Shankara in his commentary explains that these are meditations which must actualize themselves. Until the reactions in ordinary life have begun to modify themselves along the lines of the meditations, the cultivation of intensity has only begun.
Friendliness – maitri, a great word in Buddhism – is explained as a general gladness at the good fortune and happiness of another. The Mahatma Balarama Udasin, whom Dr Shastri knew and held in great regard, remarks that this friendliness must not be partisanship, what the world calls friendship. It has to be something like the friendliness of the Lord towards all beings – not taking the side of one against another. Shankara in his Gita commentary (to V. 29) stresses meditation on the Lord as the friend of all, who does good to them without expecting any return for it, and who lies in the hearts of all. Worldly friendship, on the other hand, is towards one person identified with body-mind, and involves hatred of those who are against him.
The goodwill and friendliness of the world are often merely sentimentality, and do not do the good which is expected. A Chinese king heard a bull being driven to the temple for the annual sacrifice, and its melancholy bellow touched his heart; he felt that it somehow knew of what was to happen. He gave orders that the bull was to be returned and set free; ‘sacrifice a ram instead’, he told the minister. This was reported to the Confucian sage Mencius, who remarked that it was quite natural for the king to spare the bull and sacrifice a ram instead, because he had heard the bull, but not the ram. The king would be wrong, however, to suppose that he had done anything good. Similarly today some people are touched when they see a violent robber suffering in prison, and try to get him released5 like the king, they see the robber but do not see the victims. ‘The shepherd who is kind to wolves is cruel to sheep.’ A modern teacher remarked of such cases that it is not reasonable to release the human being who finds himself caught in the wolf role. Those who feel a concern could do something to ameliorate the prison condition by personal visits and in other ways, and to put spiritual books into the prison library would be a service to both the prisoners and society.
In a sense, it is easier to feel goodwill towards the unhappy than towards the happy, because there is no question of envy. Those who are successful are generally targets of envy, their happiness being compared with the real or imagined sufferings of the others. It is a great meditation to fix the mind on happiness of others and realize it as a manifestation of the bliss aspect of Brahman. This is not nearly so easy as most people imagine, Iago was by no means an exceptional individual.
As result of some good action in the past, beings have a momentary glimpse of the bliss which underlies all, but they think this glimpse is due just to the particular circumstances of the moment. The yogi is expected to take all experiences of happiness, in others as in himself, as a manifestation of truth, distorted to the degree to which the experiencer so arrogates the happiness to his individual self. To the yogi the happiness of others is a manifestation of the Krishna or attraction element of Brahman, and he feels friendliness towards it. This feeling has to be intensified by meditation and action.