The Yoga Sutras are a collection of 195 aphorisms on the theory and practice of yoga. They were compiled prior to 400 CE by Pantanjali, an Indian sage who codified the oral tradition.
Although Yoga is not a religion, the Yoga Sutras are like the “bible” of Yoga. The sutras are brief snippets of wisdom and many yogis and philosophers have offered their interpretations of Pantanjali’s work.
The Sutras outline the eight limbs of yoga and offer wisdom and guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life.
Four Keys to Peace of Mind
In Sutra 1:33, Pantanjali shares Four Locks and Four Keys to retain peace of mind.
- Sukha: Friendliness toward the happy
- Dukhu: Compassion for the unhappy
- Punya: Delight in the virtuous
- Apunya: Disregard the wicked
The first three feel easy to do. The last one, Apunya, feels more challenging. What does this mean?
How Can We Disregard the Wicked?
We read every day about people who do truly awful things. We may experience some of those things firsthand.
How can we simply disregard the murderers, terrorists, and abusers?
One way to understand this is as an instruction to separate the person from the behavior. Apunya is not about disregarding people, but looking past their behavior to see what might be causing them to perform wicked acts.
It is a reminder that no person is inherently wicked, even if he does wicked acts.
When we practice Apunya, we can remember that all beings are created in the image of God. Some people have been living in darkness for so long — because of conditioning, trauma, or other experiences — that their light is obscured.
Everyone Has Their Leg in a Trap
Learning about Apunya reminded me of an metaphor I’ve heard several times from meditation teacher Tara Brach.
Tara often give this example: Imagine you are walking through the woods when come across a dog. The dog lashes out to attack you, seemingly unprovoked. On closer examination, you realize that the dog has his hind leg caught in a trap.
When we remember that everyone we meet has their “leg in a trap” in some way, then we can see that the other person’s actions are a response to fear, rather than a representation of who they are in their true selves.
This opens the door for us to offer compassion and forgiveness.
By the way, if you’re thinking, this sounds really hard to do, you’re right.
This is a practice.
Every being on this planet contains the divine light within them.
Apunya is a reminder to disregard their darkness and seek their inner light.