• Shelley Lowther

The Keys to Happiness

What do John Lennon, Gandhi and Patanjali all have in common? These ancient and modern day prophets may hold the keys to happiness.

I can’t tell you how many times in life I’ve lost my car keys. You know as well as I do, when you lose your keys, you won’t get anywhere. Life has keys too, and when we misplace our life tools, we get nowhere, fast. The keys, though, are everywhere if we are willing to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts.

The Yoga Sutras are tools for creating the life we want. My favorite Sutra is PYS 1.33, commonly called the Four Locks and Keys:

maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam

Maitri : friendliness , pleasantness , lovingness

Karuna : compassion

Mudita : goodwill

Upeksanam : indifference

Sukha : happy , comfortable , joyous

Dukha : pain , sorrow , misery

Punya : virtuous

Apunya : non virtuous

Visayanam : regarding those subjects

Bhavanatas : by cultivating habits , by constant reflection , developing attitude

Citta : personality complex

Prasadanam : undisturbed , peaceful

“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.”

There are only four locks in the world (sukha, duhka, punya and apunya) and that if you keep with you the four keys (kindness, compassion, delight and indifference), you will be able to keep an open heart and a calm mind. In other words, if we learn to use our tools, we will live a fulfilling life. To use those four keys, we should cultivate the following attitudes: Kindness to the happy, compassion toward the unfortunate, delight for the virtuous and indifference to the wicked.

Patanjali teaches that the most used key is the first key , the happiness key. When we are not happy ourselves, it is very easy to covet someone’s happiness. It is easy to get eaten up with jealousy when we see someone happy, so it is important to use this key when encountering a happy person. If we are not happy for someone else’s good fortune, we destroy our happiness.

Yet this tool digs deeper than be happy for others. We must practice happiness ourselves.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Sometimes John Lennon just says it best.

The second key is the unhappiness key. What do we do when we run into a pile of duhka? (Yes, it is just want it sounds like). When we encounter unhappiness, it’s time to break out the compassion key. If we have the opportunity to help someone, we should. This basic idea of giving alms is in every religious text in the world, from the Gita, to the Bible, to the Torah and the Koran. Practicing compassion is what helps keep us peaceful; the person suffering may or may not accept it, but it is the offering that matters.

To be able to offer compassion to others, we have to practice it to ourselves. I once heard Baron paraphrase his teacher B.K.S. Iyengar: “As long as you are at war with anyone – including yourselves – there will be war on the planet.” It’s the law of attraction– like attracts like. Send out good vibrations to attract MORE good vibrations. Use the compassion key to unlock unhappiness– and start with yourself.

The third key is in honoring virtue – when we see virtue in others we should honor it and attempt to cultivate it in our own lives. Refusing to honor virtue leads to duhka and locks yet more doors. In Baptiste yoga community process, this is acknowledgement. When we acknowledge and honor the greatness in others, our own greatness is allowed to shine through.

The final key is practicing indifference to the wicked. This does not mean we watch evil go untethered, but rather that we do not feed it. Like Gandhi, when we encounter evil, we should practice peace. (In today’s political climate, this is the most challenging for me). Patanjali warns that if you try to advise the wicked, you are wasting your time.

If we practice indifference to the wicked and honor the virtuous, the scales will balance themselves. In 40 Days to Personal Revolution, Baron recounts a Native American proverb about two wolves, liked in eternal struggle. One represents good and light, and the other darkness and evil. Which wolf wins? The one you feed. If we feed evil, it will multiply, and if we feed good, good will triumph. The last key is all about feeding the right wolf.

According to Patanjali, if we keep the four keys in our pocket, and we recognize the four locks as they appear in our lives, we will be happy.

Practicing ahimsa or compassion –towards myself and others – has been one of the most heartfelt and life-changing lessons I have ever learned. When I treat myself with compassion, I treat others with compassion. When I am truly happy for the success and good fortune of others, I share and celebrate in their happiness. If I fall into the easy habit of envy or jealousy towards another’s happiness, I compromise my own happiness and my own inner peace.

It’s easy to fall into the pattern of unhappiness or dis-ease when faced with unhappiness. As the saying goes, misery loves company. That is why, when faced with the unhappiness and misery of others, we should practice compassion and do what we can to help rather that get pulled down into the mire. Mother Teresa famously said “if you want to find yourself, lose yourself in service to others.” Our own unhappiness can be converted to love in the action of caring for other human beings.

The green monster jealousy often scandalizes the “virtuous,” whom Jesus refers to as the “righteous.” Instead of treating these people with scorn, use reverence. Admire others for their good deeds, and when possible emulate them. To me this means being of service to others when you are inspired by service.

As for the wicked, leave them be, for they have nothing to offer. Those who persecute or look down on those who live in service should not be regarded at all.

I would love to sit down for kombucha with Patanjali, Gandhi and John Lennon. Though they lived thousands of years apart, I feel like they would have agreed – the key to happiness in the human condition is acceptance of each other and in how we treat one another.

John Lennon would say “Make love, not war.”

Gandhi would say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

You already have the answers, because you have the keys. Will you unlock the door?

About Shelley

Shelley Lowther wants you to live an extraordinary, ridiculous life of magic and badassery.


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