31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2007
I have read more than one translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and this, by far, is the best one. Swami Satyananda Saraswati presents a very clear, direct explanation of each sutra in English. There is both a Sanskrit and English version of the Sutras before the English explanation. Each sutra is treated individually with Swami Satyananda Saraswati's insights which illuminate the text so that the most knowledge can be gained from reading about very ancient yet important yoga precepts.
I read a lot of ratings which mark a text down for its "complexity", and I don't know if that is necessary here. I would say the text is thorough, which is what you want when a yogi translates and interprets the text. You want to get both a context and a further foundation for further study, and this book provides both. This is definitely 5 stars, and if you enjoy it, try looking at other works by the same author. He's one of the most intelligent authors I have come across on the subject of yoga.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2011
Anyone who is truly interested in yoga, and that includes meditation, has to read the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. The sutras are widely regarded as the soul of yoga. The writing also goes by the name of Patanjali Yoga, or raja yoga (royal yoga or path), or the yoga of the mind. They were written in Sanskrit probably around 400 BC. The precise, frugal writing is methodical, logical, and scientific in its presentation. Like all ancient texts it leaves itself open to interpretation and thereby makes itself timeless. The knowledge is believed to have existed long before 400 BC. Since that time, many commentaries have been written. In this review, we focus on the commentary written by Swami Satyananda titled Four Chapters on Freedom: Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as this is a manual on liberation of the mind and liberation from the mind.
This commentary is based on lectures given by Swami Satyananda during the International Yoga Teachers' Training Course at the Bihar School of Yoga in 1967-68. It is a serious and illuminating commentary written by a highly regarded master and is used by many serious yoga teachers. The book is most suitable for advanced practitioners and patient readers. Each Sanskrit sutra is first given and then translated in detail. It is followed by a comprehensive commentary.
"The cow uttered the wisest words [M-o-o-o-o-o-o-o] in the satsang [of pundits discussing yoga]. Unknowingly, or perhaps knowingly, it told everyone, including the pandits, that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were not written for intellectual debate and speculation. They were written to explain the process and practical methods of raising levels of awareness, gaining deeper wisdom, exploring the potential of the mind and eventually going beyond the mind. The text is primarily practice oriented..."
These words from the introduction to the book say much about the author, his commentary, and the Yoga Sutras. The chapter clarifies the meaning of concentration and meditation right at the outset. These terms are used in so many ways in different countries, cultures, and texts even within the same tradition that a clarification of the meaning in a particular context is important to avoid misunderstanding.
The basis of the Yoga Sutras has much in common with Buddhism and Jainism as they all draw from an Indian system of philosophy called Samkhya. The scripture of the sutras is divided into four chapters. The first chapter starts with the definition of yoga and its purpose. It also gives advice on the means of attaining the experience of pure consciousness, obstacles to progress, methods of harmonizing the mind, and the importance of aum. The second chapter explains practices, basic tensions in life, how to remove them, the purpose for destruction of tensions, awareness versus lack of awareness, and intuitive knowledge. It also includes the well-known eight limbs (ashtanga) of yoga. The third chapter is on the powers of focus and concentration, meditation, superconsciousness, nature of external appearances, and transformation of external appearances. The fourth and final chapter discusses one-ness through the topics of cause of individuality, the individual and the cosmic mind, karma, unity of all things, perception, the unconscious mind, and the path to one-ness.
We conclude with the following passage from the introduction:
"Many of the verses indicate things that are beyond the range of normal mundane experience and comprehension. This is not done to bring an intellectual understanding. It is done so that a sadhaka (aspirant) who practices the yoga of Patanjali or any other system will progressively gain insight and understanding of the deeper aspects of being. He will gradually understand Patanjali's cryptic verses through his own experience. The verses tell him if he is going in the right direction or not and also help him proceed further. The verses can never be understood intellectually, nor are they intended to be understood in this manner. The verses were written as a map, a guide for the journey from the mundane levels to higher levels of consciousness and eventually to liberation. The text shows the path to perfect freedom through sustained yogic practice."
In this lucid and clear commentary of the sutras lies a deep understanding of yoga psychology considered by many to be very highly developed and older than Western psychology. This is why yoga meditation is found to be therapeutic by many practitioners. For a simpler, less in-depth and less academic commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, try reading Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2012
For beginners, this book is not about asana (postures)and there are very few verses about asana. If one looks for asana, then they should read the book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.
