Karuna: A call for action

By Lauren Raffaela Piccolo

 “To overcome obstacles and to win unalloyed happiness, Patanjali offered several remedies.”*

     For those who choose it, the yoga path leads one on a journey towards self discovery, namely focusing on freeing the Self from complex inner demons – polluted thoughts, manifestations and actions – that distract us from reaching liberation. This path, as Patanjali has taught it, encompasses following the 8 limbs or stages of yoga. The eight limbs are: Yama  (universal moral commandments), Niyama (self purification through discipline), Asana (posture), Pranayama (rhythmic control of the breath), Pratyahara (emancipation of the mind from the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (super-consciousness). As one can imagine, the 8 limbed yoga path requires consistent discipline and consciousness of mind and action. In being human, there are naturally many distractions that may get in the way of ones intention to stay on this journey. In his book, Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar interprets the ways that Patanjali advises us on how we can overcome such obstacles through specific remedies, which are: Maitri (friendliness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (delight), Upeska (disregard).** In expanding on the definition of karuna we learn from B.K.S. Iyengar that being a compassionate yogi goes beyond simply feeling empathy for those who are suffering. Rather, according to the great teacher, a yogi who is strong in health, mind and overall being, will not show pity for others, but rather through action, seek to help the weak. He writes: the yogi uses all his resources – physical, economic, mental or moral – to alleviate the pain and suffering of others.*** Karuna therefore encompasses the dual response of compassion and action and is a practice that remains free of questioning or other intention. One of the amazing things about the Barcelona Yoga Conference is that it will be a chance for yogis to practice karuna together – whether by taking it in through receiving guidance from a teacher or by giving it through connecting and offering selfless help to a fellow yogi. In being aware that the path, while a solitary journey in many senses, also calls for us to be present in the lives of those around us, one can dualistically offer and take in the benefits of karuna. It is through karuna that a yogi “becomes a shelter” for others and BYC is one great example of a platform for conscious practitioners to inspire each other through practicing karuna for the pure intention of offering ones inherent strengths for the benefit of others.****

*B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga (Schocken Books, New York: 1976), p. 26 **Ibid. ***Ibid. ****Ibid.


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