The Non-Dual Approach to the Yoga Sutras
Today millions of yoga practitioners are being exposed to the profound felt-sense and sense of self-empowerment, peace, and clarity that a authentic yoga practice gifts us. They will naturally find their curiosity evoked, asking; "what's going on, what is this vibrant felt-sense of the life force all about, and how may I abide in that awareness continually?
Subsequently, many practitioners will take a peek at Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. However, due to the prevalence of the plethora of inadequate, biased,and overly intellectualized translations, tragically their interest is doused. Too often students conclude that the Yoga Sutras are merely an intellectual or academic work, irrelevant to daily living or authentic yogic practice. Or, on the opposite extreme many become seduced to memorize and conform to the ideology built up by centuries of academic study in order to obtain politically correct views or honors. This tragedy can be rectified.
Patanjali warns against this latter kind of intellectual knowledge as spiritual poison. That does not mean that one needs to throw away logic, sense data, and conventional validation processes; but rather when it comes to yogic knowledge, such is grossly inadequate and must be set aside. Once the inner eye is awakened a treasure trove of yogic wisdom that was gleaned from the ancient oral tradition of the mountain and forest dwelling yogis of ancient India becomes self-evident. Many respected Swamis have become seduced by the preexisting entrenched academic, patriarchal, and authoritarian intellectually biased interpretations, which have obscured the authentic meaning of the Yoga Sutras for over 1500 years. But that is all about to change once critical thought and insight is applied.
If the reader already is aware of the conflict between traditional samkhya based expropriations of yoga, they need not read further here in this foreword; which is tailored to those unaware of the ideological disputes foistered by vested traditionalists.
The unsuspecting novice does not suspect the reason for the apparent uniform deadness of the many translations of the Yoga Sutras. Rather, it is most commonly presented in a dry intellectual fashion, because academically based translators and commentators have become groomed in a singular self-serving sycophantic philosophical tradition dating back to the first commentator scholar, Vyasa, who wrote the first extant commentary on the Yoga Sutras, circa fourth-fifth century CE. Vyasa interpreted Yoga from the samkhya ideological framework, which set off an intellectually oriented, semantic, grammatical, academic, and philosophical tradition that has been maintained through Indian orthodox academia up until the present day.
It is not that samkhya itself is wrong or useless; but, in respect to yoga, it is merely a limited dualistic view. Of course, every human being has the right to their own tastes, views, and philosophy (samkhya included). Indeed samkhya is right, as far as it goes, i.e., samkhya is samkhya. However, it would be a severe error to try to interpret the extraordinary and profound practice of yoga, which is basically an ontological system rooted in praxis (which is the authentic mountain wilderness yoga tradition) attempting to filter, while viewing it through the lens of an etymological and reductionist context. Modern samkhya interpretations takes the very ancient yogic tradition, which is essentially transverbal, trans-intellectual/trans-conceptual, and attempts to bend it into a much smaller container based on the limited dualistic intellectual and academic samkhya framework. Yoga, however, states an opposite position by attempting to break up the limits of conceptual thought patterns entirely.
In short, the conservative academic tradition has tried to interpret yoga from the samkhya predilection. That way they get samkhya, but not yoga. However, yoga is not samkhya, nor is samkhya capable of interpreting the profound and ancient yogic meanings gleaned from practice. Yoga defies samkhya in that it stands by itself complete, outside of samkhya's traditional philosophical assumptions. Granted samkhya has the right to its voice, angle, view, and interpretation, but not exclusively so.
The true nature of phenomena is revealed when the true nature of the mind is revealed. Such is our true nature.
