Patanjali's second advice in YS I.33 is to be compassionate towards those who are unhappy. Compassion means to "suffer with". It is different from empathy in that even though both connect to the suffering of another, the feeling within compassion is so deeply entrenched one feels as though it is one's own.
It may feel natural or almost instinctive to cultivate feelings of compassion towards those whose suffering is visible to us. We see them, we sense their suffering, we yearn to eliminate that pain of theirs like we would our own. But how about the angry, aggressive, abrasive people whose words and actions create so much pain for others? Maybe some of us have such people in our lives who are making us feel miserable. Can we feel compassion for them? Why even include them in our thoughts, in our consideration, in our web of compassion? They say hurt people hurt people. It is those who live with intense pain that hurt others the most, and they are the ones who need our compassion the most. It is not that they are evil people deriving joy from causing us pain. It is that their pain is so huge that if they allowed themselves to immerse in its intensity, they might not know how to deal with its magnitude. They never learned how to cope. They never learned how to forgive or move on or let go. They carry with them histories of hurt and pain and the only way they know how to deal with it is to pass it on. It is not our job to judge them or figure them out or even save them. One's self-inflicted pain is one's own to unload. But if we want our own serenity of mind, we choose not to mirror their anger with our anger, we choose not to fight their aggression with our aggression. Instead we choose love in its expression of compassion. We choose to see that behind the mask of anger is fear, buried within their hurtful actions and words are the intrinsic desires to be free, to be happy, to be accepted, to be understood, to be comforted, to be loved.
Karuna (or compassion) towards the dukha (or the unhappy) is what is natural to us. When we were newly born into this body, we did not know how to separate or segregate or discriminate or judge or label or categorize. We felt one with everyone else- without condition. Our yoga practice is to bring us back to that state, this time widely awake, as our choice, with full consciousness. Our job is to remember that despite our different bodies and forms and shapes and lives and dreams and personalities and yes even problems and struggles and pains, we are ultimately just one soul. Karuna, compassion, is to suffer with all those who suffer, to see we are all mirrors of each other, reflecting back who we are and who we were and who we could be.
May our hearts be open enough to walk this path of compassion, to soften our hearts towards those whose suffering is apparent to us and those whose suffering is hidden from us and those whose suffering is redirected in ways we find difficult to understand.
May all beings everywhere be free from suffering.
May I be the expression of compassion.