The Four Keys to Happiness

In the Yoga Sutra’s Chapter 1.33, Pantanjali gives us a four-part process to help us clear our hearts of negative energies as a means for quieting our minds. These are known as the Four Keys to Happiness. So what are we unlocking, that’s in the way of our joy? The Four Locks are the four kinds of people that we encounter in life: Happy people (sukha), Unhappy people (dukha), Honorable people (punya) and Malicious people (apunya).

The Yogic model proposes that in order to access these four keys we must nurture these attitudes:

1. Maitri (friendliness): Kindness and friendliness to those who are happy. Instead of being jealous we should be happy for other people’s happiness. Rather than living with mental scarcity thinking one person’s happiness will cause us to run out of happiness we must appreciate their joy, realizing the potential for all of us to be happy at the same time.
2. Karuna (compassion): Compassion for those who are in pain, those that are suffering including yourself. The practice means no longer self-sabotaging oneself nor catastrophizing but instead learning how to self-comfort. It implies you see yourself as deserving of compassion. This applies outwardly as well, that we cannot choose towards whom we have compassion but it is universal and unconditional. For instance, if a frenemy has something bad happen to them, you shouldn’t feel good about their hardship just because you don’t like them.
3. Mudita (joy): Respect, admiration and honor for those who embody noble qualities. In practice this means eliminating envy towards those that are living honorable lives. We must genuinely celebrate their achievements. This reminds us that we can be inspired by others greatness to then be inspiring. We all have innate greatness.
4. Upeksanam (equanimity): towards those who hurt us. Peacefulness towards those whose actions oppose our values. Instead of choosing the “like” button or even the “dislike” button choosing neutral. There will be some people that purposefully will try to harm you or people you love. Your choice is not to engage them in a fight. You can simply stop struggling. This is where the idea of “would you rather be right or be happy” comes from.

This verse is important not just for what it says but also for what it implies. Obviously the verse is discussing ways that the mind can enter the state of yoga in which we have internal peace. But what is more interesting about this verse is that it is one of the few which overtly discusses the yoga practitioner’s relationship with others as an elemental alchemy of practice. This verse makes clear that Patanjali considers relationships important and relevant to spiritual evolution.

Let’s be honest, being human guarantees that we will all be hurt in relationship, however, we must also do the work to heal in relationship. Doing only solitary self-work is not enough to thoroughly heal this Karma to unlock our happiness. Therefore, relationship Yoga is the hardest yoga we do. It is the most essential for our infinite liberation in order to contribute a positive legacy to cosmic consciousness.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!


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