"In many cases, the philosophers have gone wrong by trying to find out the truth of the matter concerning the way things are, rather than relating with things in terms of perception. If we theorize about the experience of the world, its solidity, its eternality, and so on, we block a very large chunk of our own experience. What we experience in our everyday life situation does not have to be confirmed by theory or proved. It does not depend on anything of that nature. It is simply a matter of everyday experience from minute to minute. "
~ The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa: Volume 6: Glimpses of Space; Orderly Chaos Chogyam Trungpa pg 492
Again this is not to dismiss or demean the intellect (buddhi), but rather to put it in its rightful context. According to yoga, as taught by Patanjali, the intellect is a dim reflection and tool of a transpersonal Universal Wisdom (Mahat) which reflects its origin from prakrti (nature as differentiated consciousness) and purusa (pure primordial undifferentiated consciousness). To clarify a samkhya sticking point, Patanjali does not state that prakrti and purusa are irreconcilable or independent, rather samkhya does. When the intellect (buddhi) is used as a tool within the overall harmonious context aligned with its essential nature and origin, then kept within that context, it may serve as a useful tool. However when the intellect (buddhi) serves the ego or individual will, the intellect is very dangerous, because it then serves to craftily subvert and substitute for direct intuitive wisdom (prajna). Such is the unmistakable teachings of the yogis as reflected in the Yoga Sutras (See I.7-9, I.42, I.49 for examples). In modern English, this to say that what is know as microcosmic phenomena are reflections of the macrocosm
Further, especially in the present materialist object oriented era, where gross materialism, egoic attachments, and over-objectivity have dominated the human psyche thus causing a rather severe tilt, imbalance, disconnect, where the left brain (will power and intellect) has become amplified out of sync and harmony at the expense of the right brain (feminine/receptive) function (which has become inhibited, demeaned, repressed, feared, and/or disconnected); it is especially valuable to recognize the conscious primordial intelligent power underlying the intellect, which the intellect is meant to serve and obey, which has instructed yogis directly throughout millennia. Although those who are dominated by the intellect may have lost confidence in their innate intuitive/creative potential and subsequently might well be drawn to and perhaps fascinated by samkhya, this translation and commentary of the Yoga Sutras will remain true to the creative power within all beings and things. It will not kow-tow to political correctness.
The Yoga Sutras have served as a helpful guidebook, reference, and feedback mechanism pertaining to the yogi's spiritual experiences and practices, acting as a spiritual companion for self-motivated seekers. Sincere and dedicated practitioners of "yoga", or better, accomplished "yogis" are most capable of relating to the Yoga Sutras from direct experience, but even for the beginner the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali can provide helpful hints, resonant frequencies, and serve as a useful outline and context for the acceleration of one's practice of yoga. Traditionally, most yogis have dwelled far away from universities, libraries, cities, or urban populations. For them the true nature of phenomena and the true nature of their own minds were part and parcel of one wholistic intelligent evolutionary natural process. But as human populations became more artificial and dependent upon man-made structures, human awareness of their own true relationship and identity (swarupa) with being a vital part of nature slowly became demeaned. With that his intuitive powers and values placed upon natural systems shriveled and dried up. For the most part human beings gradually became increasingly dependent and addicted to artificial and contrived ways of thinking and living proportionately to the extent that they lost touch with their interconnectedness with their natural uncontrived true nature. It is these prisons of the human mind which is strangling life today more than ever. The positive side of this age of alienation from nature and life, is that the malaise is more obvious, while the myth/illusion of mastering and controlling nature is being proven impossible. Possibly human beings are on the verge of forming an alliance once again with the evolutionary power (Mother Nature) and re-enter the evolutionary scene. We are either apart from it or part of it. Yogis choose union.
Beyond sectarianism and dogma, awaits the true seeker universal and natural law and truth. Beyond imbalanced patriarchal dominance, there exists a profound harmony and synchronicity which is essential to bring forward in today's predominance of anti-nature and nature exploitive cults. This is the healthy evolutionary religion that underlies reality, which humankind must embrace now. That is the discovery of the innate intelligent evolutionary conscious power awaiting to be discovered within each living being.
The Purpose of this Book (Praxis)
Although all adherents of philosophies, belief systems, religions, or world views will have the tendency to interpret the Yoga Sutras through their own eyes, this translation will attempt to interpret the Yoga Sutras based on three major criteria. The first and foremost purpose is to interpret what Patanjali has actually said in the Yoga Sutras, while using that as "authoritative" literal proof of what he is saying. Ultimately the yogi must reside in a yogic state while reading the Yoga Sutras listening for any resonance or "aha" moments of recognition which ones own direct experience reveals. This is what is meant by utilizing the Yoga Sutras as a field handbook or travel guide. Only secondarily will this commentary utilize outside sources as supportive material or examples.
Another criteria is that this translation assumes that Yoga is primarily praxis oriented, as it is based upon direct yogic experience only accessible by yogic practice, not philosophical theory. For a yogi, there exists an innate logos/order found within the heart of all beings, as well as the timeless core/heart of the universe. The yogi brings those together when the conditioned aberrations of the mind (citta vrtta) dissolve.
The Yoga Sutras is not a dissertation on Yoga Philosophy (as is too often assumed); rather it is designed as a guide book for active yogic practitioners, of which inference, conceptual thought processes, intellectual thought processes, and the like are not considered yogic tools. Rather such are considered limitations and hindrances (pramana vrtti). Here, the yogi is informed through yogic trans-conceptual practices and also through this informed state that puts wisdom into action. Reading the Yoga Sutras in that way, this interpretation of the Yoga Sutras will serve its deeper purpose as Patanjali addresses sadhana.
