The Four Keys

No matter how accustomed I grow to a life of travel, there will always be moments when I yearn for an old routine (especially my yoga studio back home), although the idea of “home” is a problematic one for me–is it a tiny studio in Paris, is it a cozy dorm room in Boston, is it my family’s beach apartment in Miami? The other night, I was feeling particularly uneasy before bed, so I picked up my copy of the Yoga Sutras that lives on my nightstand and flipped to one of the entries filed under “peace of mind.” I was so moved by what I read that I feel it necessary to inscribe it here:

“Whether you are interested in reaching samadhi 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…Patanjali gives four keys: friendliness, compassion, delight and disregard. There are only four kinds of locks in the world. Keep these four keys always with you, and when you come across any one of these four locks, you will have the proper key to open it.

What are these four locks? Sukha, dukha, punya and apunya–the happy people, the unhappy people, the virtuous and the wicked. At any given moment, you can fit any person into one of these four categories. 

When you see happy people, use the “friendliness” key…because even four thousand years ago there must have been people who were not happy at seeing others happy…When a person gets name, fame or high position, they try to criticize that person…they will never admit that the person might have gone up by his or her own merit. By that jealousy, you will not disturb the other person, but you disturb your own serenity.

And what of the next lock, the unhappy people?…Maybe they are suffering from pervious bad karma, but we should have compassion. If yo can lend a helping hand, do it. If you can share half your loaf, share it. Be merciful always. By doing that, you will retain the peace and poise of your mind.

Then comes the third kind, the virtuous people. When you see virtuous people, feel delighted. “Oh, how great they are. They must be my heroes. I should imitate their great qualities.” Don’t envy them, don’t try to pull them down. Appreciate the virtuous qualities in them and try to cultivate them in your own life.

And lastly, the wicked. We come across wicked people sometimes. We can’t deny that. So what should our attitude be? Indifference. ‘Well, some people are like that. Probably I was like that yesterday. Am I not a better person now? They will probably be alright 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.” 

-The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Book 1, Sutra 33



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