During my Saturday class, I usually write a Yoga Sutra on the marker board to reflect upon during certain moments in the class. Anyone who has put any kind of time into the Yoga Sutras knows straight away that they are about conditioning the practitioner’s mind toward Samadhi. However, there are certain sutras that speak of the practitioner’s role in the world, and how he/she behaves in order to keep the mind still. That is when Sutra 1.33 jumped out at me:
Maitri karuna muditopekshanam sukha duhkha punyapunya vishayanam bhavanatash chitta 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 it’s undisturbed calmness.
This is the time of year when compassion is paramount. There is much suffering in the world. We don’t need to think of far off places like Liberia or Iraq where there is no doubt more suffering than one can image. Nationally, the residents of Ferguson and New York City have recently had their share of woes. And locally, all we have to do is go to our corner strip mall and we are likely to find someone looking in the dumpster for their next meal.
Compassion is our way of giving our Yoga practice back to the world. We take away from others by our time spent on the mat. By proper practice, that time taken away can be used much like waiting for fruit to ripen fully before presenting it at the table. When you emerge to the world, you are ready to help and be above the cycles of misery prevalent in modern society.
By reflecting on this Sutra, we see that having a compassionate feeling towards the less fortunate in turn stills our mind. Very much like a self-recharging battery, the more compassion you give, the more you are capable of giving.
There is also a line about being indifferent to those who have wronged you. By not giving your vital life force by dwelling on the wrongs done to you, you are able to move one step closer to profound liberation.
Happy holidays everyone!