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The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary (Shambhala Classics) Paperback – April 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

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The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali is a classic Sanskrit treatise consisting of 195 "threads" or aphorisms describing a process of liberation through yoga. Little is known about Patanjali, although most scholars estimate that he lived in India circa 200-300 B.C., possibly as early as 500 B.C. Patanjali organized the sutras into four parts: Samadhi (absorption), Sadhana (practice), Vibhuti (supernatural powers), and Kaivalya (liberation), and it adds up to a dense, difficult text describing the workings of consciousness and explaining how, through yoga, one can obtain liberation from the suffering caused by fluctuations in the mind. Attempting a new translation and commentary is an ambitious project for a layman like Hartranft, founder of a center dedicated to integrating yoga and Buddhist traditions, and his translation is notable for his attempts to interpret the sutras from a modern American Buddhist perspective. Hartranft occasionally oversimplifies and takes some questionable liberties in his zeal to link Patanjali to the Buddha, but his translation certainly succeeds in making Patanjali's esoteric theories comprehensible to today's readers. Jane Tuma
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"Extraordinarily clear. . . . Hartranft makes Patañjali's complications seem somehow obvious."—Shambhala Sun

"A Yoga Sutra for the twenty-first century . . . translated into plain (but not boring) accessible language. . . . If there's a more succinct explanation of the enduring value of Patañjali's work, I'd sure like to hear it."—Yoga Journal

"Chip Hartranft has given us a fresh, authoritative, and brilliant new translation of and commentary on the Yoga-Sutra, and an entire generation of American yogis should be deeply grateful. His work successfully combines intellectual precision with emotional accessibility—a powerful marriage seldom even attempted with this notoriously difficult text. Hartranft is careful always to leave Patañjali's own genius in the foreground, and as a result the astounding intellectual architecture of the Yoga-Sutra shines through. Bravo!"—Stephen Cope, author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self

"Much of contemporary yoga in the West has emphasized breathing and the body. These invaluable practices have been separated from the comprehensive ethical and meditative approach of the great teacher Patañjali. Recently there has been an increased interest in correcting this limitation. Chip Hartranft's brilliant new translation of and commentary on Patañjali's masterpiece moves interested yogis decisively in this direction. It is a clear and inspiring work of immense value for all serious practitioners."—Larry Rosenberg, author of Breath by Breath and Living in the Light of Death

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Product Details

  • Series: Shambhala Classics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; Shambhala Classics edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590300238
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590300237
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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102 of 111 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you're a serious yoga student and meditator, you've probably been told by more than one teacher to study Patanjali's yoga sutras. Written around the 2nd or 3rd century AD (not BC as some used to think), they lay the philosophical and practical foundation for all of yoga, including the physical yoga that we all do now. If you're like me, you've dutifully plowed through one version after another, struggling with the often complex ideas and looking for something in them that actually made sense in terms of your life and practice. But until you've read this one, you haven't read the yoga sutras!
What's different about Hartranft's translation and commentary is that, unlike the versions by Iyengar, Satchidananda, and most others, he doesn't confuse the meditative yoga of Patanjali with the much later gymnastic stuff. It's not that he isn't interested in it - Hartranft himself is apparently a well-known teacher of hatha yoga as well as meditation, and considers them to be complementary - but it is clear he agrees with Patanjali that the primary purpose of yoga is enlightenment. Because the yoga sutras are couched in the often illogical samkhya philosophy, their striking similarity to the Buddha's teaching hasn't been noticed or explained very well by other authors until now. And unlike some of the scholars who have taken a crack at it - Miller, for example - Hartranft's breathtaking insights into the sutras seem to come from profound personal experience, which is the whole point of the teachings. As difficult as they can sometimes be, he manages to render them elegantly, proving that you can plumb their depths without having to wade through the tortured syntax of a literalist like Feuerstein. In short, Hartranft is that rarity, a true yogi who can truly write.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By John S. Allen on October 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have been studying Hatha Yoga with an Iyengar teacher for a couple of years. Curious about yoga's philosophical underpinnings, I took Hartranft's book out of the library.

