Meditation on 4 Attitudes

Meditation on 4 Attitudes

prayer-wheelsA few weeks ago I went to see a movie called The Last Dalai Lama directed by Mickey Lemle. The movie was about our current Dalai Lama. It was a powerful movie, and in my opinion, a must see for everyone – especially for these current times. The Dalai Lama summed up his message:

At the end with my last breaths, I am quite sure I will remember while I am dying about altruism for all entire sentient beings. This I am quite sure I can practice at the moment of my last breathing. (I have paraphrased a little).

What struck me about this is the absolute certainty in which the Dalai Lama states these words. He is absolutely certain that on his last breath he will have selfless concern and loving compassion for all beings everywhere. Wow . . . what a powerful truth to know about yourself. How many of us can say that? Our world is always in desperate need for more love and compassion. How do we practice (as the Dalai Lama states) compassion for all beings; even when they are not being kind or loving to us?

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (a 2nd Century Yoga Philosophy text), we are offered a beautiful practice to cultivate this compassion for others in Sutra 1.33.

Maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam

In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.

One of the most important things to understand about this practice according to Patanjali is that it will help each of us to stabilize and calm our own minds and hearts; thereby bringing peace to us individually.

Which therefore allows us to become the carriers of peace to others. I love this.

Sutra 1:33 is often called the 4 Locks and 4 Keys Sutra. It is a teaching on how the mind can maintain it’s peace in all circumstances.

This sutra comes in the grouping of sutras that Patanjali offers as different techniques to calm and quiet the mind. In this sutra, Patanjali suggests we cultivate these 4 attitudes as the keys to the relationship issues that often challenge us.

The 4 Attitudes are:

  1. Maitri – Friendliness
  2. Karuna – Compassion
  3. Mudita – Delight
  4. Upeksha – Equanimity

The 4 Locks or challenges we often face in our relationships with others are:

  1. When we see a happy person when we ourselves are not happy
  2. When we see an unhappy person and we become impatient or judgemental
  3. When we see a virtuous person with admirable qualities
  4. When we see a un-virtuous (or wicked) person and we become angry

Patanjali suggestion is that we “apply” the keys this way:

  1. When we see a happy person, we share in their happiness or good fortune by remaining friendly to them and releasing any jealousy.
  2. When you see an unhappy person, have compassion for them rather than wishing they would be happier or healthier or whatever. (Through compassion you find that all human beings are just like you.” – HH The Dalai Lama)
  3. When we see a virtuous person, delight in and appreciate their goodness. This celebration of their good qualities is the best way to bring out our own virtuous qualities.
  4. And finally when we see an un-virtuous, if we can remain undisturbed by their actions we have a better chance of acting from a place of calmness and clarity. Patanjali is not suggesting that we do nothing when there is an injustice, he is suggesting that by retaining our undisturbed calmness, we will have more clarity of mind to choose to act in a way that reduces suffering rather than increases it.

As we practice with these 4 locks and 4 keys, it is important to remember to apply them to ourselves as well:

  • Remembering to cultivate friendliness for our own happiness.
  • Remembering to have compassion for our own sorrow and suffering. AKA . . . Be kind to yourself.
  • Remember to be joyful when we develop and express our own virtuous qualities
  • Remember to have discipline, patience, and mental calmness when we are working with our own negative traits or weaknesses.
  • Practice forgiveness for ourselves as well as others.

Meditation on these four attitudes

Reflecting on these 4 attitudes during your daily meditation time can be very helpful. It is a good idea to choose one and practice with it for an extended period of time. Simply choose one of the four attitudes; friendliness, compassion, delight or equanimity and then allow some person or persons to arise in your mind that you currently find challenging. As you bring this person to mind, simply observe and notice your reactions.

Then as your attention settles on that inner impression of that person, allow yourself to cultivate the positive or useful attitude. So if you are finding jealousy for this person’s good fortune to be an issue, cultivate feelings of friendliness towards this person wishing them continued good fortune. Gradually; the negativity or perception of the situation may begin to weaken.

If it does not, do not worry. Just continue to practice until it does.


“May all beings find peace within their heart
May all beings find peace with each other.”