Barry’s Gleanings: Yoga Sutra – #33 for a serene mind

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind retains its undisturbed calmness” – Sutra  [a rule or aphorism in Sanskrit literature] # 33 of Patanjali.

In the commentary on this Sutra, Sri Swami Satchidananda notes, “Whether you are interested in reaching samadhi [a superconscious state] or plan to ignore Yoga entirely, I would advise you to remember at least this one Sutra. It will be very helpful to you in keeping a peaceful mind in your daily life.  . . . try to follow this one  Sutra very well and you will see its efficacy.  . . . This Sutra became my guiding light to keep my mind serene always.” 

Patanjali says that there are four kinds of people: the happy people, unhappy people, the virtuous and the wicked.  “At any given moment, you can fit any person into one of these four categories.

  • A happy person.  Even four thousand years ago there must have been people who were not happy at seeing others happy.  It is still the same way.  Suppose somebody drives up in a big car, parks in front of her huge palatial home and gets out.  Some other people are standing on the pavement in the hot sun getting tired.  How many of those people will be happy?  Not many.  They will be saying, ‘See that big car?  She is sucking the blood of the laborers.’  We come across people like that; they are always jealous.  When a person gets a name, fame or high position, they try to criticize that person. ‘Oh, don’t you know, her brother is so-and-so; she must have pulled some strings somewhere.’  They will never admit that she might have gone up by her own merit.  By that jealousy, you will not disturb her, but you will disturb your own serenity.  She simply got out of the car and walked into the house, but you are burning up inside.  Instead, think, ‘Oh, such a fortunate person.  If everybody were like that how happy the world would be.  May God bless everybody to have such comfort.  I will also get that one day.’  Make that person your friend.  That response is missed in many cases, not only between individuals but even among nations.  When some nation is prospering, the neighboring country is jealous of it and wants to ruin its economy.  So we should always have the key of friendliness when we see happy people.”
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Young and rich – be happy for her.

  • The unhappy person.  “Maybe he is suffering from previous bad karma, but we should have compassion.  If you can lend a helping hand, do it.  If you can share half of your loaf, share it.  Be merciful always.  By doing that, you will retain the peace and poise of your mind.  Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds.  Whether our mercy is going to help that person or not, by our own feeling of mercy, at least we are helped.”
  • The virtuous person.  “When you see a virtuous man [or woman], feel delighted.  ‘Oh, how great he is.  He must be my hero.  I should imitate his great qualities.’ Don’t envy him; don’t try to pull him down.  Appreciate the virtuous qualities in him and try to cultivate them in your own life.”                                                                                      We would do well to follow these examples:
  • The wicked.  “We come across wicked people sometimes.  We can’t deny that.  So what should be our attitude?  Indifference. ‘Well, some people are like that.   Probably I was like that yesterday.  Am I not a better person now?  She will probably be all right tomorrow.’  Don’t try to advise such people because wicked people seldom take advice. If you try to advise them you will lose your peace.

I still remember a small story from the Pancha Tantra [an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in verse and prose] which I was told as a small child.

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The Pancha Tantra tales

One rainy day, a monkey was sitting on a tree branch getting completely drenched.  Right opposite on another branch of the same tree there was a small sparrow sitting in its hanging nest.  Normally a sparrow builds its nest on the edge of a branch so it can hang down and swing around gently in the breeze.  It has a nice cabin inside with an upper chamber, a reception room, a bedroom down below and even a delivery room if it is going to give birth to little ones.  Oh yes, you should see and admire a sparrow’s nest sometime.

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Weaver bird nest

So, it was warm and cozy inside its nest and the sparrow just peeped out and, seeing the poor monkey, said, ‘Oh, my dear friend, I am so small; I don’t even have hands like you, only a small beak.  But with only that I built a nice house, expecting this rainy day.  Even if the rain continues for days and days, I will be warm inside.  I heard Darwin saying that you are the forefather of the human beings, so why don’t you use your brain?  Build a nice, small hut somewhere to protect yourself during the rain.’

You should have seen the face of that monkey.  It was terrible!  ‘Oh, you little devil!  How dare you try to advise me?  Because you are warm and cozy in your nest you are teasing me.  Wait, you will see where you are!’  The monkey proceeded to tear the nest to pieces, and the poor bird had to fly out and get drenched like the monkey.

This is a story I was told when I was quite young and I still remember it.  Sometimes we come across such monkeys, and if you advise them they take it as an insult.  They think you are proud of your position.  If you sense even a little of that tendency in somebody, stay away.  He or she will have to learn by experience.  By giving advice to such people, you will only lose your peace of mind. . . .

So have these four attitudes: friendliness, compassion, gladness and indifference.  . . . Nothing in the world can upset you then.  Remember, our goal is to keep a serene mind” (p. 54-57).

from: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

In this time of noisy political rhetoric, we would do well to remember Sutra #33.

Aloha, Renée

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

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