I have read the disputes about the authenticity of Hartranft's translation in other reviews on Amazon. I can't split hairs over fine points of translations from Sanskrit, or Hindu philosophy, but as a translator in other languages, I can say without reservation that Hartranft's translation is lucid and beautifully crafted. Also, I find Hartranft's commentaries accessible, palatable, informative, and refreshingly dispassionate. Hartranft frankly, openly, fairly and succinctly addresses the relationship of the Yoga-Sutra to the teachings of other Hindu philosophical systems and of Buddhism, and to modern scientific and historical findings.

I suspect that the breadth of Hartranft's perspective is, in part, what some readers find objectionable. Or maybe it's that he avoids loading down the discussion with references to polytheistic Hinduism. But after all, the Yoga-Sutra is not about that, any more than the writings of Aristotle are about Greek gods.

If you are looking to cloak yourself in devotional yoga culture, look elsewhere. But for a clear and concise introduction to the Yoga-Sutra, or to guide your way in a yoga practice, I highly recommend this book.
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62 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Nigel on May 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why is it so much to expect that an ancient text be presented as it is in translation rather than bent, twisted and reinterrpreted to suit someone's personal agenda? This book reinterprets the Yoga Sutras in a Buddhist light (without letting on that it is doing so!). It is not an accurate presentaion of the words and thoughts of Patanjali. The Yoga Sutras are about Yoga and though there are some strong overlaps with Buddhism, in the final analysis the Yogic philosophy is about union with God whereas the Buddhist is not. This commentator intentionally ignores this "elephant in the room" so he can promote Buddhism using a Yogic text. He explains the difference away with a wave of his hand by saying that Patanjali's Ishvara (the ultimate godhead) is impersonal and so can be ignored in favor of a Buddisht interpretation. My reaction is this is gross over simplification and even if it were so, Buddhism strictly denies any godhead, personal or impersonal. Earth to the author/translator/commentator---Patanjali was a Yogi--the ultimate yogi, perhaps--and, no matter how much wishful thinking goes on in the mind of the Buddhist translator/commentator Chip Hartranft, Patanjali, the author of the venerable Yoga Sutras, certainly was no Buddhist. Since the point of the Yoga Sutras is to teach union with the transcendent godhead through stilling the mind whereas the purpose of Buddhist meditation is to achieve total equanimity through stilling the mind, the 2 overlap but are not at all the same thing. The fact that the commentator (Chip Hartranft), perhaps with every good intention, glosses over this makes this particular version more about Chip Hartranft's ideas than Patanjali's. You walk away no closer to the Yoga Sutras than when you began. Is this really okay with you? Try one of the others...the translation in the appendix of "The Heart of Yoga" is especially good. Also, in The Yoga Sutras translated by Satchidananda, Satchidananda's Yoga Sutra commentaries are spot on
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53 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Bob Dunne on December 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
The basic premise of this translation is wrong!! The author takes citta to mean consciousness, when it really refers to the mind. Cit is consciousness. Cit and citta are not interchangeable words, though they sound so similar! Unless the distinction between mind and consciousness is properly understood, there is no point in reading the yoga sutras, or pursuing any yogic meditation.

Having made this colossal mistake with this most important term in the very first sutra, the author then has to invent artificial divides between awareness and consciousness to translate the rest of the sutras. The results are disastrous. Beginners should stay away from such an awfully confused translation, which can only make a difficult topic even harder to understand. The best translation and explanations of the sutras are by I.K. Taimni in his book The Science of Yoga. Here a real master explains the terms very carefully, with a wealth of analogies and illustrations, as opposed to the terse, and wrong, explanations in this book.

It amazes me that the book has garnered high reviews as a "brilliant translation" despite this fundamental and inexcusable error. Obviously the reviewers are as clueless about the nuances of the Sanskrit language as the translator. One expects better quality and more reliable books from a niche publisher such as Shambhala.
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