This book is for more serious people who are seeking to practice Raja Yoga and desiring enlightenment and self realization. This book talks about how to get into samadhi (Chapter 1: Samadhi Pada) Samadhi meaning higher level of concentrated meditation or dhyana; how to perform sadhana (chapter 2: sadhana pada)Sadhana is a way of discipline in pursuit of a goal; Chapter 3 is Vibhooti pada, which is advanced and discusses about Samyama (Samyama is achieved with the combination of samadhi, dharana (concentration) and sadhana) and final chapter is Kaivalya Pada. Kaivalya Pada is about siddhi (siddhi meaning performing accomplishment and attainment of moksha). Siddhi can also mean miracles and attainment of eternality on one's own.
This book is a commentary not a translation work as written by some reviewers. Yoga Sutra was written by Patanjali more than 25 centuries ago. There were many great people such as Swami Vivekananda, Swami Satchithananda, other than Swami Satyananda Saraswati, had authored books on Yoga Sutras by Patanjali in recent century. How is this book different from other books? Author had implemented Patanjali Yoga Sutras in his life and in his disciples' lives and students lives and had seen the benefits out of them. His real life experience speaks through his commentary work.
By reading this book, will one be able to practice advanced topics such as samadhi and samyama and siddhi on their own? My answer is NO. This book work provides an excellent theoretical knowledge and one has to seek a Master Guru, who follows Patanjali Yoga Sutra way of life, can guide and hand hold him/ her.
In the western world, yoga is used more of a physical exercise and I have not come across any Western Guru who was able to guide me in Samyama, dharana and dhyana. I also found that there are not many Yoga Gurus, who can teach and guide in advanced topics such as samadhi and samyama. I know very few Gurus teach Samyama, one is Bihar School of Yoga's Trainer Swamijis and another is Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2013
In a nutshell, there is a branch of Yoga that derives from Samkhya (one of the most important pshilosophical schools of India).
Many years later that Yoga was about to disappear, until Patanjali took upon himself the task of gathering all te pieces together and reformulate it again, in a way as similar as possible to the original Samkhya Yoga.
He wrote his work down in the book called Yoga Sutras, which have become eversice the "manual" of yoga throughout the world.
The Yoga presented in the Yoga Sutras is called Raja Yoga (i.e., The King of the Yogas) or Ashtanga Yoga (i.e., The Yoga of The Eight Branches).
However valuable (it is indeed a masterpiece) is almost impossible to undesrtand, since the Sutras were practical manulas written in a brief manner, codifyied so as only the initiates could understand it.
Thus the need for commentaries made by people who not only know a lot of yoga, but who have experienced its practices themselves, since many of them cannot be understood no matter who plainly explained the might be, the must have been experienced and lived.
Out of the moder commentaries, i would say that this one, by Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati, and the one entitled "Raja Yoga" by Swami Vivekananda are the best approach to this fascinating yet difficul subject: indeed, Raja Yoga is not meant for begginers inasmuch as it is an advanced practice or sadhana.
Yet Satyananda's commentary is extraordinary since it presents:
1) The original sanscrit.
2) The transliteration of that phrase.
3) A translation word for word.
4) A complete english translation
5) A lenghty commetary on tne meaaning of the phrase.
As another Swamiji put it, in the introduction, this is a Manual that every psychologist and psychiatrist should have on their desks, since it brings forth a new (yet old) psychology far deeper and far more effective than anything we have had so far.
I really do reccommed this one book, as all those of the Yoga Publications Trust.
It is my belief that the three best collection on Yoga are:
1) Yoga Publications Trust
2) The Complete Works of Swami Sivananda Saraswati
3) The Complete Work of Swami Vivekananda
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2012
I've read a couple different texts on the commentary of the Yoga Sutras but this is the best yet. The book is comprehensive and easy to read. Each sutra is thoroughly discussed extensively.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati's comments helped changed my perspective on my everyday outlook and each time I revisit the text I notice something I didn't recognize the time before. It's like the routine of driving to work and sitting at a red light on the way and one day noticing a tree that seems to appear out of nowhere; however, the tree is mature and permanent. It's clear the tree has been there since "forever", though I never saw it of all the times I've traveled down the familiar road. That's the familiar experience I'm talking about whenever I refer back to the text.
This book is a treasure of knowledge and is essential for householders on the path.
16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2005
This is a great translation of the Sutras for the more advanced student. It takes you deeper into the meaning of the Sutras than others I've read but might be a little intimidating for a beginner.
Like Yoga itself it will take a lifetime (or more) of study to understand it fully. It is not something that can be learned through intellectual study but rather through living the teachings.