Why Loving Everyone may not be a Good Idea

Interactions with people have always been taken seriously in both Stoicism and Yoga. People do stuff, don’t do stuff, say stuff, don’t say stuff, etc and they can disturb our mind pretty easily. A Stoic philosopher’s main tool in interaction with people is forgiveness as they assume (or imagine) that people act out of ignorance. For example, Marcus Aurelius says in Book II of Meditations: “Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil.”

The Yoga Sūtras, however, has a more nuanced transactional framework.

Sutra 1.33 | maitrī karuṇā muditopekṣānāṁ sukha duḥkha puṇyāpuṇya viṡayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaścitta prasādanam

Sūtra 1.33 is the single most useful practical advice in the Yoga Sūtras for anyone whether they practice Yoga or not. It suggests specific attitudes to adopt depending on the type of person we come across: An attitude of unconditional friendliness (maitrī) towards happy people; kindness (karunā) towards unhappy, miserable people; joy (mudita) towards people who perform virtuous acts (puṇya); indifference (upekṣā) towards people who commit vicious acts (apuṇya).

Why not just say forgive all or love all? Why specify such nuanced, specific attitudes? The Yoga Sūtras is not an ethical or moral treatise, imploring the masses how to live. Nor is it a sermon addressed to commoners as the Gita is. Everything it says is about perfecting concentration, which aids the Yogi to be established in an unbroken state of discernment. Therefore, cultivating stability  and tranquility of mind is of paramount importance. Sūtra 1.33 is the first among the bunch of Sūtras that outline tools and techniques for stabilising the mind that is distracted.

We do occasionally get mad at our loved ones! It ought to be quite difficult to love vicious people. Hence, an attitude of indifference is suggested. Swami Hariharananda Aranya dissects it even further and suggest that the attitude of indifference is towards the vicious act itself and that the person committing it deserves pity as they are likely to suffer in the future as a consequence of the action. Similarly, virtuous actions demand joy even if such actions were committed by unsavoury people. Otherwise, our minds could easily be overcome with jealousy and hatred.

In other words our attitude towards people close to us should not always be that of unconditional love. Not if you are after peace of mind!

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