If one wants to study the Yoga Sutras according to the prevailing academic tradition; i.e., to speak "authoritatively" about the Yoga Sutras in conformity to "conventional wisdom", then this book will not suffice. If however the reader wants to get to the core meaning and purpose of the Yoga Sutras as an adjunctive training manual for yogis who desire liberation and samadhi, then this is book is designed to serve that purpose. In fact traditionally "conventional wisdom" is seen as a transgenerational bane to humankind, being a large contributor of institutionalized ignorance, negative programming, desensitization, violence, suffering, destruction and strife. Yogic wisdom says, learn what is on the minds and hearts of others, but do not be dissuaded by them. Learn what resides behind the core of the HeartMind, and be informed by that in all one's relations.
Authentic yoga is not for the academic observer, but for the yoga practitioner. Mountain yogis had little need of books because they were immersed in the presence of a living oral and transverbal tradition. Even when the human teacher was not physically present, the mountain yogis received instruction from primordial source through the intelligent evolutionary power inherent in nature -- the primordial teacher of all yoga teachers. However modern man lives in a very different setting/reality, which is ego driven and materialistic for the most part (at least the mind has become decidedly so arranged). Hence, the traditional yogic setting has to adjust to 21st century situations without losing its inner most power. Practices have to relate to that situation in order to be relevant and useful.
It is key not to attempt to place yoga within the Western or modern context; as it will never fit because the whole is much larger than its fragmented parts. However, the effective solution is to place the modern context within the perennial and universal context that yogic practice discloses irrespective of national origin, race, religion, gender, or any other limited belief system or bias. All that is necessary is a student who is earnestly seeking real answers, unbiased truth, liberation, and awakening. This is the perennial qualifications of a yogi adept, and, may I add, the qualities of a whole human being living in integrity. With this attitude intact, there will be many unique features found in these commentaries as to how practical, relevant, and timeless Yoga practice i can be today. Such a contextual reframing (bhava) has been long overdue in the West. Although the starting frame of reference, culture, and context today is different from that of ancient India, the ultimate goal and purpose will not be sacrificed.
According to the mountain yoga tradition, the Yoga Sutras are designed to empower the yogi to be able to reach his/her highest potential in this very life. The assumption is that all have this innate seed potential (isvara) which resides pervasively in all beings and things, but few of us have realized that potential consciously (purusa/father consciousness), here in the human body, and on planet earth (prakrti or Mother Nature). That is the inseparable union of pure consciousness (Cit) and pure beingness (Sat), spirit and nature, mind and body, father/mother, purusa/prakrti, Shiva/Shakti, Sun and moon, and so on resulting in pure bliss -- in Sat-Cit-Ananda) which yogic practice achieves within the container of the yogic practitioner. Then that yogi, brings about yoga as harmony, balance, union, conscious awakening, and happiness in all their relations. This is what the Yoga Sutras naturally intend.
So the context is very simple; not at all complex. What appears as "complex" appears to the intellect as such, but authentic yoga is beyond the human intellect. A yogi gets used to that and welcomes that state. Our Through negative conditioning "Now Awareness" has become deadened, veiled, desensitized, and compromised through transgenerational negative programming and conditioning, so that the average human being has established negative mental patterns and habits (called citta-vrtti) which distort our highest creative potential NOW. Yoga thus offers a series of practices that remediate these occlusions, obstructions, and hindrances, thus allowing one's fullest human potential to unfold in life NOW. It is innate and ever-present. It is the primordial authentic teacher to be rediscovered through yoga, NOW. When we are present NOW, there is no pain. When there is no pain, we are present and aware. Pain and angst arises from desiring to be elsewhere.
A gift of the Yoga Sutras is the ability to identify the remnants of negative conditioning (ignorance, desensitization, and confusion) that are lodged very deep in the average human conditioned situations, and release them -- by melting them down through the crucible established through yoga. Simultaneously, there is recognized a previously dormant, innate, and intelligent evolutionary power, whose ultimate nature is to be discovered and expressed as living love -- liberated and brought forth naturally into life; which has unlimited transformative power (Shakti Ma).
