Serene intelligence is intelligence not just of the mind. In this type of intelligence, we are not concerned with IQs or Mensa. The Sanskrit word manas is sometimes translated as mind and other times translated as heart, and these two translations appear to us to be very different ideas. But in some cases, it is translated as a third concept, the heart-mind, a connection between two seemingly different faculties. It is the intelligence of this heart-mind that we are concerned with. In yoga, we are interested in having a peaceful mind, an equanimous mind, a serene state of mind. Patanjali's Yoga Sutra gives us some advice.
PYS I.33 maitrī-karunā-mudito-peksānām
To preserve the innate serenity of the mind, a yogin should be happy for those who are happy, be compassionate toward those who are unhappy, be delighted for those who are virtuous, and be indifferent toward the wicked.
The word citta means content of the mind while prasadanam comes from the word prasad which means blessed. Citta prasadanam is a state of blessed mind, a state of peacefulness. This sutra speaks about four components of interacting with others that are necessary for our peace of mind. At first glance, the advice seems simple enough, maybe even glaringly obvious.
The first part of the advice tells us to be happy for those who are happy. Maybe the first thing that comes to mind is someone delighted over a happy event, and we find that of course, we can be happy for this person. Well, if we dig a bit deeper into our own real-life experiences, we may find that this is more difficult than we think. Jealousy could arise. Envy could arise. Judgment could arise. Say, for example, that you have been eyeing a job promotion for years and somebody else ends up getting it. This person is happy, but you are filled with jealousy, because this person got what you wanted. Or maybe you have become aware of animal cruelty and turned vegan, and while eating at a restaurant, you glance over to a group of people enjoying their cheeseburgers, and you begin to judge how their actions are wrong. Or maybe you found out your ex is now in a new relationship, and you find yourself upset that he or she has found happiness in someone other than you. These reactions are very human, though these reactions do not give us any peace of mind. And what happens when we drown ourselves in the misery of our jealousy and envy and judgment? The person who is happy will still be happy, we only end up hurting ourselves.
And so, how do we become happy for those who are happy and set aside our own selfish tendencies? We practice yoga in order to be able to observe our thoughts and our tendencies and our patterns. When we use GPS to get to a destination, we may make a mistake, miss the cues, and end up somewhere unintended. But that's okay because the GPS can reroute to get us back on track. Our yoga practice is our own personal GPS. If we somehow take a wrong turn, we can start from wherever we are and get to our destination, which is peace of mind, from wherever we have left off. That is to say, whenever we notice jealousy or envy or judgment coming up that prevents us from being happy towards those who are happy, we observe this reaction, pause, then mindfully and consciously change course.
Think of a person whose happiness has triggered jealousy or envy or judgment in you. Now, start to see this person as having a serene contented smile in his or her own face. And also start to see yourself as having that same serene, contented smile on your face. Because no matter how our delusions may lead us to believe that happiness has a limited supply, the truth is that happiness is not a zero sum concept. There is enough for everyone. One person having happiness does not mean that it takes away from another's.
In classes this week, I asked students to pair up and assist each other in pincha mayurasana or forearm stand. The person assisting needs only to extend one arm out, that's it, no more and no less. I emphasized this instruction. When the exercise finished, I noticed that many if not all ended up doing additional things, giving words of encouragement, cheering the other person on, even reaching out with the other hand to stabilize the person doing the pose. This appears to be in direct opposition of the Milgram experiment, wherein it was found that people would obey orders even at the expense of causing suffering to others. The practical experiment I witnessed in class showed that students readily disobeyed instructions and went far and beyond what they were told to do, because they want to create the maximum happiness for the other person. Instinctively, these yogis knew that the other person being happy will not take away their happiness, the other person coming up to a pincha mayurasana will not take away their own capacity to come up to a pincha mayurasana. We are all in this together. Not only can we be happy for those who are happy, but when we are in a position to create this happiness, we do it.
Patanjali's advice is practical. It like a formula. When we attend Jivamukti classes, we may notice that after completing a series of intense backbends, we counter with a forward bend. This formula presents itself again and again because it is what works for the body. If we are committed to having a serene mind, the same concept applies. We practice the same formula again and again. Be happy towards those who are happy. But don't take Patanjali's word for it. Experience it for yourself. Be happy towards those who are happy. Live it as though it were your personal mantra, and see how the quality of your life changes. Go. Do it.