PREFACE “Patanjali's Yoga Sutras As It Is": The Yoga Sutras in Patanjali's Own Words

Old age has a few benefits. We old timers have very little invested in the future as defined as a physical being alone, and thus automatically less attachment to this life other than to maximize each moment's creative potential. One advantage of old age is that one is free to say whatever they truly believe, no matter what past attachments existed that were dictated or colored upon, or how others would approve favorably or not. A disadvantage of old age, besides the inevitable debility of the physical vessel (body), is the *tendency* toward nihilism, withdrawal from nature, and life-negation in general. That biased tendency can be remedied through yoga by understanding the union of primordial awareness and the true nature of phenomena, which, after all, intelligently shines through all-time and space, as the result of successful yogic practice. That negative tendency is "normally" increased with the approach of physical death; but moreover, it can also serve as the invocation of the primordial teacher extinguishing all fear, Maheshvara (the transcendent inner master). It is also difficult to avoid framing yoga in terms of the temporal past, in terms of current paradigms, conventional frameworks, and the present yuga (world system) -- in limited terms of static frozen form, to which most Westerners have become accustomed. Again, this difficulty is overcome through the conscious conjunction/union of boundless space and timeless awareness, mutually coexisting in the freshness of the here and now -- in All Our Relations. This is the living motif of authentic yoga that will be presented in the following pages.

A few words are in order to present the compiler of this translation and commentary. Let it be said that all errors are most certainly mine, while if anything good and useful that comes through is by grace. Talking about one's self, is foolish, but it is the author's hope that the reader may benefit by some biographical material. "I" studied yoga both from the academic and religious viewpoint, as well as through concentrated praxis/practice for over 50 years. After reading about Taoism, Buddhism, and Taoism and having what may be considered altered states of consciousness, I enrolled in the South East Asian Studies Department at the Universioty of Wisconsin in Madison in 1964 studying Buddhism. I continued voraciously reading books on meditation, yoga, and tantra in translation until I met a few highly realized Tibetan Lamas and Yoga practitioners in the sixties and early seventies, such as Dr, Haridas Chaudhuri, Lama Tarthang Tulku, HH Dudjom Rinpoche, Lama Kunga Thartse Rinpoche, HH Sakya Trichen, Geshe Ngawang Darghey, HE Dezhung Rinpoche, HE Kalu Rinpoche, Bishop Nippo Syaku, Hari Das Baba, Swami Muktananda, Yogeshwar Muni, Swami Vishnudevananda Saraswati, Swami Satchidananda Saraswati, Yogi Bhajan, Dr. Ramamurti Mishra (Sri Brahamananda Saraswati), Sifu Fong Ha, and many other Dharma holders.  I continued learning with trips to Scotland, India, Nepal, and Japan in 1972-73 and again in India in 1996-97.

Studying with the old timers was very valuable in learning the less diluted original teachings, albeit there was a culture gap and more than a bit f cognitve dissonance ivolved. In the Western analytical tradition, the student is expected to ask questions as well as to question all possible assumptions. In contrast, many Eastern traditions demand conformity to established beliefs, therefore the student is limited to understanding the traditional belief system, which may or may not be in conflict with what rigorous analysis may reveal. At the time there was great hope that sharing the teachings of the West and East would bring about the much needed synthesis of a universal consciousness to guide 20th century man's psycho-social abilities to evolve.    

The academic book-study approach had its pros and cons, as did a study of Eastern history and anthropology. Written correspondence with Headmaster Joeseph Needham was very helpful, as was a study of Western psychology, philosophy, and the history of medicine. All provided a “perspective”, background, and intellectual/logical and provisional context on yoga; yet at the same time, it was proven to be a self-limited approach, as it tended to color and prejudice my practice, because such maps are mere guideposts on the journey, but falls short of the final result. In short, a yogic practitioner must put theory to a test in the cauldron of an active practice, until samadhi is directly experienced free from limitations and conditioning. . . until the old paradigms (citta-vrtta and karmic habits) cease to hold one back -- where all habitual thought patterns (vasanas) cease -- where the obstructions (kleshas) of the pathways are removed so that the two great rivers join together at Triveni activating our co-creative and co-evolutionary potential.

Instruction and interaction with experienced and compassionate instructors, who openly give freely are precious gifts; yet it is dedicated yoga practice -- the implementation of earnest yoga sadhana, which brings forth unobscured awareness remains as the ultimate boon giver. At the same time, I found that by getting into the space of teaching yoga, "I" was also taught. My students also became my teachers.

My own internal conflict between theory and practice continued for many years. Eventually, I realized that the primary yogic benefit of theory was to redirect and empower a successful heart-felt practice by pointing the yoga practitioner toward full engagement in a moment-to-moment experiential practice. Those with academic, philosopher, or religious bents of mind may differ on this crucial point. Lacking self-confidence as a youth, I most often sought answers, direction, guidance, and authority from the books, research, teachers, and external authorities; but eventually I realized that such contained a dangerous taint of inauthenticity. I risked conflating a delusionary role with the real thing.  I realized the real intent of yoga grew with practice, i.e., that such feelings of confidence, trust, meaning, inner-guidance, and self-authority were found within through cutting out the fat, discarding past conditioning, and allowing the light of inner wisdom (prajna/jnana) to direct one. When that opening occurred through practice, then I recognized the presence of that very same authority (latent or activated) within all. Then, I was able to interact in All My Relations in an increasingly continuous space of mutuality -- of clarity and light.

