The Yoga-Sutra is a significant landmark in the protracted evolution of the yogic tradition. It formed the foundation text for an extensive commentarial literature stretching from the Yoga-Bhasya of Vyasa to modern traditionalist interpretations in Hindi and other Indic vernaculars as well as various European languages, notably English.
The present volume by Swami Veda Bharati provides a learned commentary on the second chapter of the Yoga-Sutra i.e., Sadhana Pada. This contains the core of Patanjali’s philosophical and meta-psychological framework, and it also defines both the components of kriya-yoga and the first five components of eight limbed astanga-yoga. This chapter demonstrates very clearly that in Yoga, theory and practice form a homogenous whole. The theoretical concepts were largely distilled from practical experience and, in turn, informed further experimentation on the path. How could we hope to travel the path mapped out by Patanjali without recourse to such pregnant concepts as citta, vrtti, pratyaya, samskara, vasana, asaya, nirodha, parinama, guna, pratiprasava? All these ideas were shaped in the intense practice environment of Yoga over many generations.
Swami Veda Bharati brings to his exegesis a singular sensitivity and wonderful comprehension of yogic concepts, which are rooted in his extensive traditional training as a Sanskrit scholar and also his personal yogic practice. This latest contribution to our comprehension of Patanjali’s teachings takes us a lot further than other similar endeavors.
Born in a Sanskrit-speaking family in 1933, Swam Veda Bharati started teaching the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali from 1942, at the age of nine. In 1946 a number of article appeared in the Hindi press proclaiming this child prodigy's exceptional knowledge of the Vedas. He then began to be invited to address crowds of thousand as well as colleges and universities throughout north India.
From February 1947 he travelled worldwide giving discourses and establishing meditation centres. He has, to his credit. 4,000 hours of recorded lectures on history, philosophy and practices of meditation and has written eighteen boo including a 1,500 page commentary on the first two padas of the Yoga-Sutras, a highly scholarly and meticulous work.
Between 1965 and 1967 he obtained all his degree: BA (Honours) London, MA (London), D.Litt. (Holland), and FARS. He has varying degree of depth in seventeen languages.
In 1969 he met his yoga guru Swami Rama of Himalayas (author of Living with Himalayan Masters) who initiated him into the highest path of dhyana-Yoga.
Swami Veda Bharati taught meditation from within the religious. spiritual and literary traditions of different world cultures-from China to Africa to different parts of Europe. In each culture he taught meditation from within that culture, for example, in Italy he taught Dante' Il Paradiso as a text of the experience of divine light in meditation; he was visited by masters of the Sufi orders; and has forty-five hours of recordings of lectures on Christian tradition of meditation.
He has also been engaged in neurological research in meditation and maintains a sophisticated laboratory in his asrama for testing brain waves and other neuro-physiological patterns during meditation.
He run over fifty meditation groups and centres in twenty-five countries; hold the prestigious title of Mahamandalesvara in the community of the Swami Order of monks. He was spiritual guide to two asramas in Rishikesh where seekers from twenty-five countries come to learn meditation and undergo varying periods of guided silence.
Swami Veda Bharati also maintained keen interest in the relationship of science and meditation, run a research laboratory practices of meditation.
In that context, he has been the subject of several experiments in the neurology of meditation in institutions like the Institute of Noetic Sciences, California; in a unique experiment, sitting outside a Faraday Chamber, nine times in a row, proving the power of the volition of consciousness over material energies. The result of this experiments have been published in the Scientific Press.
He spent much of his time travelling worldwide, lecturing and participating in relevant conferences and giving guidance to sixty meditation groups on all continents. Swamiji passed away on July 14th, 2015 in Rishikesh at his asrama.
Contrary to popular opinion in Western Yoga circles, Patanjali was not the "father" of Yoga. He was a preceptor who, looking back on a long line of teachers and teachings, undertook the systematization of the yogic path in light of his own experience and understanding of Yoga theory and practice. He encoded his ideas in concise form in the Yoga- sutra, a short work of only 195 aphorisms (sutra) composed approximately two thousand years ago. The Sanskrit tract proved quite influential in the history of India's spirituality. In fact, Patanjali's Yoga system came to be considered one of the six classical systems (darshana) of Hindu philosophy.
