Book 1, Sutra 1:Patanjali Yoga Sutra
“NOW, THE TEACHING OF YOGA!”
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras starts out in beautiful simplicity! Let us hope I can continue to find this type of directness throughout this review of his book. I am inspired by the thought that this is possible and I will formally make my prayer right now that through God’s grace I will be able to see the profound simplicity in all the sutras in a way that practically benefits all readers everywhere!
The Yoga Sutras are divided into four books, each with around 50 sutras, or stanzas or verses. In sanskrit, Patanjali’s original language of choice, the chapters are called “samadhi,” “sadhana,” “vibhuti,” and “kaivalya” chapters, respectively. A preliminary, rough translation of these chapter headings could be “on concentration,” “on practice,” “on powers or accomplishments,” and “on liberation,” respectively. Most commentaries agree that these four chapters are not describing a linear progression of yoga practice. Many commentaries state that it was an ancient practice in sanskrit texts to write a different chapter for each different type of student being taught and so, each chapter could be seen as a complete set of teachings until itself. Additionally, I read that usually the more advanced students are the first and the last, with the students of middling capacity taught in between. Knowing that in advance is very helpful when approaching the Yoga Sutras because one can therefore expect the more profound teachings to come in the beginning and the end with a more elaborated description of various practices to be utilized coming in between.
For this blog, I am referencing as many different translations of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as I can currently acquire. Through the generous resources of Amma’s ashram libraries (here in Kerala, India) I have been able to get about 25 different translations. I hope to be adding to that number as I go along, if possible. I am greatly indebted to Salvatore Zambito’s “The Unadorned Thread of Yoga: The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali in English” because he combined 12 different translations into that one text which made doing this blog much easier. The authors he includes are: Arya, Bailey, Dvivedi, Feuerstein, Houston, Jnaneshvara, Prabhavananda, Purohit, Satchidananda, Shearer, Taimni and Vivekananda. To that I am presently adding versions by: Hartranft, Stiles, Tola & Dragonetti, Satyananda Saraswati, Hariharananda, Iyengar, Ramanathan, Chapple, Johnston, Kandalangudi, Sadhakas, Brahmananda Saraswati, Swami Vishnu-Devananda, Nambiar, and Condron. I hope to add a few more to this list, as we go, including Paramahamsa Yogananda, Sri Ravi Shankar, Beyer-Nelson, Sadashiva Isham, Woods, Tandon, Osho and Villoldo.