For the most part, the non-yogi having become inured to the negative programming has taken the former delusionary state at some time in their life as true; mistaking it as "reality". Thus, the common state of mind and behavior repeatedly and habitually ignores the necessary process of letting go of attachments to illusion. Such is the nature of habitual thought patterns (vasana). Society, composed of such people, has set up many rules and codes to self perpetuate this delusion while dumbing down people mostly unwittingly. That attachment (to this conditioned state of ignorance and insensitivity) precludes a mass awakening of the human being. Such transgenerational institutionalized ignorance attempts to preclude man from manifesting his highest evolutionary potential here on the planet, again unwittingly for the most part. Those who do it wittingly, do it out of personal gain, vengeance, spite, hatred, greed, exploitation, pride, and other such negative emotions, called kleshas. Those negative preoccupations are what authentic yogic practices remediate. This is accomplished by first putting the yogi in touch with causal operations consciously, then something far more empowering, satisfying, and causal becomes recognized.
Those seeking integrity -- those who have recognized to a degree that they have become conditioned, deluded (polluted), and distracted begin to recognize their predicament and eventually experience a complete disillusionment process, an identity crises, or what is called an ego death. A steady yoga practice makes this painless and quick. Ordinarily, the ego will resist, but in the trade we say good riddance! This is not a physical death or annihilation, but a rebirth and awakening. The prisons of old roles, limited self-identifications, and boundaries are exploded and released. What is left is boundless love and joy -- a constant and ongoing moment-to-moment identity crisis, which liberates us from all thought patterns and habitual syndromes (citta-vrtti), which keeps us alive and present. Yoga is the way to conscious awakening and liberation. Instead of negating, renouncing, or demonizing "the world", nature, or life, which are common escapist teachings, what is taught in the Yoga Sutras is how to let go of those fears and attachments, which are entirely mentally conditioned, while being cleansed from negative past programming, re-sensitized, and empowered to act in harmony with our innate intelligent evolutionary creative power. Then, we can live life fully, creatively, and effectively, as natural expressions of that intelligent evolutionary power, thus fulfilling our deepest evolutionary purpose on the planet.
Yoga has many names. Sometimes it is called action yoga (karma yoga) without attachment to results, bhakti yoga (isvara pranidhana) as in devotional practices, raj yoga (kingly yoga) as in meditation, or hatha yoga (as the union of spirit and nature); which is most well known in the west as utilizing asana, pranayama, and visualization, and/or all of these together being mutually synergistic. Yes, this does require disengagement from one thing, but not from the evolutionary force (life) nor primordial presence. The disengagement has to do with the citta-vrtti (conditioned habits of the mind field), not the over simplified disengagement from life, the planet, or the body, as put forward by life negative philosophers who follow the path of negation. One renounces stasis and dreariness, To be straightforward, authentic yoga is not a withdrawal from life, but a withdrawal from artificial programming and the artifices of egoic and fear driven cultures. It is the withdrawal from delusion (asmita), deceit, self-deceit, untruth (satya), and harmfulness (ahimsa), but that renunciation brings forth clarity of vision, truth, integrity, and the expression of spontaneous love naturally. The direction here is not intellectual, but rather, pertains to what moves us further into "the field"; albeit that sattvic feeling is welcome and is ultimately fulfilling.
Yoga is NOT a withdrawal from life or as isolation, indifference, negation, escapism, or detachment is another interpretive error of the philosophical predilection of samkhya dualistic philosophers, who take an "other worldly" or escapist interpretation. Of course, many religions also teach salvation or liberation, but only in the after life, hence, this life becomes devoid of spirit, desacralized, demeaned to one of suffering, renunciation, and sacrifice. Such is an oversimplified approach. They say: "Life is an illusion, bad, or evil, so just ignore it it or negate it." Some will even try to prove that to others (meting out pain, while "keeping the faith")! These are traps to be avoided.
Again, the difficulty is not in life, the sense objects, or the senses, but how we interpret "life". If the mindset is disconnected and confused, then we can inquire "who" misinterprets/misperceives life incorrectly; i.e., the unconscious addictions to the operations that habitually ignore of our innate connection to primordial consciousness is identified and dissolved. Such egoic false identity mechanisms demean life and its expression. That constriction is painful. When egoic boundaries, fear, and defense mechanisms no longer are deemed useful, the barren field comes alive and blossoms.
