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Serene Intelligence

Maitri Karuna Muditopeksanam Sukha Dukha Punyapunya Visayanum Bavanatas Citta Prasadanam – YS 1.33.

By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard towards the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness – interpretation by Sri Swami Satchidananda.

In the above Yoga Sutra, Patanjali outlines practical keys for us to maintain our innate serenity of the mind (citta prasadanam – a blessed state of mind). Serenity is the true nature of our mind, happiness is who we really are. The false nature of our mind arises in those moments of jealousy, depression, fear, despair, hatred and anger. If we can seek the cause of moments that change our true state and contemplate the opposite, we can move closer to viewing all beings as their true, blissful form.

The tenets of YS 1.33 address how we see someone, so that once we acknowledge how we see a given person the practice becomes treating them according to the four tenets…instead reacting to our own quick judgements, criticism or scrutiny.

At first the advise from Patanjali seems obvious, almost common sense. Yet there are times when it’s hard to be happy for people that are happy (sukha), such as when we feel jealousy or we disagree with the source of that person’s happiness. We may get upset or try to quash their elation, but no party wins when their joy is taken away. Serenity is lost because the relationship becomes damaged. We instead can recognise that just for this moment that person is happy – ultimately moments don’t last and happiness in this world is so rare. We can tap into our heart centre of friendliness (maitri) and feel love and joyful what they are experiencing also. After all, happiness is not in limited supply and one person having happiness does not mean that it takes it away from someone else. There is enough joy for everyone.

There are also times when it’s difficult to see a friend or loved one unhappy (dukkha) without getting upset ourselves. Yet being upset or angry doesn’t serve to bring them out of their depth of depression or despair, it just exacerbates the situation. Instead, its much wiser to go deeper with empathy and understanding, then perhaps we can help. Compassion (karuna) literally means “to suffer together” -deep awareness of the suffering of another accompanied by the strong desire to relief it. So if we can connect to the suffering in the hearts of those that we relate to, we can understand the human within them and through this connection we may be able to transform that suffering.

Patanjali’s sutra also indicates we should not view those who are virtuous and fortunate (punya) as simply lucky or even undeserving. Nothing is arbitrary and God/the universe doesn’t “roll the dice”. Many karmas, past and present, are in place and you may never understand what karmas (or actions and consequences of actions) the fortunate person has resolved to get where they are today. We all have our own challenges and struggles, we’re all in the cycle of resolving and purifying our karmas in this life together. Therefore being delighted (mudito) for another being that has come so far will only help to further transform your own life into a one of bliss.

The final tenet of YS 1.33 goes against “playing fire with fire”. Peksanam means indifference, neutrality and apunya means evil, wicked. A good example is if you find out someone has bad-mouthed you. If you call them on it and seek revenge and retribution, you’re shining a spotlight on the vindictive deed, which adds fuel to the fire. Yet if you focus on remaining calm and level-minded and don’t give it recognition or volume, that fire will burn out.

The advise outlined by Patanjali in YS1.33 is practical and applicable to everything we encounter and experience in our life. If we seek serene intelligence, a peaceful mind, these are the steps we can apply to every person we meet and every situation we find ourselves in. But just like all Yoga practices, this practice is experiential. We can read all the literature from all the great teachers, but until we start to experience it for ourselves we won’t know if it works. So join me and lets get out there in this big, wide world and start applying these tenets – lets see how much minds and our quality of life can transform!

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