- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Penguin India (Feb. 24 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143102192
- ISBN-13: 978-0143102199
- Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2 cm
- Shipping Weight: 272 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #88,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Penguin Classics Patanjalis Yoga Sutra Paperback – Feb 24 2009
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About the Author
Patanjali is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, which date from around 200 BC. Shyam Ranganathan has an MA in South Asian Studies and an MA in philosophy from the University of Toronto, and wrote a PhD dissertation at York University in analytic philosophy on the topic of translating philosophical texts across languages. His areas of research include Indian philosophy, theoretical ethics and the philosophy of language. He is the author of Ethics and the History of Indian Philosophy. Shyam Ranganathan has an MA in South Asian Studies and an MA in philosophy from the University of Toronto, and wrote a PhD dissertation at York University in analytic philosophy on the topic of translating philosophical texts across languages. His areas of research include Indian philosophy, theoretical ethics and the philosophy of language. He is the author of Ethics and the History of Indian Philosophy.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The downside of this book is that it is clear that the author is getting his views on Buddhism from other scholars, who are looking for thesis ideas, rather than reading the Pali source texts themselves. At one point he contrasts buddhism with yoga in terms of effort, saying that meditation in Buddhism is effortless, whereas in Patanjali's yoga it is taken as a matter of actively controlling your mental tendencies. He both downplays and misrepresents the influence that Buddhism had on Patanjali's yoga: the 8 fold exegesis, the incorporation of liberation as distinct from samadhi that results from Vipassana-like meditation, the descriptions of the various meditative states, the psychological orientation of the system, etc.
Buddhism predates yoga and the success of the non-self and anti-deism of Buddhism undoubtedly put Vedic adherents into crisis. Hence the socio-political imperative to create a Shramanic program for liberation that could fit comfortably into a Vedic context. Basically, add God and a soul and you have Patanjali's system. If you can't beat them, join them. Even 4 of the 5 yamas are the same as the 5 precepts in Buddhism. The last one, non-acquisition, is also a key component of Buddhism. The Buddha was also added as a Hindu avatar of Vishnu at a later date. The entire region was inculcated with Buddhist values by the king Ashoka about 200BC. To downplay a Buddhist influence on the Indian subcontinent is ridiculous. And to downplay Buddhist influence on Patanjali would be equally so considering that when Patanjali wrote, around 150BC, the entire region was in the aftermath of Ashoka, whose reign covered Patanjali's native land of Varanasi.
The writer mentions Mahayana Buddhism a lot and never explains that this particular branch of Buddhism was only in its nascent form in India during the time in which Patanjali composed his sutras. Mahayana monks were ordained with and even lived in the same monasteries as non-Mahayana monks. Even the reflection on Isvara as an expedient means of eliminating doubt and other impediments are oddly similar in function to the reflection on the excellence of the Buddha, one of ten recollections to be carried out in difficult times by Buddhist monks. The idea of mahamegha samadhi, if it is a part if Buddhism, is a very small part and not even remotely part of early Buddhism as it is laid out in the sutras or even the Vissudhimagga of Buddhagosa, a systematization that was compiled more than a thousand years after the Buddha. For the author to attribute this to the Buddhist influence is really out there. I'd have to see some wicked evidence to be persuaded.
The real differences between yoga and buddhism are that Buddhism describes dharana in terms of two mental factors: directed thought and sustained thought. The Buddha describes consciousness and volition in terms of mental factors: one of 4 types of arisen phenomena that bear the standard marks of existence that all non-nirvana phenomena bear: impermanence, causing suffering and non-selfness (uncontrollability). Patanjali's Yoga, by contrast, views these mental factors as being parts of an eternal and abiding self. The Buddha says this self is nowhere to be found and realizing this is part of removing the egotism that even Patanjali implicates in his sutras as binding us to the cycle of pain and thwarted satisfaction.
I give this book 4 stars because aside from the above grievances, the author really does get it right and gives us a way to understand what Patanjali was actually saying, morally. I feel confident that anyone who reads and understands what the author is saying will be able to see and practice yoga in a whole new light, liberated from the superficial, consumeristic, even hedonistic image that's been imposed upon it by the modern market.