Yoga reveals the transpersonal universal light/consciousness, which co-exists both inside and outside of time, space, and causation. It is boundless and all-pervading. It defies fabrication by the intellect as it is uncontrived, natural, and unconditioned. Bereft of any direct experience, while being limited solely to intellectual analytical processes, intellectuals fail to understand the power and great beauty of enlightened living, of selfless service and devotion, love and transpersonal living, the power of community and nature which is taught as the higher wisdom in the great narratives such as the Bhagavad Gita, as well as in the Yoga Sutras. Thus they also misinterpret most of the sutras framing it within escapist negations having become numb and inured to the a supposedly dead inanimate world. Specifically they miss entirely the significance of Sutras I.12 through I-19 which is the key to selfless service non-attachment to results. Vairagya is liberation and selfless service. It is in is implementation the expression of transpersonal and intimate love. Without it there is no surrender to the transconceptual but essential heart/core within. Without surrender -- nay utter loving abandon -- there is no yoga. Hence scholars can go over the sutras endlessly with their intellect, but cannot find the light that it offers, because they have rejected it. If one "gets" I.12-19 and is able to abide in that sacred space of open pure awareness 100% of the time, then they need not go on reading or practicing yoga. Such yoga adepts have realized yoga NOW, having re-established their connectedness with all beings and things.
The assumption in writing the commentary and translation is that many people are not fully HERE (present) most of the time. By that I mean they are present or conscious on a limited and very superficial level; i.e., they still get closed down, upset, insensitive, disempowered, and disconnected; which are symptoms for lacking in virtue (in the true meaning of the word) -- of primordial creative evolutionary universal moral power, and an aligned will with love. Grounding is often lacking in modern life. By grounding, it is meant a connection to the evolutionary power (Mother Nature), as a identification with that process, as a vital part of that process (rather than apart from it). Once one knows what the human being is in context with the whole of time and space, allied without deviation from life -- once human beings honor, respect, and act as pro-life agents of expression, then human life will reach its next potential evolutionary state. That happens when awakening happens to the natural self (swarupa-sunyam). A mass awakening is always possible, but it requires an awakened touch.
Resisting this is the corrupting demoralization process pervasive in today's materialistic, cynical, greedy, selfish, or nihilistic society. No amount of ersatz "objects" or rather compensatory modalities of satisfaction and security will be able to substitute or suffice for such an earth shaking loss. What is needed is alignment of individual will with universal will. Yoga teaches us how to discover that flow. With this wisdom and experience, man's morale soars naturally in all our relations. Through authentic yoga practice, primordial spirit becomes more present, conscious, available, and naturally expressed.
Therefore, I invite the reader on this journey to rediscover one's true nature of mind (unconditioned reality as-it-is) so that it will nurture you and as a consequence all beings in all our relations. This book is written for one purpose only which is to reveal the intrinsic non-dual integrative wisdom and evolutionary purpose and will that resides within each sentient being, so that the reader may walk in harmony on the beauty path. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is such a work with that focus in mind.
Toward that ultimate culmination, this translation and commentary of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is offered. Reading the Yoga Sutras by itself, without a personal yogic practice, will remain a failure. It is the author's intent that this translation may serve interested human beings realize that profound culmination, as their reality in their everyday experience – as sacred presence in UNIVERSAL NOW AWARENESS.
It is in each and every moment that we contain that awesome creative/evolutionary potential power -- the opportunity to embody, reflect, and emanate this beauty, love, will and joy in celebration of life and evolution, thus reversing the causal factors in human consciousness that have lent themselves toward suffering, illness, war, brutality, and ecological destruction. This is thus a very crucial theme for our current time in human history. Human beings must take their place in the grand scheme of natural law. What has been needed for a very long time is a 21st` century "Green" translation of the Yoga Sutras that is free of dogma, aversion, and anti-nature bias. This revelation of Patanjali's will prove to be practical and relevant to the modern Western reader, is already far past due.
It is a fortunate time to bring forward a modern translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras rooted in the reverence for all life (ahimsa) and relevant to the modern experience especially in the West. This reflects the needed integrative approach which combines spiritual truths, spiritual fulfillment, social justice, environmental justice, and sustainability as one. By respecting all life we respect our own life and its creator/creation process. This is an authentic healthy response that must be integrated in All Our Relations for the human being affirming one's participation and identification within the wholistic integral context and process of being an intimate of co-creation and the embodiment of the creative evolutionary force (as distinct from being apart or independent from it). Health and future survival depends upon this vital awakening. It is up to awakened beings to bring forth this awareness and love and embrace it. That is freedom -- taking response-ability for the future.
Because of the recent burgeoning embrace of yoga, many are seeking deeper explanations for their heightened experiences and guidance to move even further into that integrative non-dual state. To that end, it is my hope that Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras may help fulfill that primal passion that reconnects us all to what is the Heart of the "Mater" – in yoga.
