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Four Attitudes for Peace

     "Can't we all get along?"  were the words spoken by Rodney King in 1992, who was brutally beaten for 15 minutes by four Los Angeles police officers causing multiple fractures including a skull fracture and brain damage. His words were an attempt to mollify the race riots that broke out after the jury acquitted the four LA police officers.  His crime was driving under the influence.  If anyone had a right to be angry at the brutality by the four LA police officers, it was Rodney King. But in the midst of a city in flames from rioting, Rodney King kept an attitude toward peace, asking the public, “Can’t we all get along?”

     Around 300 A.C.E. the Yoga Sutras authored by Patanjali synthesizes the means to reach the Self-realized state of Yoga. In the first chapter Patanjali defines the state of Yoga as the stilling of the chatter of the mind so that one’s true nature is allowed to be revealed. In this state of the Higher Self a peaceful flow of awareness remains unperturbed by human afflictions. The idea in yoga is to polish the mind to become clear and free from mental conditioning that colors reality and disturbs the peace of mind. Sounds great but not an easy task.

     The mind can be colored in many  ways whether it is tainted about religious beliefs,  political views, race, sex orientation, gender identity, pro-vaccine, or anti vaccine, pro or against abortion, weight, dog owners, cat owners… You name it all different kinds of coloring are on our minds. 

     In these times portrayed with so much vitriol, how can you protect your mind from disturbance of peace? A common response to contrary opinion is to impulsively shout back your opinion even louder as if that will change the other person’s viewpoint to your favor.  We reflexively react to the other person in an attempt to make them think and behave in a way to give us our peace of mind.  To someone who is vaccinated from Covid -19 do you sneer at the anti-vaxxers or at least call them selfish.  If someone is friendly when you are down, do you give them the finger? If someone is suffering from alcoholism, do you blame them for their misery? If someone lives a life that is better than yours, do you get jealous, or envious?  If someone is accused of being a sex offender do you want to hurt them in a certain area of their anatomy?  None of these attitudes bring peace to the mind.  

        Yoga sutra in Chapter 1 verse 33 (Y.S. I.33) is translated from the Sanskrit by Swami Satchitananda as "By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”*  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.   There is the expression that anger is the poison that you take while expecting the other person to die.  Y.S.I.33 is to protect you from drinking your own poison.   These four attitudes are as much about protecting yourself from your own harm .  It is about keeping your mind stable and at peaceful.  A peaceful mind is not one that is passive but one that is transformative to create effective positive change in a world. The transformation could be that your adversary may seek counsel from you rather than combat you if you are less judgmental. Transformation could be in seeing another perspective that you had not considered before. Transformation could be in having a new insight leading to a new solution that has never been tried. We will all falter on our path to peace and here, too apply the attitude of compassion or disregard and move on.

     To answer Rodney’s question, “Can we all get along?”  I don’t know, but according to Y.S. 1.33 I have a way to do my part to keep my peace. There is so much that we can find to keep us apart, what happens when we focus on what can bring us together?


*Sri Swami Satchidananda,  Translation and commentary, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Integral Yoga Publications, Yogaville, VA, 1990


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