The beginning of the year is a good marker for starting new behaviors. It’s easy to think back to January 1 to assess the success of a New Year’s Resolution. The wisdom of the various yoga traditions has been a plentiful resource for setting these kinds of intentions. Many people have benefitted from interpreting the Yoga Sutras, ancient texts on yoga philosophy, written in “treads” or “sutras” of one or two sentences each. One of these sutras gives us four ways to encounter four different types of people. As we come to the end of one year and embark on another, these four keys that will open four potentially sticky doors are resolutions to try to keep for the entire New Year.
The sutra that comes to mind is the 33rd in the First Book (of four). This first book is often called the Book of Contemplation. It helps us to understand what yoga is and how to concentrate our thoughts, and explore the inner workings of ourselves. These books are written in Sanskrit and have been translated into many languages many times. One can easily find several translations of the same sutra and formulate ideas of what wisdom it might bring to us who are living now.
The four kinds of people this sutra mentions can be any of us at different times. We have all been and will continue to be each of these people. We will continually encounter the behaviors associated with each of them, so in order to establish and maintain peace of mind, we apply the appropriate key to the lock in the door. The four people are the happy, the sad, the virtuous, and the wicked. No one is any one of these all the time. The four keys are friendliness, compassion, delight, and disregard. Now to delve into the possible ways to implement this philosophy.
You encounter someone giddy with happiness. Approach them in a friendly way. Find out what has made them happy. If they are happy because of some wicked deed they have done, move on to the fourth category. Otherwise, enjoy the happiness with them. Be glad they can be happy.
Someone approaches you and is obviously heartbroken. First, offer nothing but compassion: a feeling of sympathy and a desire to alleviate suffering, according to most dictionaries. Save the advice for when you have a better understanding of the person and the situation. Mostly listen and offer the kind of comfort the person wants.
Your neighbor has a new car sitting in their driveway. It’s a nice car. Nicer than yours. Your coworker gets a promotion. Your daughter-in-law wins the lottery. It’s a time for celebration. Set aside feelings of envy for your own personal contemplation at another time and show these people the gladness that says you know how they feel. They will celebrate your excellent times in the same way.
Someone cuts you off on the freeway. Maintain sanity. Better yet, do a simple, slow breathing exercise until that car is out of sight and out of your mind. Your opponent who has slandered you throughout your campaign has won the election. Fight for the principles you have campaigned for and let them do their job. Disregarding evil doesn’t mean allowing a crime to be committed. Crimes and violence can be stopped yet not allowed to permeate our beings and take over our thoughts.
Remember these four keys: Friendliness, Compassion, Delight, and Disregard, and apply them to the four locks: The Happy, The Sad, The Virtuous, and The Wicked. It will serve as an excellent start to a peaceful New Year.