MAHAMUDRA IS BEYOND WORDS, by Lama Thubten Yeshe
I want you understand that this mahamudra is beyond speech, beyond words. Using Buddhist terminology, we can say that mahamudra is beyond growing, it is beyond cessation. Mahamudra is only experience. The moment I say words, you will interpret them in this way or that, and then it becomes a problem. So don’t trust my words – they are the false words of my superstition; Buddhism thinks that way. No matter what words I say, they still come from my conception. You have to go beyond words; merely observe the thoughts, and let go. No intellect. “In this process of experiencing mahamudra the intellect is the enemy. Of course, you first have to listen, you have to use your intellect, but when you practice mahamudra you have to go beyond the intellect. Then the real transformation comes.
Throughout this book, the Yoga Sutras are placed within the context of personal practice and experience -- within the assumption of an experiential, process-oriented, integrative, and wholistic system. It was necessary to rescue it from the institutionalized traditional, dry, academic, scholarly and left brained commentaries which locked the Yoga Sutras within the prison-like context of a mere philosophical or religious treatise. This translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is neither religious nor philosophical. This interpretation does not paint yoga as an escape nor a negation of life and the universe, but rather describes the Yoga Sutras as a self-empowering nature-positive adjunct to enlightened living based on a careful translation utilizing Patanjali’s own words without imposing pre-established assumptions. This translation has been augmented and tested by over fifty years of yoga study and practice.
This translation places the Yoga Sutras within a context that is vitally relevant not only to the human being, but to all life on the planet. For example, placing the sutras within an empirical and experiential base, one frees the reader from "otherworld" escapism, negatively programmed negation of life, religious doctrine, anti-nature ideology, conjecture, and other such manufactured bias, prejudice, and belief systems that are rampant today. The translation bases itself on natural law, the universal Santana Dharma, as was Patanjali's intent. For example, this commentary does not ignore the rise of fundamentalism, fixated belief systems, and sycophancy. It is addressed forthrightly in the discussion on pramana-vrtti in sutra I.7 (what is generally considered as a proven theory or “right” knowledge). In this commentary, pramana has become entirely challenged as a virtue, thus, it is presented very differently from that of conventional orthodox Indian academia and traditional thought, which has grown up around, obscured, and served to encrypt the vitality and living power of the sutras for almost two thousand years.
Similarly, this commentary and translation makes a clear distinction between the institutionalized assumption that yoga was a system of withdrawal from nature, life, and direct experience; but rather yoga is an integrative process where daily actions, body, breath, mind, nature, time, and source all come together in the timeless present as a profound mutually synergistic fluid whole – as a sacred moment by moment vital dance of natural liberation. Once one has become freed from the past patterns of negative conditioning/programming, such a realization flows naturally. Indeed yoga is a withdrawal from confusion, negative programming, ignorance, and suffering -- removing the veil; and hence is an affirmation of natural unconditioned happiness, wisdom, beauty, and living love embodied in this very life.
Herein, yoga is thus presented, as Patanjali and the ancient mountain yogi tradition intended; i.e., as a method of activating one’s deepest core creative potential in this very life. Instead of presenting yoga as a body negative, nature negative, other worldly, or even self adversarial teaching (which is often the traditional academic approach), yoga is presented more honestly and simply in the context of ahimsa (remediating harm), peacefulness and fulfillment (santosha), simplifying one’s life and activating our natural spontaneous ability to be generous (aparigraha), acting in integrity (asteya), removing the blinders of delusion (satya), self study (swadhyaya), and developing skills in listening for one’s inner voice to be expressed (isvara pranidhana) -- all in order to realize and then spontaneously express one’s own innate inner evolutionary potential
It is the author's experience, that the Yoga Sutras as-it-is, stripped of its externally imposed reifications, prejudices, and philosophical imputations made by intellectual dogmatists, will prove to be a reliable field manual and guide for human evolution. That will disclose our inner teacher (isvara) and creative healing powers, restoring vision, self confidence, human sensitivity, peace, compassion, and sense of being part of a greater whole, rather than being apart from it. The living law of love and wisdom (the primordial wisdom which manifests as love) will by itself replace compensatory manmade laws, ersatz materialism, greed, exploitation, war, prisons, punishment, and himsa (violence). It will manifest as a living response-ability -- as moral courage as an expression of divine will and truth (satyagraha).