Today Patanjali is remembered mainly for his model of the eight-limbed (ashtanga) path. Curiously, this part of his work is not at all his most significant contribution to the development of Yoga. Some scholars even maintain that the aphorisms dealing with the eight-limbed path may have been borrowed by him from an earlier Yoga master. It is true to say that Patanjali's actual philosophy has remained relatively obscure. The comparative obscurity of his philosophical framework can be explained by the fact that Patanjali's school was perceived as being too close to Samkhya, which, though very influential during certain periods, has long been deemed suspect by Hindu orthodoxy. The bone of contention is the atheism and radical dualism of Classical Samkhya, as codified by Ishvara Krshna in his well-known Samkhya-Karika (c. 450 C.E.).
Although Patanjali lived prior to Ishvara Krshna, his philosophy has typically been confused with Classical Samkhya or a dualistic precursor of it. It is seldom understood that Patanjali made his own unique contribution to metaphysics and did not merely adopt wholesale the principles of Samkhya, as we know it from the Samkhya- Karika. As Ian Whicher has argued at length in a recent monograph, it is not even certain that Patanjali subscribed to the radical ontological dualism for which he has long been chastized.' In Whichers view, whatever dualistic notion are expressed in the Yoga-Sutra, these can be better understood as applying only to the level of yogic practice rather than ontology.
In any case, Patanjali distinguished between the Spirit of spiritual Self (called purushea) on the one side and Materiality or Nature (prakrti) on the other. According to him, only the Spirit is conscious whereas the Materiality is inherently insentient. The latter category includes not only the physical universe but also the basic mental structures, which are simply illumined by the "light" of the Spirit and therefore may give the appearance of being independently conscious. Wanting to retain the concept of God (called Ishvara, or "lord"), which was an integral part of most earlier schools of Yoga, but seeking to practice logical parsimony, Patanjali defined the Ishvara as a "special Spirit" (purusha-vishesha). As is evident from the traditional Sanskrit commentaries on the Yoga-Sutra, this philosophical solution was not accepted by all, and it certainly created a rift between Patanjalis darshana and other Yoga schools and cognate spiritual traditions like Vedanta, which enjoyed growing popularity over the centuries.
Regardless of the controversy, the Yoga-Sutra was a significant landmark in the protracted evolution of the yogic tradition. It formed the foundation text for an extensive commentarial literature stretching from the Yoga-Bhashya of Vyasa (c. 450 C.E.) to modern traditionalist interpretations in Hindi and other Indic vernaculars as well as various European languages, notably English. The philosophy and practice expounded in the Yoga-Sutra and its commentarial literature has been dubbed “Classical Yoga” by western scholars and in Indian is still known as the yoga-darshana, or “viewpoint of Yoga.”
Apart from the much older Bhagavad-Gita, the Yoga-Sutra is the most frequently translated work on Yoga. Many of the English renderings readily available today, however, are not so much translations as well-meaning but largely unreliable paraphrases, often undertaken by Western Yoga students without knowledge of Sanskrit or the exegetical literature of Classical Yoga, not to mention the considerable scholarship focusing on this branch of Yoga. These popular renditions generally fail to appreciate the enormous sophistication and complexity of the yogic heritage and the highly technical nature of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra and its commentaries. It is in the details, however, that we encounter the uniqueness of Classical Yoga and get to appreciate its potential as a transformative spiritual path that has lost none of its relevance even today.
About the Author :
Swami Veda Bharati, formerly known as Dr. Usharbudh Arya was born in Dheradun in a Sanskrit speaking family. He taught his first course in the Yoga-sutras at the age of nine. From the age of 19 he has traveled in all continents, teaching, lecturing and organizing social, religious and spiritual work. Well versed in the scriptures of all religions and various schools of eastern and western philosophies, he has access to 17 languages and guided meditations in at least ten languages.
Gurudeva Swami Rama of the Himalayas initiated him into highest mysteries of meditation in the tradition of the Himalayan yogis.
He is a published English poet, research guide, prolific author, lecturer and is referred to as a "scholar saint." His writings include Ritual Songs and Folksongs of the Hindus of Surinam; Superconscious Meditation and the art of Dying; Philosophy of Hatha-yoga; God; Sayings; Blessings; Light of Ten Thousand Suns; etc. Besides he has to his credit nearly thirty booklets on various topics; and numerous articles. He has also recorded over three thousand hours of audiocassettes on all aspects of spiritual philosophy, yoga and meditation.
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