Yoga Sutra - Samādhi Pada 1.33
मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षाणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातः चित्तप्रसादनम् ॥३३॥
maitrī-karuṇā-muditā-upekṣānāṃ sukha-duḥkha-puṇya-apuṇya-viṣayāṇāṃ bhāvanātaḥ citta-prasādanam ||33||
By cultivating an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, compassion toward those in distress, joy toward those who are virtuous, and equanimity toward those who are nonvirtuous, lucidity arises in the mind.
Since the commentators have pointed out some fundamental differences between Buddhism and Yoga when it comes to consciousness, we can note with this sūtra a similarity. The four practices noted in this sūtra—friendship, maitrī; compassion, karuṇā; joy, muditā; and equanimity, upekṣā—correspond exactly to the four brahma–vihāras outlined in various Buddhist suttas (rendered, in Pali, as mettā, karuṇā, muditā, upekkā). Once more, the common context of these practices is underscored—indeed, the Buddhist Saṁyutta Nikāya and the Saṁyukta Āgama texts contain explicit reference to the fact that these practices were also cultivated by those who did not follow the teachings of the Buddha.
In this sūtra, Patañjali outlines a practice essential for enhancing lucidity, the prerequisite for attaining steadiness in the mind. Vyāsa pairs the set of attitudes specified by Patañjali in the first part of this sūtra sequentially with the conditions listed in the second part. As a result of cultivating an attitude of friendship with those who find themselves in a situation of happiness, one of compassion toward those in distress, one of joy toward pious souls, and one of equanimity or indifference toward the impious, sattva is generated. Consequently, the mind becomes lucid, clarity being the nature of sattva. Once the mind is clear, one-pointed concentration or steadiness can be achieved.
Vācaspati Miśra elaborates on this. By being a well-wisher toward those who are happy, as well as those who are virtuous, the contamination of envy is removed. By compassion toward those who are miserable, that is, by wishing to remove someone’s miseries as if they were one’s own, the contamination of the desire to inflict harm on others is removed. By equanimity toward the impious, the contamination of intolerance is removed. By thus removing these traits of envy, desire to inflict harm, and intolerance, which are characteristics of rajas and tamas, the sattva natural to the mind can manifest. In the ensuing state of lucidity, the inclination toward controlling the vṛttis, in other words toward cultivating a focused state of mind by the practice of yoga, spontaneously arises, because the inclination for enlightenment is natural to the pure sāttvic mind.
Hariharānanda suggests that envy generally arises when we encounter people whom we do not care about experiencing happiness. Even a pious person can invoke our jealousy, and we take cruel delight when we find an enemy in misery. One should rather try to practice projecting the happiness we feel when our friend is happy or virtuous onto an enemy who is happy, he continues, and the compassion we feel for our friends when they are unhappy should be cultivated for our enemies. By these practices of equanimity, the mind can become lucid and fixed in the goal of yoga. Vijñānabhikṣu and Śaṅkara quote the Gītā in this regard: “A self-controlled person attains peace by engaging with sense objects with the senses freed from attachment and aversion and under his control. With clear mind, his intelligence becomes fixed” (II.64–65). As arithmetic is important, says Bhoja Rāja, not so much in its own right as in order to arrive at the total sum of something, so he attitudes mentioned in this sūtra are important in order to prepare the mind for meditation.
This sūtra prescribes a kind of mindfulness or mental cultivation off the mat, so to speak, that is, in day-to-day affairs outside of the context of citta-vṛtti-nirodha–type meditation. Cultivating the higher qualities of sattva is a continuous and constant requirement of the yogic path and spills over into all aspects of life’s affairs and social interactions. It speaks to the fact that yoga need not be perceived as a world-renouncing tradition but is perfectly compatible with engaged and benevolent social action in the world.