One’s responsibility, as a translator and commentator, is to render the original author of the Yoga Sutras as truly as possible in the language, while honoring both time and place differences. This can only be done by understanding both languages (Sanskrit and English), both cultures (that of Patanjali’s and the modern West), and most importantly, yoga, itself.
Admittedly, every translation will have its bias, and hopefully offer some insight as well. The most common translations are based on the samkhya interpretation which paints a strong dualistic coloring of the "Yoga Sutras". Such is based on the idea that liberation involves isolation, withdrawal, negation, and escape from existence, nature, the body, and life itself. Samkhya is reductionist, and, at best, less than half the yogic equation. Yoga however is integrative, based on praxis. While it is true that both systems (samkhya and yoga) utilize some shared terms, its overall aims and goals are quite different. Just as soccer and football are similar, they should not be confused as the same game.
In the course of self-transformation, the negatively programmed human being moves from ignorance to wisdom -- from limited and obscured vistas (avidya) to broader and more vast awareness (vidya), from entrapment to interactive liberation. Part of that process of self-transformation is the dissolution (disillusionment) of pre-programmed false and dysfunctional mental habits, which is the first step of purusa consciousness, witness consciousness, true self-awareness, recognition, or mindfulness. However, that is the first step of a very profound journey. Witnessing "self" in mindfulness is helpful as it allows us to recognize and then let go of old dysfunction mental and physical habits. Total dissolution from conditioned awareness is needed, but simultaneously as it is won, then an all-inclusive non-dual omni-present awareness, which is akin to absolute unconditional freedom (kaivalya) is realized. That realization is non-dual, transpersonal, and integrative, rather than isolationist, dualistic, or reductionist. In addition, this translation is not patriarchal, but honors the balance between pure consciousness (cit) and beingness (sat) -- between nature and the feminine (Shakti) on one hand and the masculine (Maheshvara) on the other, in perfect balance.
This translation and commentary will not regurgitate the standard fare, nor will it pretend to speak for the mainstream traditional club. This translation and commentary will break that mold in a respectful spirit; yet it will be devoid of the need to advocate identification with external past authority figures, traditions, or self-interested institutions. Hence, this translation would not be considered politically correct in a strict traditional academic setting. Such is its unique value.
Many people have already stubbornly decided that it is necessary for them to align themselves with a pre-existing traditional "authoritative" structure in which to interpret the Yoga Sutras. Hence, they subject themselves to such a structure in terms of conformity and obedience. These same human beings, who do not trust (nor are they in contact with) their inner teacher (isvara), may claim that it is arrogant and egotistical to trust their innate wisdom as they lack self-confidence outside of their own sycophancy. For them liberation is obedience/conformity to authoritarian tradition, which must remain unquestioned. To them, sadhana (spiritual practice), is not self-discipline, self-integrity, and universal accountability, but rather externally imposed rules where progress is realized by jumping through objectified hoops/rules. If the reader desires to conform or learn conventional wisdom and orthodoxy, there are many better commentaries and translations from which to chose. If however, a seeker desires to incorporate the deeper spiritual blessings of authentic yoga (isvara) in their daily lives, in which to enliven and empower it; if one wants to get in touch with their dormant, innate, transpersonal, creative/evolutionary power; if one wants to be shaken free from past programming, limitations, dogma, conditioning, and afflictions; if one wants to improve their yogic practice in order to facilitate and integrate these interactive processes, then this translation and commentary may prove to be an adjunct to their own sadhana.
In this translation, the author has attempted to take Patanjali’s own words for what he is saying over that of the traditional authoritarian academic commentators who have a need to impose their own interpretation. . Hence, there are no internally glaring contradictions in this commentary standing between it and Patanjali's own words. One will find utilizing this approach, the Yoga Sutras will read as a coherent integrative whole. They are neither terse nor fragmented. This translator assumes consistently that Patanjali belonged to the ancient tradition of mountain yogis who lived in caves, forest hermitages, and river banks for at millennia and practiced a yoga similar to that of Gautama Buddha. In fact the teachings of Buddha and Patanjali are very similar. These yogis were practicing yogis and sages, not scholars nor orthodox Brahmins studying texts, performing ritual, and prayers in the traditional manner. Far fetched as it may seem, the practices of the mountain yogi tradition was exactly as Patanjali has described in the "Yoga Sutras", rather than as an intellectual or philosophic study.
