Chitta Prasadanam, as prescribed by Maharishi Patanjali in his famous Yoga Sutras, is valuable wisdom that can help us maintain a peaceful and beautiful state of mind, regardless of the actions of others.

Chitta in yoga is defined as the mind-stuff and Prasadanam means the act of making something pure and beautiful. 

Chitta Prasadan is a sublime way of clearing the mind from impurities by developing four important mental virtues Maitri (Friendliness), Karuna (Compassion), Mudita (Joyfulness) and Upeksha (Indifference). The practice allows us to find peace within by creating loving relationships with others.

It is explained by Patanjali in the 33rd sutra of the first chapter Samadhi Pada, where he prescribes the four attitudes we must cultivate towards people in various situations.

The sutra on Chitta Prasadhana is subsequent to the sutra on Chitta Vikshepa (disturbances of mind). Patanjali explains that disturbances of mind could be in form of sadness, disappointment, anger, imbalance in breathing etc. and is caused by nine kinds of Antarayas (distractions) that occur on a yogi’s journey to self-attainment.

Maharishi Patanjali prescribes Chitta Prasandhan as a way to overcome the obstacles and counter the endless wave of thoughts thus created. 

Yoga Sutra 1.33

In sutra 1.33, Patanjali explains a yogi must cultivate four attitudes of the heart towards people in order to lead the mind (Chitta) towards peace and happiness (Prasadanam).

The sutra goes like this:

Maitree-karuna-muditopekshanan Sukha-duhkha-punyapunyavishayanan Bhavanatash Chitta-prasadanam

Yoga Sutra 1.33

Here’s the breakdown of words in this sutra.

  • Maitree – friendliness
  • Karuna – compassion
  • Mudita – Joy
  • Upeksha – indifference
  • Sukh – happiness
  • Dukh – sadness
  • Punya – virtuous acts
  • Apunya – wrongdoings
  • Vishanayam – regarding
  • Bhavana – feelings
  • Chitta – mind-stuff,
  • Prasadhan – clearing of impurities

Putting together words bring the sutra’s translation like this:

Developing friendliness towards the happiness of others, compassion towards the sorrow of others, joy towards good deeds of others and indifference towards wrongdoings of others clear our mind and let us experience peace within.

Understanding four mental attitudes to attain peace

According to the sutra, practicing the four mental virtues namely –  Maitri, Karuna, Mudita and Upeksha is the ultimate way to experience the calmness of the mind.

1. Maitri – friendliness

Maitri could be understood as the feeling of friendliness or loving-kindness. So this part of the sutra suggests developing kind and friendly thoughts towards the happiness of people.

We all know people who could be more blessed than us – be it in terms of wealth, beauty or possessions. And oftentimes we end up comparing ourselves to them.

Maharishi Patanjali teaches us to regain our peace of mind by developing friendly thoughts towards the happier people, instead of allowing the insecure thoughts to enter our mind.

The renowned yogi Swami Vivekananda interprets it as having friendly thoughts towards all fellow human beings; after all, we are part of one cosmos and connected to each other in a way.

2. Karuna – compassion

Karuna is the attitude of compassion towards other people’s sorrows. This part of the sutra teaches us to develop loving compassion towards people who are in pain or suffering. 

The mind may be accustomed to being indifferent towards other people’s pain because it is not our own. Or we could feel pity for people who aren’t as blessed as us. But the feeling of pity only separates us from them.

Instead, training the mind to feel genuine compassion and concern towards others enables us to connect with them and our higher self eventually.

3. Mudita – Joy 

Mudita means joy or delight. This part of the sutra teaches us to develop gladness over the good deeds and achievements of others, instead of allowing envious feelings to take over our mind.

Jealousy is a vice that can easily plague us when we hear of others’ achievements. In fact, the human mind is capable of looking for flaws even in the most virtuous people.

While it may not be natural for us to feel elated over a neighbour or colleague’s achievements, we do feel joyous over the achievements of our close ones. The difference is that we experience the happiness of only those who we feel connected with.

We must remind ourselves that we are all connected in this world. And feeling genuinely happy for all others, devoid of any envy, allows the divine peace to flow within us.

4. Upeksha – Apunya

The word Upeksha is displaying indifference or neutrality towards negative behavior or vices of others. And this may be the toughest part to practice.

Let’s admit, it takes deliberate effort to not act judgemental towards others. The mind can cling on to the mistakes done by others and look for opportunities to correct them. 

Maharishi Patanjali advocates exactly the opposite of this habit – to show acceptance or ‘equanimity’ towards the wrong actions.

An easy way to instil this habit is by reminding ourselves that we all make mistakes while being unaware of them. Others could be doing the same. We must let our mind accept that ‘simply overlooking other people’s wrongdoings’ is the prescribed way to finding peace according to our ancient scriptures.

Practising over preaching

Though it all sounds good, can we really inculcate these attitudes in our daily life situations? Even though our mind could be accustomed to doing just the opposite?

Well, the right way according to yogic philosophy is to train our mind through Abhyaas and Vairagya (practice by repeated action and constant state of detachment).

Once these mental virtues translate into our behaviour; they can help us deal with even the most difficult situations with ease and foster loving relationships with others.

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