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A Peaceful Mind Does Not Mean Passivity

     Given a question that I was asked, I feel compelled to write a followup to last week’s blog on the Four Attitudes of Peace (https://somalumina-yoga.mykajabi.com/blog/four-noble-attitudes).  These four attitudes are found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra I.33.  To review, “this sutra says that there are basically four types of encounters with people - happy, unhappy, virtuous and wicked in which having the  attitude of friendliness, compassion, delight, and disregard, respectively keep your mind at peace.”  The question I was asked is where are the boundaries set? Remember this sutra is only about the mental state to strive for in the given scenarios of encounters with the happy, unhappy, merits, and non-meritous.  The idea of the four attitudes is to keep your own mind at peace. It does not speak to the type of action to take in terms of behaviors and setting boundaries.  However, with a peaceful mind, hopefully, the most appropriate action possible will ensue. 

      The issue of boundaries is particularly relevant in “disregard toward the wicked.”  This is best illustrated by a story that I was once told.  This Swami was giving a teaching on yoga to his students outside.  There was a pesky mosquito buzzing around the Swami’s head and the Swami shooed it away. The mosquito came back, and again the Swami shooed it away.  The mosquito returned for the third time, and the Swami again shooed it away.  The mosquito then came back for a fourth time, and the Swami smacked it dead. The students asked the Swami why he killed it given the yogic teaching of ahimsa, or non-harming. The Swami replied that he was attempting to disregard the mosquito for being “wicked” with its intrusiveness. When the mosquito did not honor the message, then the Swami took the next level action. The Swami’s attitude toward the mosquito remained that of disregard throughout the encounter.  The mosquito could have lived if it had honored the Swami’s first three messages to leave, but it did not and  suffered the consequences of its pursuit of the Swami. With the attitude of disregard or dispassion, the Swami’s mental state remained at peace from the first time the mosquito buzzed around his head to the time that it was killed.  In last week’s blog I mentioned disregard to the sexual abuser. This is the mental attitude recommended toward the “wicked” to keep a peaceful mind,  but it does not mean that the accused does not go to trial for the crime. The mental attitude of disregard is to protect you from yourself to not go ballistic and vigilante for those actions come back to harm you.

      The same issue of boundaries can be applied to compassion for the suffering.  To see a panhandler at the street corner, do you hold an attitude that you are superior and they deserve their lot in life, or do you feel guilty and want to go empty your bank account for the destitute person or take him/her home with you?  Yoga Sutra I.33 is instructing to first hold compassion toward the suffering and that will lessen any feelings of superiority.  Then, in your compassion for this panhandler, also have compassion for the guilt that you feel (guilt falls in the category of suffering, too) so that you do not  respond to others to your own detriment.

      As I stated in the previous blog a peaceful attitude does not mean passivity or no  action. A peaceful mind is better focused and discerning without fear, agitation, anger nor despondency to get in the way.  A peaceful mind puts us in a better position to act more wisely and set the appropriate boundaries.


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