In patanjali yoga sutras patanjali told to concentrate on qualities of friendship, what exactly is quality of friendship, what exactly one have to focus on...


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Abbreviation used: Patañjali Yoga Sūtra - YS

Maitrī (friendship, loving-kindness, benevolence) is explicitly mentioned in YS (1.33, 3.23). The sūtra in question is YS 3.23 but 3.23 follows from 1.33, so it's imperative to state 1.33 first before explaining 3.23 w.r.t to the commentaries of Vyāsa and Vācaspati Miśra.

maitrī-karuṇā-muditopekṣāṇāṁ sukha-duḥkha-puṇyāpuṇya-viṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaś citta-prasādanam (YS 1.33)

Trans. : By cultivating the attitude of maitrī (friendship, loving-kindness, benevolence) towards those who are happy, karuṇā (compassion) towards those who are in duḥkha (distress, unhappiness, suffering), muditā (sympathetic joy) towards those who are virtuous, and upekṣā (equanimity, indifference) towards those who are non-virtuous, lucidity arises in the citta (mind).

The sūtra here mentions the cultivation of four practices viz. maitrī, karuṇā, muditā and upekṣā to enhance lucidity (prasādanam), which is the prerequisite for attaining the steadiness of mind (citta). These 4 practices correspond exactly to the four brahma-vihārās outlined in many suttas of Pāli canon, namely, mettā, karuṇā, muditā, upekkā.

Vyāsa Bhāṣya on YS 1.33

How does the sūtra advise one to attain the purification of citta?

By cultivating the attributes of mairtī, karuṇā, muditā and upekṣā towards happiness, misery, virtue and vice respectively, the citta is purified. Of these, one should cultivate maitrī towards all living beings who are endowed with comfort and pleasures, karuṇā towards those who are suffering, muditā towards those of virtuous nature and upekṣā towards those of non-virtuous nature. Upon cultivating one's citta thus, one's white characteristic increases, making the citta pure. Having become pure, it becomes one-pointed and attains steadiness.

Usually, the feelings of jealousy, anger, cruelty, malevolence towards different beings disturb the mind and prevent it from attaining concentration. So, it becomes important to cultivate the brahma vihāras to keep the mind pleasant and happy, free from any disturbing element, so that it can become one-pointed and attain steadiness.

Vācaspati Miśra in his Tattvavaiśāradi follows Vyāsa's bhāṣya on 1.33 and further notes that by developing brahma-vihāras, one is able to remove qualities pertaining to rajas and tamas, so as to aid in the manifestation of white characteristic of purity viz. sattva, through which one's citta attains one-pointedness and steadiness.

maitry-ādiṣu balāni (YS 3.23)

Trans. By [saṁyama] on maitri and other such things, strengths are acquired.

To understand saṁyama, check YS (3.4: trayam ekatra saṁyamaḥ) which defines it as the act of concentration when dhāraṇā, dhyāna and samādhi (listed in YS 3.1-3 before) are performed together, ekatra, on an object. The commentators such as Vyāsa and Vācaspati simply state that rather than laboriously list all three each time dhāraṇā, dhyāna, and samādhi are to be performed together, Patañjali has introduced a technical term, saṁyama, to refer to the application of the three of them in sequence.

In YS 3.23, the commentators understand 'maitri and other such things' in this sūtra to refer to 1.33, where the brahma-vihāras are listed by Patañjali. By cultivating maitri towards those as prescribed in 1.33, and performing saṁyama on this feeling, the yogī attains what Vyāsa in his bhāṣya terms the " power of maitrī ". He/she becomes the well-wisher of all, say the commentators, can make the whole world happy, and his/her effort to win the maitrī of others will not be in vain. Likewise, by performing saṁyama on the feeling of karuṇā that the yogī is prescribed to cultivate towards those in duḥkha (1.33), the power of karuṇā arises. He/she can lift the duḥkha out of their pain, says Vācaspati Miśrā in Tattvavaiśāradi. By saṁyama on muditā towards the pious and virtous, one attains the power of muditā. The commentators note, however, that saṁyama is not directed towards the fourth prescription listed in 1.33 — upekṣā towards the non-virtuous — because upekṣā is not a specific feeling but an absence of other feelings; saṁyama would thus seem to require a distinct state of mind as an object of focus, otherwise the meditator has nothing on which to focus. This type of saṁyama is through the sheer intensity of total absorption on a feeling such as those listed above, by which the citta of the yogī becomes completely pervaded and charged with that feeling that it emanates out and affects other people.
This is simply due to the fact that all feelings are potentially inherent in citta already, the citta is the seat of emotion. So, through saṁyama, the citta simply manifests what is latent within it.


  • Very nice post. Jan 11, 2023 at 5:13
  • Thx this is quite helpful. Trying to do upeksha w/ evil types is quite challenging I will say 😬 Jan 12, 2023 at 17:11

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