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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The theory behind the practice,
This review is from: Light On Yoga Sutras Of Patanja (Paperback)
There was yoga before the time of Patanjali but it was not written down, or at least no text survives. We find elements of the practice in the Upanishads and of course in the Bhagavad Gita. But before Patanjali's codification there was no systematic text to guide the aspirant. Since then Patanjali's sutras have been translated into many languages along with commentary to elucidate the concise text, with Vyasa's commentary from the ninth century--upon which Iyengar makes some reliance--being the most important.
With the publication of this book a decade ago, B.K.S. Iyengar laid his claim to being one of the world's foremost experts not only on the practice of yoga--which he certainly is--but on its theory as well. Mark well that the bulk of what we call yoga stems from these pithy aphorisms first written down by the Indian sage Patanjali some eighteen hundred years ago.* One can see in this authoritative, comprehensive--indeed, nearly exhaustive--translation and commentary that Iyengar aspires to take his place among the great yogis of history.
For each of the 196 aphorisms (most texts have 195 omitting number 3.22 as superfluous, which Iyengar includes), Iyengar gives first the Sanskrit, then the Sanskrit in transliteration. Then he breaks down the expression into its individual words and gives an English translation of each word. Indeed he often gives several possible English equivalents for each Sanskrit word. Then he gives his English translation of the aphorism. In this way the reader can judge the fidelity of Iyengar's expression. Better yet, the reader can have reference to another translation (I have Ernest Wood's, Alistair Shearer's and Barbara Stoler Miller's in front of me, but there are many others) and compare the results, and in doing so, come to a fuller appreciation of Patanjali's sometimes enigmatic words.
Finally there are Iyengar's commentaries on each of the aphorisms, some of which cover several pages. Occasionally Iyengar gives tables for further clarification; indeed there are 18 tables and diagrams spread throughout the text. The sutras and commentary are framed with an Introduction, an Epilogue and four Appendices. There is a Glossary and an Index.
To be candid, there is more in this book than can be assimilated by most persons interested in yoga. Even the most sincere practitioners will find the information and interpretation given by Iyengar daunting. Some may also object to Iyengar's non-secular presentation. While he stops short of calling yoga a religion, it is only the word "religion" that is left out! Iyengar makes his position clear from the opening sutra which he translates as "With prayers for divine blessings, now begins an exposition of the sacred art of yoga." Usually this opening statement is rendered simply as, "Now, instruction in yoga." In the Sanskrit there are only three words. Iyengar even identifies Patanjali as "an evolved soul incarnated of his own will to help humanity" who has "assumed human form, experienced our sorrow and joys, and learned to transcend them." (p. 1)
Clearly Iyengar is taking a more spiritual position in this book than he took in his famous treatise on hatha yoga, Light on Yoga, first published in 1965, although even there he calls yoga "the true union of our will with the will of God."
Personally, I have no problem with this. Properly understood, yoga is a religion if one so desires; and properly understood yoga is not a religion if that is what is appropriate. Most authorities believe that yoga works best as an adjunct to religion so that one can practice yoga and remain devout in one's own faith; in fact this is the usual practice. Furthermore, the emphasis here, as in all of Iyengar's work, is on the practical and the non-sectarian so that Iyengar's yoga is accessible and appropriate for persons of all faiths, and is in negation of none.
I should add that from the spiritual yogi's point of view the idea of God is not personal. Although Patanjali refers to Isvara as our Lord and as God, many authorities believe that this is an inexplicit augmentation of his text that one may take or leave as one sees fit. Indeed most yogis who embrace God embrace a God similar to the God of the Vedas; that is a God that is Ineffable about which nothing can be said, a God beyond any human comprehension, a God without any attributes that we could name.
By the way, Patanjali's yoga is often referred to as astanga yoga (astanga meaning "eight-limbed") because there are eight limbs or steps leading to liberation. It is also called raja yoga, the so-called king's yoga that comes after one has mastered the preliminaries of hatha yoga. More correctly however, hatha yoga and raja yoga are both integral parts of Patanjali's program with the purely physical aspects including asana and pranayama being mentioned but without any exposition. It wasn't until the middle ages and such works as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svatmarama that hatha yoga gained prominence as something separate.
There are four other yogas that have come down to us from ancient times that should not be confused with Patanjali's yoga. They are bhakti yoga, the yoga of faith and devotion; karma yoga, the yoga of selfless work; jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge; and tantric yoga, the mystical yoga of self-indulgence. All but the latter are mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita.
*Iyengar identifies Patanjali with the grammarian who lived some four hundred years earlier, but this is more of a traditional understanding than it is historical; most scholars including Georg Feuerstein and Mircea Eliade believe that Patanjali the grammarian and Patanjali the author of the Yoga Sutras are different persons who lived at different times.
Bottom line: this is as close to an essential work on Patanjali as I have read. Any serious aspirant should have this book and study it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well intentioned,
This review is from: Light On Yoga Sutras Of Patanja (Paperback)
Mr. Iyengar's translation and commentary on the Sutras is heavilly weighted and biased by his lifetime focus on hatha yoga. As a result, his commentary has neither the completenes of Satchidananda's "Yoga Sutras" nor the insightfulness of McAfee's "Beyond the Siddhis". But it does shed a different light on the sutras that can be appreciated by most of his yoga followers.