If there is thus any bias on my part, it is from the point of view of the mountain yogi which has much in common with non-dual tantric Buddhists, Saivite Tantrics, and the traditions of deep ecology, alchemy, and wholism. It is irrefutable that Pada III and IV are definitively tantric and non-dual. Patanjali was familiar with tantra, Buddhism, and the alchemical traditions. It is irrefutable that Patanjali was a non-dualist. So if there is any bias to this translation I would admit such, but with the declaration that it is an honest intent to translate the Yoga Sutras as-it-is, given that every translation will suffer from some bias (intentional or not). Because this translation is non-traditional and unconventional,such does not make it insincere. Rather I am certain that it may prove more authentic and more vitally relevant than the standard fare, although certainly it is not devoid of errors.
"Wisdom is always taste -- in both Latin and Hebrew, the word for wisdom comes from the word for taste -- so it's something to taste, not something to theorize about. "Taste and see that God is good," the psalm says; and that's wisdom: tasting life. No one can do it for us. The mystical tradition is very much a Sophia tradition. It is about tasting and trusting experience, before institution or dogma."
Matthew Fox, "Holy Impatience", an interview with Matthew Fox by Sarah Ruth van Gelder in the Winter 2006 Issue of "Yes!"
How to use this book
The direct translation of the sutras is meant to stand alone by itself, however an extensive commentary (not necessary) is provided in order to provide clarity and context especially, since the sutras have become hacked over by academic traditional theorists. The translator has gone to great lengths to justify where and why this translation varies from the academic mainstream. This feature may not be of interest to the new reader; but is designed for the ardent hatha yoga practitioner.. Unlike most other translations and commentaries this work is full of practical examples many of which come from the translators personal experiences. Such is due to the translator's long dedication to the practical aspects of yoga and also to the study of the Yoga Sutras which has lasted considerably over 50 years.
The translator has studied the Yoga Sutras in person at the feet of Hari Das Baba, Dr. Ramamurti S. Mishra, M.D. (Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati), Swami Veda Bharati, Sri Pungaliya, Yogeshwar Muni, and others. Humble gratitude is due to my teachers, Swami Muktananda, Swami Vishnudevananda, Haridas Chaudhuri, Sri Swami Satchidananda, Yogeshwar Muni, Lama Thubten Yeshe, Chagdud Tulku, Ch. Namkhai Norbu, Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, and Swami Kripaluananda. I am especially indebted to Swami Venkatesananda for his most excellent translation and commentary. All errors are mine, while all good is to be attributed to the master of yogins, Maheshvara.
This translation comes complete with an annotated glossary, a plain language "English only translation", and an annotated translation with commentary of all four chapters, with additional chapters on the historical background of the Yoga Sutras, a Yoga FAQ, a preface, foreward, introduction, table of contents, and index.
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Table of Contents
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras Made Accessible: An Essay Designed to rescue the Yoga Sutras from excess intellectualization/elaboration
An Ashtanga (Eight Limbed) Yoga Meditation Practice
Beloved Yoga Teacher, Sri Dr. G. K. Pungaliya Essay on Patanjali and Jnaneshwar Sri Pungaliya was an ardent student of yoga, and subsequently became a modern master. Here Sri Pungaliya shares his insight on Samkhya, Patanjali, and Sri Jnaneshwar.
Yogiraj Shyamacharan Lahiri's Translation of the Yoga Sutras A more classic but inspired translation by the Grandson of Lahiri Mahasaya. This is very long download in PDF format.
Yoga Sutra Translation by Chester Messenger A refreshing, little known, and sincere work of a life-long meditator.
Links to over 25 Different Web Based English Translations of the Yoga Sutras. at HRIH.NET. Most of these translations are unoriginal and offer little insight. They are mostly an exercise in grammar, semantics, and epistemology.
A Sanskrit to English Annotated Glossary
Professor Whicher's commentary on Prakrti and Purusa
Countering World-Negation: The World Affirming and Integrative Dimension of Classical Yoga by Ian Whicher
Alien Gods: Samkhya Interpretation of Nature (using Brahmacarya as the example)
A Review of S. N. Tandon's. A Re-appraisal of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras in the Light of the Buddha’s Teaching by Georg Feuerstein
A Review of Ian Whicher's. The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga by Georg Feuerstein
Yoga as seen in the Light of Vipassana by S. N. Goenka
Yoga Sutras FAQ
A Short History of the Yoga Sutras
"Is Yoga a Religion": an astute and concise article by Georg Feuerstein
An article entitled "Is Yoga a Religion", by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
Yoga is not a Religion, by Shakti Das
Proceed to Chapter One of the Yoga Sutras: Samadhi Pada
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