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The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary Paperback – July 21, 2009
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“A superb contribution to the secondary literature on yoga. Critically grounded in the scholarship on yoga and the rich textual history of the tradition, Bryant nevertheless succeeds in transcending both the excessively technical approaches to yoga scholarship as well as much of the popular nonsense about yoga in the proliferating ‘schools' in the New Age marketplace. Bryant impressively communicates the essentials of yoga philosophy and practice to the thoughtful but non-specialist general reader. His translations from the Sanskrit are precise and well-grounded, and his interpretations are provocative and persuasive. His book will surely be welcomed by both serious scholars and responsible practitioners.” ―Gerald James Larson, Rabindranath Tagore Professor Emeritus of Indian Cultures and Civilizations, Indiana University, Bloomington, and Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Dr. Bryant's translation of and commentary on Patañjali's Yoga Sutras reveal the rich tapestry of schools and viewpoints that form the background for the yoga tradition. Dr. Bryant teaches us to delight in the diversity of ideas and commentaries that come along with the equally diverse practices of yoga. He helps us to look deeper into a universal pattern of all practices, taking us out of the fundamentalism and exclusivity of our own schools. Grounded in an unbiased sense of ancient history, he clears away any confusion about the meaning of and the connections between different yoga philosophies. His book is a well-rounded and inspiriting course on the real connections between ideas, practices, and direct experience. I enthusiastically recommend it.” ―Richard Freeman, author of The Yoga Matrix
“Edwin Bryant has provided us with a sweeping, kaleidoscopic overview of this essential yoga text. His clear and engaging prose brings Patañjali's aphorisms to life, taking his reader on an amazing journey through the history of yoga philosophy.” ―David Gordon White, Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Sinister Yogis
“Edwin Bryant unpacks the layers of history and traditional commentaries that are in the suitcase of the Yoga Sutras. Through his depth of understanding and research rendered in this detailed map, we are able to travel a little closer to our soul. I will be reading and referring to his text for a lifetime.” ―Rodney Yee, author of Moving Toward Balance
“The greatest strength of Edwin Bryant's work on the Yoga Sutras is that he has taken the most abstruse commentaries and made of them a fluidly readable work. He has made an academically serious study into a presentation of most symmetrical beauty. He has brought together the views of different schools of philosophy and made them rhyme as though in poetry. We need more of such works of serious and yet readable philosophy.” ―Swami Veda Bharati, D. Littl, Chancellor, HIHT University, Dehradum, India
“Bryant's meticulous study of the Yoga Sutras examines its reception throughout the past fifteen hundred years by a variety of commentators. Understanding that all religious books operate in the context of lived communities, Bryant suggests that the worship of Vishnu as taught by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita has played an important role in how the practice of yoga has been understood and communicated, particularly for the past five hundred years. For practitioners of yoga, this book provides a fresh look at a complex philosophy of applied spirituality.” ―Christopher Key Chapple, Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Loyola Marymount University, and author of Yoga and the Luminous
“What I like about Edwin Bryant's edition is that it serves as a concordance of commentaries, a commentary on the commentaries without which this text (or any other compendium of sutras) is unintelligible. It is a pleasure to watch as Bryant uses the commentaries to show how thinking about the Yoga Sutras shifted and evolved over the years.” ―Dr. Robert Svoboda, Ayurvedacharya
About the Author
EDWIN F. BRYANT received his PhD in Indology from Columbia University. He is a professor of Hindu religion and philosophy at Rutgers University, and also teaches workshops on the yoga sutras and other Hindu texts in yoga communities around the world.
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If I may be allowed to beat an old, worn cliche to death a little more: the one book (if I could only bring one) that I'd bring to that fabled desert island: Yes, this one.
Bryant is a brilliant scholar and an amazing communicator. When it comes to relaying intricate and sometimes conflicting views about esoteric angles of abstruse subjects, care (above all else) is called for, and Bryant cares, cares very deeply to get the point across as clearly and as vividly as possible; and he succeeds in this nearly impossible task.
