The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography

by David Gordon White
     
 

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"Contemporary yoga teachers and gurus have mistakenly made the Yoga Sutra into the ubiquitous foundation of all yoga practice, stretching and extrapolating it into a complete manual for living. Now the man behind the curtain is exposed. White mines the truth from hearsay and stands contemporary yoga beliefs on their head. This remarkable, colorful, and

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Overview

"Contemporary yoga teachers and gurus have mistakenly made the Yoga Sutra into the ubiquitous foundation of all yoga practice, stretching and extrapolating it into a complete manual for living. Now the man behind the curtain is exposed. White mines the truth from hearsay and stands contemporary yoga beliefs on their head. This remarkable, colorful, and engaging book will rattle a lot of cages and hopefully enlighten the enlighteners. I highly recommend it as required reading for anyone interested in yoga."—Ganga White, author of Yoga Beyond Belief and founder of the White Lotus Foundation

"David Gordon White is not only a magnificent writer and a brilliant scholar. He is perhaps our best modern interpreter of Indian yogic traditions."—Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

"Elegant, erudite, and crystal clear. White shows how the Yoga Sutra, which has taken on iconic significance with respect to the practice of modern yoga, has been completely misunderstood and manipulated to mean different things over the course of the past millennium. This book will force anyone who thinks they know what the Yoga Sutra signifies to completely change their view on the subject."—Joseph S. Alter, author of Yoga in Modern India

"A very engaging read. White's book is provocative in all the right places."—Martha Ann Selby, coeditor of Tamil Geographies: Cultural Constructions of Space and Place in South India

"The best book available on the Yoga Sutra. It is a work of original research that will greatly interest scholars and captivate general readers. White performs a great service with this book."—Donald S. Lopez, Jr., author of "The Tibetan Book of the Dead": A Biography

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"White's book, a contribution to Princeton's Lives of Great Religious Books series, delves into the short collection of verses that many contemporary practitioners believe--erroneously--to be the original, definitive guide to ancient yoga philosophy. A scholar of comparative religions, White conducted sharp and deep research to tell the story of the rise, fall, and modern-day resurgence of the 195 verses attributed to the author/compiler Patanjali, who lived in either the first century BCE or the fourth century CE."--Publishers Weekly

"White's scholarly read is a fascinating presentation of the rise, fall, and rediscovery of the Yoga Sutra. . . . It will appeal to those looking to expand their knowledge. Concise, yet showing fresh research, this book is well suited for academic and comprehensive yoga collections."--Ajoke Kokodoko, Library Journal

"Engaging, challenging, myth-busting, and completely au courant, weaving into the debates on cultural appropriation, colonization, and the reinvention of yoga and South Asian spiritual practice in the postmodern west."--Sean Feit, Nadalila.org

"A wildly entertaining tour-de-force of deconstructive research."--Matthew Remski, Reality Sandwich

"A lively account of this sutra's unlikely history and how it has variously been interpreted, reinterpreted, ignored, and hailed. The colorful characters on these pages include Vivekananda and Krishnamacharya, two giants in modern yoga, as well as literary figures such as T.S. Eliot. There is also Alberuni, a Muslim scientist and scholar who translated a commentary on the Yoga Sutra a thousand years ago, and the outrageous Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who fused the principles of the Yoga Sutra with Western ideas of the occult."--Shambhala Sun

"The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali undertakes an exhaustive, scholarly history of the titular work of ancient Indian philosophy, lightened by author David Gordon White's provocative wit. . . . White's in-depth examination demonstrates how scriptural exegesis often reveals as much about the worldview and priorities of its authors as it does the wisdom of the works they interpret."--Max Zahn, Tricycle

"White brings to life the improbable cast of characters whose interpretations--and misappropriations--of the Yoga Sutra led to its revered place in popular culture today. Tracing the remarkable trajectory of this enigmatic work, White's exhaustively researched book also demonstrates why the yoga of India's past bears little resemblance to the yoga practiced today."--RSR, Buddhism Now

"[L]ucidly written."--Vithal C. Nadkarni, Economic Times

"[A] groundbreaking study."--Apoorva Sripathi, The Hindu

Library Journal
04/01/2014
The four books of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra contain 196 sutras (aphorisms) that many believe to be the theoretical and philosophical basis of modern-day yoga. However, White (Yoga in Practice) shows how the work in its original form is not the basis of today's teachings. White explores its development, from Patanjali's esoteric Sanskrit text through its innumerable interpretations and translations. He clearly demonstrates the evolution of the works through a long line of commentaries and manipulations. In fact, the original text only has four verbs and is virtually incomprehensible to those who do not know Sanskrit. White discusses renowned and lesser-known progenitors, gurus, and disciples who made the ancient work accessible. Key figures covered include British orientalist Henry Thomas, who "discovered" the sutras in the early 1800s and made them palatable to Western civilization; Swami Vivekananda, whose English-language commentaries and book Raja Yoga (1896) ignited a U.S. passion for yoga; and Tirumalai Krishnamachrya, the "father of modern yoga." VERDICT White's scholarly read is a fascinating presentation of the rise, fall, and rediscovery of the Yoga Sutra. Though not essential for yoga practioners, it will appeal to those looking to expand their knowledge. Concise, yet showing fresh research, this book is well suited for academic and comprehensive yoga collections.—Ajoke Kokodoko, Oakland P.L.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691143774
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
05/25/2014
Series:
Lives of Great Religious Books
Pages:
296
Sales rank:
881,373
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.20(d)

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