Site logo

Developing compassion according to yoga philosophy

How to develop compassion according to yoga philosophy. 

Socrates once wrote that “The people who are the hardest to love, need it the most”. At times, when we come across a person who is more “difficult to interact” with, there is judgement created. Often people who seem the toughest on the outside, are indeed the ones who feel the most on the inside. This in my opinion can be a positive quality which creates a balance between dualities. But when this toughness is created as a protective shield, then over time, it can create internal and external conflict. 

At times, we pull away from those who seem to be “made of stone”.  It seems that no matter what, they don’t show any emotion and tend to hide in their cocoon to lick their own wounds. Yet we do not see this. We don’t see their behind the scenes, but the mask they show to the world, for which they are judged. 

The yoga philosophy teaches us about different principles to be followed for a moral life. All come with significant importance, and I will present two main ones in this post. In my opinion, one is needed to be understood and practiced at the start of the yogic journey and throghout, whilst the other is the unfolding and progression on the yoga path.

Ahimsa (non-harm) is the first of the social moral code (yamas) in the eight limbs of yoga by Sri Patanjali. Here, the yoga journey begins. One who is able to think, speak and act with no harm towards others, the environment and all that is living, is a good example of those who are taking on this quest for truthfulness/true knowledge.

The other is Karuna which is compassion. The meaning of compassion in my opinion is understanding the pain and sadness of others. When one begins to open their heart to the true knowledge that we are all made of the same essence, another person’s suffering is not only understood, but also felt. Because only when there is no sense of separation and comparison, true compassion is experienced.

Perhaps you have experienced Karuna in times of sadness. Both sadness and compassion can be called Karuna in Sanskrit, so they are closely related. When we face difficult times, and lose hope, we may realise that the only option we have is to open our heart; to surrender and let ourselves feel without judgement and allow this experience to occur with acceptance; and this is compassion towards ourselves

​If you’ve ever been through deep suffering, maybe you can relate to this. And when we finally come out of this darkness and rise, when we meet somebody who is facing the same experience that we have overcome, we understand. We feel it as if it were our own because we have been down that road. So we support, we listen, we hold that person with love and acceptance, knowing that all they need is somebody to be there, to give them hope and to listen. And this is compassion.

Compassion quotes

One is said to be a “yogi” when they devote themselves to Sadhana (spiritual practice) and all sense of separation begins to fade; when the ego is no longer the truth they know of themselves and their identity, therefore union is experienced. When this occurs, compassion is felt not only for others; but also for the environment, for all the animals, for plants and flowers, for the turbulence of the sea and all that is living and non-living.

​A yogi therefore does not judge others, nor do they judge themselves. Because if they do so, they know they are doing it on a collective consciousness level.

We can become more mindful in the ways we speak to ourselves; how we respond to our own suffering; how we hold ourselves in time of need and learn to accept everything as it is.

​So let yourself be as you are and do the same for others. Accept everyone for who they show themselves to be not who we want them to be or think they are. We cannot know the struggles another person faces, or the battles they are fighting within even if they share these. But if we learn to look beyond their actions, their words of toughness, we can realise that this is not their highest self, that if one portrays such behaviours, then they are lost and far away from their True nature. And whilst we don’t have to agree with or accept their actions or unkind words, we can develop wisdom and understand that beneath all of this, there is a soul that has lost its way.

May we always remember the darkness we have overcome
And be the light to shine for others
When they are faced with suffering and struggles”.