Blockheads & BarbariansPlacing your mat in class, the teacher gives you a spiteful look. You don’t know it, but her ex-husband, to whom she is paying alimony, was walking out the door as you walked in, and she saw you smile at him. Driving to work, you slow down and give lots of space to a woman pushing a baby carriage across the street. The driver behind you does not see the pedestrians and leans on the horn in rage. Shopping for food, you block the aisle as you get lost in reading labels. You look up and someone is standing there acting as if you are ruining their day – you’ll never find out that they were alone and depressed all morning, and that flashing a bit of anger is actually a step up the vitality ladder from the gloom they were in.

You are supposed to be hurt at these insults. You are supposed to get angry in return and have a bad day. But what if you don’t respond? What if you don’t give random people power over your inner emotional state?

In The Radiance Sutras, a new translation of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Shiva says:

It’s always the same.

Barbarians and blockheads,

Rival queens and rival kings,

The drama rolls on and on.

When people honor you,

You are supposed to be glad.

When they disrespect you,

You are supposed to sulk in indignation.

One minute you are cruising on a throne in the sky,

The next you are standing on some bleak patch of dirt.


I say, the Sun regards all with a steady eye.

The force sustaining Earth and Sky

Calls everyone to awaken from this trance.


This whole world revolves around an axis, and I am that.

When you are friends with the Friend to All Beings

Nothing is the same.

Rich beyond measure, abundant beyond counting,

You can move through this life laughing.

Opinions of others have no rulership over you.


samah shatrau cha mitre cha samah maana–ava-maanayoh

brahmanah pari–poornatvaat iti jnaatvaa sukhee bhavet

The Sanskrit here sounds like the plot of a daytime soap opera: m?na means “opinion, arrogance, indignation excited by jealousy, sulking, blockhead, an agent, a barbarian.”

  • sama – smooth, flat. Same, always the same, equal, like to or identical. impartial towards. Easy. Peace. In music, a kind of time. “On level ground”
  • ?atru – an enemy, rival, a hostile king. The sixth astrological mansion.
  • ca – also
  • mitra – a friend, companion. In the Rig Veda, Mitra is described as calling men to activity, sustaining Earth and Sky and beholding all creatures with unwinking eye.
  • m?na – opinion, notion. Self-conceit, arrogance, pride, a wounded sense of honor, anger or indignation excited by jealousy (esp. in women), sulking. In astronomy, the name of the tenth house.  Also a “blockhead; an agent; a barbarian.”
  • vim?na – devoid of honor, disgraced. Disrespect, dishonor. Traversing. A car or chariot of the gods , any mythical self-moving aerial car.
  • brahmahmanah – supreme consciousness.
  • pari – round, around, abundantly, richly.
  • p?r?a – filled, full, filled with or full of, abundant, rich, fulfilled, finished, accomplished, ended, past, concluded (as a treaty), contented, drawn (in augury). Full-sounding, sonorous and auspicious, said of the cry of birds and beasts.
  • jñ? – to know, have knowledge,  perceive , understand  experience, recognize. To recognize as one’s own, take possession of, intelligent, having a soul, wise.
  • sukha – ease, easiness, comfort, pleasure, happiness, pleasant, agreeable, gentle, comfortable, prosperous. Originally, “having a good axle-hole,” running swiftly or easily. In music, a partic, m?rchan?, of one of the 9 ?aktis of ?iva. In astrology, the name of the fourth house. Joyfully, willingly.
  • bhavet – becomes. (representing a possibility, a hoped-for state, a potential “It could become.” From bhava – becoming, being, turning or transition into, true condition, temperament, any state of mind or body, way of thinking or feeling, intention, love, affection, attachment; the seat of the feelings or affections, heart, soul, mind.

This sutra points to a daring level of equanimity that any of us can inhabit, spontaneously or intentionally. Sometimes we find ourselves full of our own sukhi, our own pleasure, and just don’t have time to join other people in their bad moods. We can also set an intention to explore equanimity. A good time to set an aim is at the end of your meditation time in the morning. Take fifteen seconds and say to yourself, “Just for today, I am not going to let other people control my inner life. Other people can have whatever mood they are in. I am going to be in mine.” Say it in your own language, in a way that is intriguing to you: “I am interested in learning about equanimity.” Or even, “God, Great Spirit, teach me about joy and emotional freedom.” Rest your attention on this thought at the end of your morning meditation practice. Then prepare yourself for interesting changes in your emotional reactiveness during the day. You might find that you suddenly step into a new kind of internal stability.

Whenever we set any such intention, we embark on a road of adventure in which we remember, and forget, and remember again. In the morning, we are all set with our emotional freedom, and by noon, we have been jostled and impinged upon and we forget. Setting an intention never means we are perfect, it just means we are asking life to teach us about a topic – we have signed up for that class. No one comes to yoga because they are already perfect.

You also might find interesting challenges – Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House advisor, said recently, “If somebody’s trying to get you angry, the calmer you get, the angrier they’ll get.”

This sutra is a hint that after meditation, you can keep favoring the inner happiness and fullness percolating up from your deepest bhava (becoming, existing, transition into.) Let the soap opera continue on its own, without you – all the other actors will be fine. And why not give everyone a free pass to be a blockhead once in awhile?

Dr. Lorin Roche was lucky enough to begin practicing asana, pranayama, and meditation in 1968, and he still feels like a beginner – every day. He was trained as a meditation teacher in 1969-1970 and has been sharing the delight ever since. Lorin is the author of Meditation Made Easy, Meditation Secrets for Women, and The Radiance Sutras. His PhD is in Social Science from the University of California, Irvine, where he researched the language of meditation. He lives in Marina del Rey with his yogini shaktini wife, Camille Maurine. The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, is available from Lorin’s website: Email [email protected] or call (310) 570-2803. Become a fan of The Radiance Sutras on Facebook.

Dr. Lorin Roche began practicing with the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra in 1968 as part of scientific research on the physiology of meditation. He has a PhD from the University of California at Irvine, where his research focused on the language meditators generate to describe their inner experiences. He is the author of The Radiance Sutras and Meditation Made Easy. With his wife, Camille Maurine, he wrote Meditation Secrets for Women. A teacher of meditation for 46 years, Lorin’s approach centers on how to customize the practices to suit one’s individual nature. Lorin leads the Radiance Sutras Meditation Teacher Training, a 200 hour certification program registered with Yoga Alliance. Lorin teaches regularly at the Esalen Institute and around the world.