Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated by Alistair Shearer

I really liked the long introduction by Mr Shearer.   I understand that there are other translations of the Sutras, but without having read them, not being a bodhisattva, and not reading Sanskrit, I'm willing to go with this one for now.

Mr Shearer quotes from the Vishnu Purana:
"Society reaches a stage where property confers rank, wealth becomes the only source of virtue, passion the sole bond of union between husband and wife, falsehood the source of success in life, sex the only means of enjoyment, and outer trappings are mistaken for inner religion."
Considering the Puranas date to around the first century common era, modified through the 16th century -- let's call it at least hundreds of years old -- this is a remarkable comment.   (The punchline is, of course, that yoga is a path out of this mess, where yoga is inclusive of the physical we think of a yoga studio for, the mental exercise we think of as meditation, and the behavioral for which we might look to Buddha's eightfold path, etc.)

The sutras themselves are brief and terse (at least in this translation, apparently not so much so in others!), and with meaning deeper than the few words might imply; I can't absorb them in a single reading.   This is the sort of thing one must study repeatedly, over many years, and presumably while doing the broad concepts, while working on the eight limbs of yoga.  (These are quite similar to the guidance of Buddhism:  rules for living including nonviolence, integrity, contentment and the like, also focus on posture, breathing, and meditation.)

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