Harnessing the Yoga Sutras – Pratipaksha Bhavanum

Written by: Melanie Morgan

Sutra 2.33: When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of. – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda When you’re anxious – think of your favorite place to relax. When you’re angry – think of all the reasons you have to be happy. When you’re feeling down on yourself, think of your best qualities.

When I first heard this Sutra – I was hesitant. To me it sounded like the opposite of equanimity. I personally don’t think its healthy to swing back and forth from negative to positive – or to think that negative thoughts or feelings can be “overcome” if we just always couple them with positive thinking or actions. It sounded very reactive and shielding to me. I understood it a little better after thinking of it in terms of my meditation practice, and using the compassionate “coming back to the breath” as the positive thinking or action. From my studies in Buddhist meditation I have learned our thoughts are not everything, and thus when you have a negative thought, you simple let it go, coming back to your center (not forcing a positive feeling or thought).

I did a little bit more reading after first encountering this Sutra and found a translation that presented Pratipaksha Bhavanum as a more proactive choice and a tool for manifestation – which really resonated with me. Choosing to think positively or choosing to see the positive side of a situation. Not necessarily combating a negative reality with a forced positive experience. If done over time this can radically change our perspective in life and naturally shift the way we react to negative thoughts or feelings. In knowing positive thinking well, and not having a reactionary or shielding relationship with negative thoughts, we can start to live in more equanimity and won’t need to swing back and forth.