By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward those who are happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard for the wicked, the vrittis (vortices of attachment and desire) remain in undisturbed calmness.Patanjali's Yoga Sutras Book 1, verse 33
Everyone in the world wants happiness. There is no one alive who really prefers to be unhappy—though moods can cause strange twists in people’s minds, temporarily! The desire for happiness is because all beings are projections of the consciousness of God, whose nature is ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss (Satchidananda).
In our souls, all of us long to return to that Bliss, for it is our native state of being. Right attitudes help us to turn all our thoughts, all our energies, toward God. In fact, we don’t really have to plead with God to give us His grace. Grace is with us always: it flows through us whenever our attitude is right.
Divine grace is like sunlight on the side of a building. We’ve no need to invite it to come in. All we need to do is open the curtains in the rooms of our own consciousness!
Patanjali is presenting here the attitudes essential for the devotee who wants bliss to flow consciously through his being.
A few years ago, in Florence, Italy, I had a dream in which I saw a crowd of people passing me on the city streets: avaricious businessmen, criminal mafiosi, persons of ordinary worldly consciousness, saintly people. The thought came to me in the dream: “All these people want the same thing I do: happiness! They seek it on various octaves, but our universal longing for happiness is an unbreakable bond which unites us all!”
Since then, I have felt that everyone I saw, everywhere, was my brother or sister. I often smile at complete strangers. Better still, I often find that complete strangers smile at me, sometimes even before I smile at them! This attitude of friendliness (which is easier to feel toward people who are themselves happy) is essential to all who would feel God’s grace in their hearts. Anger (which comes when people want things, circumstances, or other people to be different from what they are); hatred (which comes when we thwart other people’s wishes); jealousy (which comes when we feel anyone owes us more than he is giving us); dislike (when our tastes become too narrowly defined); disdain (when we feel pride in our own self-definitions); and countless other ego-enclosing attitudes are dissipated by sincere friendliness, which begins with a friendly attitude toward those whose hearts flow out in happiness to others.
Compassion toward those who are unhappy means to tune in, from a higher level, to such people’s unhappiness—to feel, with them, their reason for it, but not to be affected by it personally.
Delight in the virtuous means delight in virtue, first, as one has personally experienced it in himself. Such delight comes primarily after the experience of virtue. There is also a saying in the ancient scriptures, “One moment in the company of a saint will be your raft over the ocean of delusion.” The delight one feels in the presence of someone who is more virtuous than oneself is an aspiration toward perfection—a longing in the heart: “I hope someday to become like that!”
Disregard for the wicked is important because, although we should love everyone as a manifestation of God, we must realize at the same time that good and evil, both, have their own type of magnetism. We should love everyone, including wicked people, but these should be loved not (so to speak) to their faces, but more abstractly, with the heart kept somewhat aloof. To do as Saint Francis did, seeking out three criminals and converting them with his love, requires great spiritual strength.
Magnetism is a kind of energy we emit, as electric currents form a field of energy— magnetism—around a wire. You should avoid the company of people whose consciousness is lower in the spine than yours is. Many such people have little influence, but there are people whose energy, and therefore magnetism, for wickedness is strong. Going among such people can endanger you, spiritually. Especially avoid looking into their eyes; that is where the exchange of magnetism is especially strong. And when going among crowds, or eating in places where the vibrations are heterogeneous, make it a point always to keep a spiritual bodyguard with you: spiritual friends whose company you find uplifting.
The reason I mentioned eating places is that, when one is eating, his energy is geared for absorbing vibrations. Try also, therefore, to eat only in harmonious, peaceful places.
By taking the above precautions, you will find it easier to remain calmly centered in yourself, and, therefore, to “neutralize the vortices of feeling in your heart.”
But I’d like to mention one more thought which has been helpful to me through the years. I have had an extremely busy life, and I know modern times push most of us to produce! produce! produce! My personal rule of life has always been this: I never let myself do anything that might wrongly affect my inner peace.