Barring his leaning toward arcane yogic language, the book is well written and easy to read. For completeness, all serious yogis should have a copy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book which might clearly broaden your concept of yoga.,
By A Customer
"Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" by BKS Iyengar illuminates a mental approach toward yoga which, combined with the physical poses,has created a much more cohesive yoga experience for me. After almost a lifetime of yoga practice this text has brought together the emotional, physical and thinking parts of my intention, guiding me toward the concept of yoga as a way of life. Yoga as a way of thought. Yoga as a journey toward inner and outer personal discovery. Yoga as a valid and time proven art with which to joust, admire, enjoy life. Each sutra in this text is handled as a concept or goal within itself, yet at the same time, the book is pulled together to give the reader a sense of the web of yoga philosophy as a whole. Each sutra is concisely presented and its' interpretation is made very clear. Every time I open the BKS Iyengar "Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" I discover new information I can use in my practice and in my life. I find this book offers comfort during times of anxiety because it shows that throughout all time...people of a culture and period so far removed from mine wondered the same things as I do...asked the same difficult things of themselves and of their world and endeavored to conquer the greatest obstacle we are all, sometimes confronted by. It is, ourselves
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very very deep book,
This is a very profound book. This subject is for the serious practitioner, not the armchair philosopher. To really appreciate the sutras, one has to practice Yoga assiduously. Each time you read the book, you feel that you are peeling away one layer of meaning to discover another one.
From the way B.K.S. Iyengar approaches the sutras, it is very clear he has the insights of a practitioner. I have a whole new respect for Patanjali's genius and his audacious adventures into the spiritual dimension.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Definitive Guide for the Aspiring Student,
By A Customer
In today's world, the main problem with acquiring the knowledge of a new subject is the lack of contact with a learned teacher. Between traveling, busy daily schedules or just living in a place where there is no access to a learning facility, it is very difficult to pursue the topic of interest. Where the subject of yoga is concerned, B.K.S. Iyengar, a master of yogic knowledge and methods of practice, helps the hopeful student transverse this barrier by bringing to the masses his knowledge and direction in a series of wonderful books. He further enables the aspirant to better practice the vidhya (science) by developing easy to learn techniques and availing props to help in the process of practicing the techniques.
This particular book, Light on the Yoga Sutras, is an in-depth exposition of the philosophy behind the science of Yoga. It provides the student with the original sutras (verses) as written by Patanjali, the Indian sage who compiled the knowledge of yoga into written form over 2,000 years ago. The book then offers a translation and explanation of these sutras, effectively filling in the gaps of knowledge left by the intensely compact form of the original sutras.
From all my research into the subject when I first wanted to learn more about yoga, I can definitely say that this is one of the best books on the subject I have ever come across. B.K.S Iyengar provided me with the guidance and knowledge I needed to confidently pursue the subject without becoming discouraged.
I would recommend B.K.S Iyengar's Light on Yoga in addition to this book, for where this book provides the theory; Light on Yoga provides the practical methodology.
It is essential to fully understand both the practical and the theory to fully reap the benefits of yoga.
For those who want to delve even deeper into the science of yoga, Light on Pranayama the Yogic Art of Breathing provides one with the techniques and insight into the methods of breathing. It is a good addition as a learning aid, but not necessary until you are at ease with the asanas (postures) and have a good grasp of the theory and knowledge of yoga and are ready for more.
5.0 out of 5 stars Central to Yoga,
By A Customer
Yoga and meditation are brought forth by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras and most modern Yoga systems and teachings are based on what Patanjali wrote.BKS Iyengar has been practicing and teaching Yoga for more than 60 years, so it is only natural that he should give us his work on the Sutras.As all readers who really delve into this book will find, the sutras are very dynamic, their interpretations changeable, deeper and richer as the reader matures.This is the kind of book that never has to leave your side.You will be surprised how something that you've read again and again all of a sudden has new meaning and gives new perspective to your life and hopes.
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite translation of the yoga sutras,
This is my favorite translation and commentary on the yoga sutras. Mr. Iyengar's direct way of communicating, along with his decades of deep personal practice, provide an insight into the sutras that few others can offer.
The practice of yoga does not require one to follow any specific religious discipline or belief, and this book reflects this. As Mr. Iyengar says, the Yoga Sutras provide one of the clearest descriptions of the human psyche ever written. Those wishing to deepen their understanding of this, through the practice of yoga or not, can benefit from this book.
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique translation due to the authors own practice,
B.K.S. Iyengar has written the definative guide to Yoga Postures "Light on Yoga" This book does not equal that work in either clarity nor freshness.
However, "Light on the Yoga Sutra's of Patanjali" whatever this book lacks, its value is in the perspective given by a serious practitioner.
This classic work deserves two translations: one written by a great writer and sanskrit scholar, for instance "How to Know God" by Christopher Asherwood, the other written by a great yogi.
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Light On Yoga Sutras Of Patanja by B.K.S. Iyengar (Paperback - Nov. 7 2002)
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