Yama, the first step corresponding to the Eight Limbs of yoga, holds the affirmation of ahimsa or non-violence which is explained by Master Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois in his book Yoga Mala as “not causing injury to anyone including animals in any form, at any time or for any reason in word, thought or deed”. This step is followed by the affirmations of Satya or truthfulness, Asteya standing for not stealing or envying and a few others that indirectly or directly lead to the quality of compassion; one of the most important factors for leading a life of peace, purpose, joy and unity.
Compassion not only holds the concept of ahimsa or non-violence, but it takes it a step further. It is the ability of feeling someone else’s suffering under a deep state of love. Buddhism, which is historically one of the branches of yoga, places extreme importance on the concept of compassion and one of their main exercises for developing a sense of universal kindness and achieve spiritual transformation is to see all sentient beings under the real lens of equanimity or equality; interacting with all as if they were our own mother.
We all know how hard it is to keep our defensive and judgmental reactions out of the way during our everyday lives. Even if we get to feel peaceful and at ease when on the yoga mat, the moment we set a foot out on the streets or step on the car we quickly seem to forget about this graceful feeling. But there is a way of dealing with this mental conditioning of ours, by simply becoming aware of when these negative reactions arise and substitute the negative for positive by seeing other people or situations under the light of compassion.
In his Book of Transformation, the Dalai Lama includes the beautiful text of The Eight Verses on Transforming the Mind, reading them every morning or every once in a while, can help us to remind ourselves about the value of this wonderful capacity that we have as human beings. These verses guide us through an alternative way of seeing what and who surrounds us, placing the heart right in the epicenter around which everyone and everything revolves.
The first verse talks about holding other beings as exceptionally dear to you, while recognizing the important role they play when it comes to attaining your spiritual realizations. With no other sentient beings around you, it would be impossible to develop great compassion.
The second verse mentions approaching others with genuine humility and an authentic courage of being of help. The third one affirms the importance of freeing ourselves from our negative impulses, emotions and thoughts; while the fourth verse moves us to give our hands to those beings who have been marginalized, abandoned or who are caught up in tremendous suffering. We must see these sentient beings as if we have been given a treasure.
The fifth and sixth verse encourages us to see people that are being or have been unkind to us from a lens of patience and tolerance; considering them as our cherished teachers. The seventh verse summarizes what has been pronounced in previous ones and the succeeding last verse moves us to be released from the eight mundane concerns and to remain unattached from as we practice compassion in the purest of its form.