be open, available or even interested in what you have to say, offer and give.

The phrase “I gave them a piece of my mind” usually is to describe a moment of anger or frustration towards someone. Really all that it is doing is sharing your lack of peace and unease with someone else in hope that it will also bring their mind into the same frustration. We want to teach them a lesson and let them know how we feel. While sharing feelings is important, the way we go about it should be approached with peace rather than conflict.

There is something synonymous with yoga and peacefulness. Maybe it was the love and peace in the 1960’s or the carefree way of life of vagabonds and gentle tourists travelling through or around India. However there are very few teachings in yogic philosophy directly linking yoga and a peaceful existence. The Yoga Sūtra does, on a few occasions apply the framework and connections to develop peace of mind.

Modern spirituality likes to take pieces of various traditions (and sometimes create new ones) in order to guide or tell people what to do or how to act in certain situations to attain peace – or perhaps the appearance of it. This sūtra is not telling us what to do in certain situations but telling us how to be. Doing is more like giving someone a piece of your mind – “do this, do that”. Being is more like having a peaceful state of mind.

The usual teachings for this sūtra are in the workplace; your friend and co-worker is applying for the same promotion that you are. They earn the promotion and you don’t. Can you be happy for them? Joyful even?

Or your teenage child is bringing their new date over for dinner. Everything their date does and says is the opposite to how you raise your child and you think to yourself what do they see in each other? This young relationship makes your child happy – can you be happy for them? Even when you can see it ending badly or not in the way you had hopes for them? How much of your own peace and happiness is put onto others?

This yoga sūtra can be a four piece puzzle, or sometimes referred to as the four locks and keys. The first lock or piece is Happiness. How should we be or act to keep our mind peaceful when someone is happy? Patañjali says we should be Friendly toward them. Sometimes easier said than done, especially with complete sincerity (congratulations on the promotion!).

The second lock or piece is Unhappiness. How to act when someone is unhappy? Joining them in their misery is not going to make our mind any more peaceful and having a stiff upper lip attitude is not going to make them feel supported. Your child and their partner break up and they are heartbroken. Patañjali says to be Compassionate for those who are unhappy.

The third lock or piece is Virtue. When we witness someone displaying high moral standards it leaves an impression on us to hopefully do the same, to be inspired by others virtue is something we should be Delighted by and filled with Joy. Seems pretty straight forward, but what about others that we dislike or we witness someone displaying very low moral standards? Can we look deeper into their actions and if we know them well enough can we see and celebrate parts of them that are virtuous, even if what we mostly see of them isn’t that way?

The fourth lock or final piece is Nonvirtue. Unfortunately, it is all too often that we are witness to or are victims of injustices. It is important to know that this sūtra is not promoting aloofness or encouraging us to be non-caring. The key is your own Equanimity. Though it is a natural response to feel like striking back against someone’s wrongdoing, it is very rare that anger is solving problems that anger created. A clear and equanimous mind is strong and free of bias. This final piece and key to the lock also generates compassion and usually the nonvirtuous acts are based on others misdirected attempts to find fulfilment at the expense of others.

All four locks have their keys and the four pieces connect and finish the puzzle of a fragmented mind. These suggested ways of being are great not just for yoga practitioners but to everyone, it’s a way to expand our yoga practice and knowledge outside of the yoga studio. A nice reminder is to also keep these pieces connected when looking at ourselves and our own actions. Use your yoga practice as a means to be friendly with your own happiness, loving compassion for our own sorrow, joy filled at our own virtues and strength, patience and equanimity when working to eliminate our weaknesses.

Having our own peace of mind will reduce the chances of thinking we need to give others a piece of it.

– Doug Whittaker