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Embracing the New Year with Yoga Sutras: Keys to Peace Amidst Challenges

"In daily life, we see people around who are happier than we are, people who are less happy...if we can be pleased with others who are happier than ourselves, compassionate toward those who are unhappy, joyful with those doing praiseworthy things, and remain undisturbed by the errors of others, our mind will be very tranquil." 

-TKV Desikachar

Traversing from one mountain (2023) to the next mountain (2024)

Yoga Sutras for the New Year

As we step into the dawn of a new year, the ancient wisdom of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali provides us with profound insights on navigating the challenges that life may throw our way. In particular, Sutra 1.33 serves as a guiding light, offering four keys to unlock the doors to serenity in the face of challenging and potentially threatening circumstances.


Patanjali asserts that the world presents us with four kinds of locks: happy people (sukha), unhappy people (dukhah), virtuous individuals (punya), and those not-so-virtuous (apunya).

The magic lies in the four keys he provides – maitri (friendliness), karuna (compassion), mudita (delight), and upeksha (disregard or equanimity).


The first key, maitri, encourages us to approach happy individuals with friendliness and loving-kindness. Instead of succumbing to jealousy or bitterness, we should share in their joy, realizing that their happiness does not diminish our own. By employing the "friendliness" key, we not only preserve the serenity of our minds but also contribute positively to the happiness of others.


When faced with unhappy individuals, the second key, karuna, guides us to respond with compassion. Patanjali advises us to extend help or comfort, respecting their need for space when necessary. This compassionate approach not only aids the person in distress but also helps us maintain inner peace by avoiding the pleasure derived from the suffering of others.


The third key, mudita, prompts us to experience delight when encountering virtuous individuals. Rather than envy, we should appreciate their virtues and seek to cultivate similar qualities in our own lives. By rejoicing in the goodness of others, we inspire positive changes within ourselves.


Finally, the fourth key, upeksha or disregard, challenges us to develop equanimity towards those whose actions oppose our values. While not encouraging us to turn a blind eye to harmful behavior, Patanjali emphasizes the importance of addressing such behavior with a calm and composed mind. This key, perhaps the most challenging to find, empowers us to stand against injustice while preserving our mental tranquility.


As we embrace the challenges of the new year, let us carry these four keys with us – cultivating friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity. In doing so, we pave the way for a year of serenity, growth, and positive transformation.

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