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The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2003

    At last, a Yoga Sutra that gets it right...

    Patanjali¿s Yoga Sutra is the clearest statement of what yoga is and how to practice it. It is believed to date from around 200 AD, but describes meditative traditions that are much older, including the approach used by the Buddha. There have been alot of translations and commentaries over the years - the oldest surviving one, the Yoga Bhashya, was penned in the 5th century - but they all suffer from the same basic flaws. For one thing, each of the 196 individual sutras (or 195, depending on which version you read) is always followed by reams of analysis, a drawback of ancient traditions whose scholarly elite have had centuries to pick things apart. This tends to hide the fact that yoga is much more practical than theoretical, and makes Patanjali¿s ideas alot harder to follow. Another common problem is that there¿s always a bias - either the author is a hatha yogi who bends the YS toward hatha yoga (which came centuries later, it now seems) or a vedantist coming from a viewpoint, or darshana, with a radically different understanding of key terms like ishvara and atman. It¿s not that Patanjali isn¿t clear about what he means by these words, or by asana (definitely not the dog pose!) - he explains exactly what he means. But even when a more balanced scholarly view is offered by, say, Barbara Stoler Miller, you get the feeling that the insights are more intellectual than experienced. I¿ve read over half a dozen versions of the YS - Vivekananda, Isherwood/Prabhavananda, Taimni, Satchidananda, Feuerstein, Shearer, Iyengar, and Stoler Miller - and was resigned to these problems until I read Hartranft¿s book. Even though he¿s not as famous - yet - as some of the big names who¿ve tackled Patanjali, his understanding of meditative states is unparalleled. I¿ve never seen or heard a more detailed or skillful description of samapatti, viveka, dharmamegha-samadhi, or kaivalya, and he provides an outline of ashtanga yoga that alone is worth the price of the book. He¿s the only one I¿ve read who seems to place Patanjali¿s system in its proper context, and make it relevant to a modern person - read his afterword, The Yoga Sutra Today, if you want to know if classical yoga is still a path worth taking (it is!). And the book itself is a work of art - simple, uncluttered, with all the academic stuff (Sanskrit text, word-word translations) available on his website. I¿m not about to throw away my other copies, but if I had to have just one, Hartranft¿s would be it.

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    Posted May 9, 2011

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    Posted February 3, 2009

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