"Upeksa: It is not merely a feeling of distain or contempt for the person who has fallen into vice (apunya) or one of indifference or superiority towards him. It is a searching self-examination to find out how one would have behaved when faced with the same temptations. It is also an examination to see how far one is responsible for the state into which the unfortunate one has fallen and the attempt thereafter to put him on the right path. The yogi understands the faults of others by seeing and studying them first in himself. This self-study teaches him to be charitable to all."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 47th paragraph of the Introduction.
The fundamental value in life is happiness. To have this important aspect strongly present in ones life experience, Patanjali offered plans.
Upeksa is the fourth in the fourfold remedy of Maitri=friendliness, Karuna=compassion, Mudita=delight and Upeksa=disregard.
It would be WAY too easy to say that this meant to just turn away from people that do not please us, but this instruction is not recommending that we disregard people. This doesn't make anyone happier. It tends to harden the heart of the one disregarding the other, and hurt the one who is ignored.
The long, long road to disregarding
I think what we end up disregarding with Upeksa is the judgement, itself. If I see a fault in someone and turn away from them, I am actually turning away from something in myself that I am seeing. What I see might disgust me, but it is something in myself I am seeing whether I acknowledge it or not. Have you ever heard the following catchy phrase?
If you spot it, you got it.
I got jealousy. I got resentment. I got judgement.
Got milk? Got greed? Got fear?
Don't allow someones faults get in the way of honoring them. What a person does does not change their essential worth, so we should not devalue someone when a fault is perceived, but rather it is time to look at ones own experience for clues for greater understanding. I'd like to do this better. There are a few people I've been hurt by. It's very hard to look inside and say, "Okay, how am I just as nasty, or unfeeling, or aggressive and cold?" Or I might ask myself, "How might a similar circumstance have pushed me into doing what they did?" I could also try asking how I may have been responsible for what had happened, too. This is some difficult stuff. And I realize this might not be a popular approach at this time. However it is a way toward a better place. I believe it. And if I can bring myself into a place where I have an understanding about what might have brought them to this point, then I might be able to let go of the bitterness inside myself because if I had faced similar pressures I may have done just what they did.
I think that, as someone sees the faults in themself as they learn about how they see others over time, someone can eventually disregard certain judgements. It's sort of like seeing the wizard behind the curtain in Oz. A person might realize that certain judgements weren't their own in the first place or that they just weren't correct.
Like if someone walks around believing that nobody likes them, and judges people for being stuck-up or just not liking them. Over time this person might--especially if they are doing yoga or other self-inquiry--try to see what is going on. And they might see that they weren't giving people a chance to know them. Maybe there was a habit of shying away from others. So nobody felt that familliar or friendly toward this person. It might take a strong resolve and conscious will to change ones behavior toward others, but it could change everything if that was the block to more friendships. And to do this it would be necessary to cast out the old judgements which were false, anyway.
Understanding your faults is a way to become unblocked. Faults are only faults if they are holding us back in some way, so it is worth it to discover how we might live with a freer and happier mindset. Just like the example of the "nobody likes me" person who wasn't allowing anyone close enough to see, we might discover something through examining our judgements of others that might make the world a better and friendlier place.
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