Book 1, Sutra 33: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“UPON ENCOUNTERING OTHERS WHO ARE EXPERIENCING HAPPINESS WE SHOULD RESPOND WITH FRIENDLINESS. UPON ENCOUNTERING OTHERS WHO ARE EXPERIENCING SORROW WE SHOULD RESPOND WITH COMPASSION. UPON ENCOUNTERING OTHERS WHO ARE DOING GOOD DEEDS WE SHOULD RESPOND WITH CELEBRATION. UPON ENCOUNTERING OTHERS WHO ARE DOING BAD ACTIONS WE SHOULD RESPOND WITH DISREGARD. THIS PURIFIES THE MIND FOR YOGA.”
Patanjali listed the obstacles that can create distraction in the mind of the yogic practitioner in sutras 30-31. In sutra 32 he recommended that we apply a single antidote to any obstacle that might arise. Sutras 33-39 list examples of such antidote practices. This sutra lists specific attitudes that can act as antidotes to negative emotions arising in social situations. Often even spiritual practitioners feel envy when facing someone who is expressing happiness. In that case, Patanjali says we should cultivate an attitude of friendliness towards such a person and the envy will disappear.
Similarly, even yogic practitioners can feel discomfort or even repulsion towards someone who is depressed or grief-striken. In that case, Patanjali recommends forcing compassionate feelings to arise instead. We may not naturally feel the compassion but that does not matter. If we “fake” the compassion it will take root and eventually become genuine. In the meantime the more negative feelings will fade away, according to Patanjali.
Sometimes a yogic practitioner may feel resentment towards someone doing a good deed. This is a natural response of the ego. When we see a good deed being done we may feel pressure to do the same or an internal criticism for not having also done that good deed. From such pressure or criticism, resentment towards the “good deed” person may arise. Patanjali says that at that time we must force ourselves to feel and express celebration of such a person. This means that we praise such a person and force ourselves to feel happy regarding this person. When we practice like this the resentment will naturally disappear.
And finally, sometimes a spiritual practitioner may feel fear or hatred for someone performing a “bad deed.” Again, Patanjali recommends that we apply an antidote to such negative emotions. Here he recommends that we cultivate a disregard or equanimity towards such a person. We may need to simply walk away from such people if we can’t intervene or comment on their bad behavior without negative emotion welling up inside us.