Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, Upeksha

I’ve been loathe to write here for a couple of reasons, one of them being a big shift in life and the other a hesitation to jump to hasty conclusions. Suffice to say, my readings have taken on a more practical colour as I seem to receive messages that are congruent. It is easy to latch on to what I perceive as signs so I just observe and record.

One of my anchors through my yoga journey has been Sutra 1:33 and I’ve always looked at just the four attitudes of maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksha. I didn’t quite spend time on the remaining part of the Sutra. I didn’t look at the phala of the attitudes or the occasions to practise the habits.

It seemed like a good idea to explore the different interpretations of this aphorism and I pulled out all the commentaries I had with me. Each of them threw the spotlight on a different portion of the sutra.

Chitta prasadanam as opposed to chitta vikshepa from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar

Bhavanata versus Abhyasata from Light on Vyasa Bhashya by Prashant Iyengar

Upeksha as equanimity in meaning versus the common translation as indifference from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant

The four attitudes as a representation of parinama chitta and kutastha chitta from Core of the Yoga Sutras by B.K.S. Iyengar

All in all, a very illuminating morning of study. In the commentaries by Guruji and Prashantji, I found the approach is more lateral and explorative while the one by Edwin Bryant is more direct and translative. I took back something from both and know that I will come back for more. It remains my favourite sutra and perhaps the one I would retain if I could choose but one. As an ordinary woman, it offers me the potential to soar even as it shows me how to be in this world but not of it.

Closer to my experience, I discovered that even while I thought I was failing, there was the solidity of practice (not so much asana as the study of the texts and their contemplation). It gave me the strength I needed to go through a very difficult patch and maintain a sense of steadiness even as there was upheaval, mental and emotional. I received courage to stand in tadasana in my life even as the ground below me trembled.

I remain indebted to the teachings of the ancient ones as well as the Gurus in my heart and all those who have shared their journeys generously.

Hari Om

11 thoughts on “Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, Upeksha

  1. Reading your comparisons of these translations and remarking on the manner in which contemplation of these sacred threads brings steadiness to an uneven time is a wonderful reminder to me during my own period of struggle that we are not alone. Others on the path struggle too. By the way, I personally prefer equanimity for upeksha; indifference has so much.. baggage.
    two hands, rachel

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  2. I call the first part of Yoga Sutra “prajna-pada”. Prajna is a tricky word.
    I analyze as “pra + jna” meaning “A Priori Knowledge”.
    This practice V. 33, “brahmavihara”, is the first practice of Prajna: “Transcendental Philosophy”.
    I connect this practice to “pratiprasava” and consider it a transcendental practice of
    perfecting the mind. It is like a cosmic “firewall” and to me results in “amrita”.
    Two types of immortality: primary or positive and secondary or negative:
    amrita is the “lower immortatility” and I think it comes primarily from practicing “brahmavihara”. The domain of this practice is spelled out in Samkhya verse 47.

    jnana is the “higher immortality” in that in truth the immortal cannot become mortal.
    To me amrita is still “becoming immortal” and is eternal divine life but not immortality
    in the positive sense of the word, of never being mortal, like ishvara…so brahmavihara is a requirement, a prerequisite for “knowledge” but knowledge comes only from Philosophy and not from brahmavihara…samadhi and knowledge born from discriminating
    the a priori from the a posteriori and the subject from the object

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    1. I’ve come back to your comment many times and it’s new for me. A different way of looking each time. As a novice with the texts, my studies are very rudimentary and new ways of looking are very welcome even if they are beyond my understanding just yet.
      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.


  3. Indian philosophy can be beyond understanding. In Hinduism I think the word Prajna became a “bad word” . categorization of citta. that is really what is going on here. citta-vritti-nirodha means sublation of cognition and one sublates ones citta [citta-nirodha] by proper categorization of our mental states.
    the four categories of mental states correspond to the associated mental disciplines listed here.
    avidya to siddhi. mudita siddhi

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  4. To me that is what right mindfulness is really. citta-vriti is an empirical cognition and
    the categorization of empirical cognition is “rational cognition”. this is the jewel net of yoga.

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  5. Interesting to compare Yoga to Samkhya.
    Samkhya starts with a root set of four categories which expands to fifty.
    I would express “mudita” towards the “divine” mental states
    and “indifference” to demoniac mental states.

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  6. “indifference” toward the “demoniac” mental states.
    India philosophy is the best in many ways but practically it is chock full of strange answers to the wrong questions. And here it gets really strange especially in Buddhism which for some unknown reasons teaches “brahmavihara”. OK!? But they botch it badly. In Samkhya we have bodies born of patterns but also of God/Goddess. So in my view I express “metta” towards “contentments” which is human but “mudita” towards “siddhi” which is divine: eternal . Gita talks about the divine and demoniac mental states. avidya is demoniac, injury is human

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