Yoga, of course, is so much more than stretching and sitting exercises to limber us up (as we in the west normally view the subject). Posture takes up less than one percent of Patanjali's Sutras, the rest is devoted to meditation and spiritual liberation.
The East Indians have been at this for a long time, and there is a lot to learn and know about this subject. Patanjali, around 400 CE, sat down to summarize what he knew at that point (recalling all teachings from the Upanishads forward) about walking this path, and he did an amazing, if concise, job of it. Following Patanjali, several commentators did their best to clarify and illustrate Patanjali's often cryptic statement.
Bryant uses not only Patanjali's Sutras, but also avails himself of the major commentators' clarifications as well, and so reconciles this stream of knowledge into a coherent whole that really, yes, really makes sense and is proving very helpful to me as a meditator, even though I'm mostly of the Theravada persuasion.
I urge whoever will read this book to read it slowly and carefully. It all makes perfect sense, but does take some careful digesting. I actually read my Kindle version while I used the glossary in my paper version to keep reminding me of the various Sanskrit words used. It was worth the effort.
As I said, this book is a miracle, nothing short of that, and I could not recommend it more.
I guess I have a couple of questions after reading the intro and some of rest. 1. I didn't really understand Bryant's statement that Patanjali's God, Ishvara, is probably Brahman, the monist God of the Upanishads. Scholars have pointed out a distinction between Patanjali's, or at least Sankhya’s, dualist system, and the monist view of Brahman. So this is a little perplexing.
2. Bryant makes the wonderful and I think accurate point that in the Samkhya/Yoga system it is Prakrti, not Purusa, that needs to be "enlightened", but sometimes the terminology gets confusing. For instance he later writes something like "consciousness can't see itself clearly when Prakrti is disturbed" It seems like he's talking about Purusa when he uses the word "consciousness," but it doesn't follow that Puruṣa will ever have a misperception. So, it would help to clarify this—idk, maybe I just need to look in the glossary, or read more carefully, but I wish the terminology was clearer.
Bryant's assessment of Vedic culture is also a bit..well, unjustified. I mean, I just don't see how people singing songs praising water, the dawn, the earth, sky, and heavens, and so forth, can be called "consumerists" or "over-consumerists." They are basically asking for rain, children, long lives, and a good future life. There's nothing blameworthy in this. And the book misrepresents what some Upanisads actually say about the Vedic ritual.
It's perhaps interesting to consider the social circumstances in which the Sutras and Samkhya developed, but a more likely source of dissatisfaction is to be found in the epics, especially the Mahabharata, which Bryant also discusses quite a bit. There, it's the battlefield that leads the heroes to seek out yoga.
That aside, it is so great to see this book! I'm impressed with it and so glad he published it!
Edwin Bryant's translation and commentary of the Yoga Sutras certainly the best I have encountered and possibly the best available. Any curious reader would just read the other reviews to receive a good idea of the merits of Bryant's work. It is simply brilliant.
The most beneficial aspect of his commentary is that he demystifies the sutras to where they are intelligible to the modern reader. No prior philosophical or religious knowledge or special preparation is necessary; a reader having no experience with the YS will receive as much from the work as one who has read a shelf-full of commentaries trying to make sense of the sutras.
And he does de-mystify the sutras. The commentary contains a clear exposition on the Samkhya philosophy and how it relates to the sutras. He explains that the sutras are intimately linked with Samkhya such that the purpose of the eight limbs of yoga is to achieve the final dissolution of mind (microcosm), after the evolution of the manifest world when purusa makes contact with prakrti (microcosm). Other commentators cannot see the forest for the trees, and are too much concerned with the minutia to mention this important aspect of the YS. This is a godsend.
The translation is excellent and the commentary is illuminating. It is highly recommended.
It is a very dense book and I don't believe it is the best one for beginners. It is very academic in its treatment of the Sutras. There is a lot of original words that are used to explain concepts and you have to hunt down their meanings to comprehend what is being said.
While I am sure this is a great book for a more advanced practitioner, for a beginner I would get a more easier to read treatment.
I am going to have to order the original one I had looked at as I think it is better understood.