The Nature of Compassion in Yoga: Illuminating its Modern Role through an Examination of Historical Texts
Date of Award
Master of Arts
School or College
Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts
This paper explores the nature of compassion within various yoga traditions and clarifies its role through historical and textual examination. In doing so, it explores key texts within the yoga traditions that address compassion and highlight the qualities attributed to compassion. While compassion is commonly present within the texts, it varies in meaning and significance within these texts and often is not perceived as central to the text’s teachings. Initially, this paper examines teachings from the Upaniṣads that address moral conduct and the nature of transformative knowledge. Second, verses from the Yogasūtra are discussed. In doing so, this paper addresses the brahmavihāras and their understanding in Buddhist literature. Third, this paper examines verses and concepts from the Mahābhārata, in which compassion can be seen as an important theme. Then, the Yogavāsiṣṭha's view on ethics and compassion is explored. Haṭhayoga texts present a shift within the conception of compassion and address compassion as part of the yamas within the aṣṭāṅgayoga framework, a representation that carries through to the Yoga Upaniṣads. Lastly, this paper elaborates on the implications and significance of compassion within yoga, discusses the main Sanskrit terms, and addresses possible threads that demonstrate the evolution of compassion within yoga’s literature. It further argues that there is a correlation between the importance of compassion within a text to the text’s target audience as ascetics or householders. I will further demonstrate that the prominence of compassion within a text signifies the accessibility of the text, its teachings, and the practice of yoga to a wider audience.
Eshed, Keren, "The Nature of Compassion in Yoga: Illuminating its Modern Role through an Examination of Historical Texts" (2023). LMU/LLS Theses and Dissertations. 1240.