After an intense study of the Yoga Sutras (since 1964) and teaching Ha-Tha yoga since 1972 as a self-awareness practice, I decided to write my own translation, turning my notes to myself into a medium that was suitable to share with others who were struggling on the path.

Primarily, the first reason for writing this translation was that I found after years of intense dedicated practice, certain realizations resulted from praxis that did not fit within the boxlike framework of the standard traditional interpretations and translations of the Yoga Sutras. Hence, my notes of these alternative possibilities opened up many new doors in both my understanding of the Sutras and my own practice.  As these experiences continued, I decided to discuss and share them with others, as well as to free my own mind from institutionalized hegemony, sycophancy, and ideology by having a written record. At first, the Sutras and other texts in my Ha-Tha yoga classes and later they were shared on-line and in specialized classes on the Yoga Sutras.  A pattern was made clear. Yoga was not a matter of conformity and obedience to external rules, externally imposed discipline, external authority, or a patriarchal tradition; rather, yoga concerns itself with an internal process (inner awakening) – of knowing the true nature of our own mind so that we can view an unobstructed reality free from delusion.

Yet another, albeit related, reason for completing this translation was the crucial presentation of the role of asana and pranayama in the overall scheme of yoga (samadhi). As so-called hatha yoga became more popular in the West, I met many friends, who had taken up yoga as a practice and wanted to learn more about the newfound dynamic way of life that an authentic yoga practice evoked. Unless I was teaching in an ashram, for the most part, when I asked them what it was that they liked about yoga, their answers generally were that yoga made them feel good. When I asked further, how that was so, there was generally a lack of articulation or self-understanding. Many answered that they were proud of their body, that they were more confident, because they were making progress in the practice, their health improved, or that they felt stronger and looked better. In short, yoga practice was accepted as a system of exercise or health, but its further dimensions were still obscure. When yoga became faddish, self-infatuated conclusions in a competitive, self-centered, and materialistic social structure, doors closed to the further co-creative potential that was sought in ashram and retreat center settings. Going deeper in classes where the students were not so interested would meet many kinds of resistance. Not having a desire to boost students' egos, status, competitive tendencies, jealousies,  or material desires, I limited access to my classes.

Although I had hoped that more people would be interested in breaking through the egoic mindset, while awakening to amazing gifts and boons that spiritual truths bestow in All Our Relations collectively, I have sadly accepted that this can be a long process of awakening for the ordinary human being mired in habitual subject/object dualistic identifications. Functional yoga practice is designed to break apart pre-existing negative mental conditioned processes, while at the same time allowing for a more satisfying and infinitely fulfilling life, bathing in and freely allowing the gifting the rainbow hued waterfall of the evolutionary consciousness -- Shakti in union with Mahesvara (Shiva) -- "reality". Alas, not everyone is ready.

Having released my attachment in attempting to change such friends, I occasionally would meet a student or friend, who wanted to know more, who was a true seeker on the path, unafraid and unattached to egoic predilection, pretense, and status. In that situation, I would recommend the Yoga Sutras in conjunction with yam/niyam, asana, pranayama, dhyana, etc. My insight into the Yoga Sutras showed me that everything was included, despite the fact that the English translations bifurcated greatly on key points regarding nature and consciousness. Because the extant translations and commentaries missed the deepest revelatory parts and substituted philosophical or religious ideology instead, the need for a new translation and commnentary became obvious. The reason why asana and pranayama are so vital today is that they bring us into direct subjective and conscious experience of prana (the life force), the unification of cit and sat (consciousness and beingness), or cit-prana/cit-shakti). This direct experience can be adequately explained in a pragmatic context utilizing such a non-dual translation and commentary. In this way the Yoga Sutras come alive commensurate to the degree of aliveness of one's practice. In this sense Ha-Tha yoga is a sacred dance, a prayer, an act of dedication and communion that when practiced everyday opens up blockages and activates one's innate kundalini-shakti.

There are many other reasons why I was motivated to share this translation and commentary. For example, the yams/niyams are most often presented as rules to follow in a mechanical and sycophantic manner, much like Western formulations of acting good, suggesting that one goes to heaven; and acting bad, then one goes to hell by not conforming to these rules. Although there is an underlying wisdom behind these rules, but the mechanical or willful obedience to rules tends toward disempowerment and authoritarianism. Our creative potential then becomes squashed. In yoga, ahimsa (as removing harm to self and other) is the primary yam. It comes alive when the yogin is able to feel prana (the energy of the life force) in body, mind, and speech -- in All Our Relations and learns to respect, honor, and promote it. Hence, ahimsa has broad social and ecological implications, as in honoring life and not harming anyone or habitat. Yam and niyam are not just some philosophical or moral concepts, but are practices, which are to be implemented every day in our current socio-political situations. It is something that grows from inside outward from effective practice. The presentation of yam and niyam must be updated according to time and place with practical examples in practice; albeit the fundamental living principle behind them are timeless. The profound inseparable mutuality found in each sutra is game changing. This is the one book that I would most want to read if I had to reincarnate in human form.

Simply stated, this translation and commentary of the Yoga Sutras has been offered for the dedicated, undistracted, and earnest seeker, who desires to awaken and experience the universal "self" in the timeless transpersonal living ocean of limitless love and light, experientially. Such a holographic presentation of the Yoga Sutras based on Sri Patanjali's definition of samadhi as swarupa-sunyam, had here-to-fore been inaccessible.


Dedicated to all beings in all times. May all awaken!


Table of Contents: The Yoga Sutras As-It-Is

Foreword to The Yoga Sutras As It Is

Introductory Chapter

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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