Disclaimer: philosophical thoughts are interpretations made by different people. What is written below might differ from how you see specific topics. Always think for yourself and take what resonates with you from these.

The Four keys

Verse 1:33 from the yoga sutras by Patanjali is probably the most important one of them all. Sri Swami Satchidananda did a great job in translating this one and giving a bit of an explanation. He even mentioned that this verse can be seen as a big overlap between those practicing yoga but also practice certain religions, or even for those who aren’t religious at all.

Maitrī karuṇā muditā upekṣānām sukha duḥkha puṇya apuṇya viṣayāṇām bhāvanātaś citta prasādanam. 


By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness. (Satchidananda, 1978)

The yoga sutras of Patanjali, just like any other sacred script, aren’t always very clear on what they mean, and therefore it’s always nice to have a couple of interpretations ready from other people and make up your own view on certain verses. However, these are actually quite clear.

Patanjali talks about attitudes, and very often you’ll find them as the four keys. More on that later. These four attitudes are:

  1. Friendliness,
  2. Compassion,
  3. Delight,
  4. Disregard.

And they hand out a way for you to cope with the four types of people that, according to Patanjali, are present within all of us.

The four doors

As mentioned before, the four attitudes to attain or cultivate can be paired with four types of people or from now on they’ll be called doors. Because what is a key without an object to open?

The four doors can be looked at as a certain type of behaviour that we’d all fit into at any certain time. And yes, even we yogis aren’t always happy or content with our lives, so even we can be put in one of these doors. The four doors are:

  1. Happiness / Happy people
  2. Sadness / Unhappy people
  3. Righteousness / Virtuous people
  4. impropriety / Wicked people
And as you might suspect, these four doors can be opened by using the right key accordingly.
The biggest question here though, is the following: why would this help us and how can this be constructive for our inner peace?

opening the doors with their keys

Before we have a look at why this verse can be so helpful, let’s just have a look at some examples of how you could apply it in your life.

  1. Be friendly to those who are happy
  2. Be compassionate to those who are unhappy
  3. Be delighted for those who are virtuous
  4. Neglect those who are showing wicked behaviour

It sounds all very simple, but truly wonder now, how often have you gotten jealous for example because of the happiness of someone else? The mind is such a deceitful thing and it’s easy to fall for its “traps”. But then again, this is why we have scriptures to remind us of how we can/could/should act.

And don’t worry if it’s happening every once in a while, it’s human nature. This is why we practice yoga, or to a further extend, why we are religious, philosophical, and whatever you might identify yourself with.

why should we attain these attitudes?

Just to finalize this chapter of the yoga sutras, we can wonder: Why on earth should we apply this philosophy into our lives? And I’d like to quote this with a verse of the Dhammapada, which is one of the holy books within Buddhism. 

“If the mind is clear, whatever you do or say will bring happiness that will follow you like your shadow.”   “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts.” (The Chaplaincy Institute)

These verses respectively (from the yoga sutras and the Dhammapada) have a bit in common. The Yoga Sutras are telling us how to act or behave towards people, and why the Dhammapada’s verse tells us the why.

To give a small example:

Building upon the jealousy. Imagine yourself feeling guilty of someone because they got something (a promotion, new car, general happiness) you don’t have. Certain thoughts and feelings might come up. You might express them, but chances are bigger that you won’t. Meaning that you alone are the one that is experiencing these negative thoughts. The other person (the happy one) won’t even know that you are feeling angry or jealous of this person. Thus, it won’t affect his happiness.

Can you see it coming already? Who are you doing this for? Exactly, you are actually doing this for your own peace of mind. Because whenever you are experiencing something negative, even if it’s inflicted by someone else, it is YOU that is experiencing the negative emotion. And therefore losing your chill.

It might look a bit self-centered when we look at it this way. But if you’d like to put an altruistic scheme in it, you can go a bit further. Because whenever you are really feeling and experiencing peace and tranquillity, this will radiate as well. And this will make that people will get a residual effect of this inner happiness you’ll expereince.

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