Demystifying Patanjali: The Yoga Sutras (Aphorisms)

by The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda as Presented by his Direct Disciple, Swami Kriyananda

by Nayaswami Gyandev McCord
author of Spiritual Yoga

The yoga community has undergone dramatic changes in the
last thirty years. Hatha Yoga has gone from an arcane curiosity to a
mainstream regime for wellness; it’s now practiced regularly by nearly
twenty million Americans, and many other countries are seeing
similar interest. Countless new styles have emerged. Yoga is gaining
acceptance in the medical community as a valid therapeutic selfcare
practice—not only the yoga postures, but meditation as well.
Most thrilling to me, however, is a relatively recent development: the
mushrooming interest in the higher, spiritual dimensions of yoga.
Enjoyable and beneficial though Hatha Yoga certainly is, more and
more people are eager to experience what lies beyond the physical
aspects of yoga.

For these people, the Yoga Sutras (aphorisms) of Patanjali has become
a popular place to begin—and appropriately so, for it’s one of
the main scriptures of yoga, it’s concise, and it’s thought-provoking,
even inspiring. Unfortunately, however, Patanjali is so concise that
many of his aphorisms are wide open to an entire spectrum of interpretations—
and many translators and commentators have marched
boldly through that opening, thereby creating a good deal of misinterpretation,
unclarity, and confusion.

For example, some authors claim that Patanjali’s brief mention
of asana (posture) means that he advocated the practice of yoga postures.
There is no evidence of that; he was simply advocating a suit able sitting
position for meditation, which has always been the central
practice of yoga. Other examples arise time and again in the
myriad confusing translations of certain key aphorisms, such as the
second one, arguably the most important of all: “Yoga is the suppression
of the transformations of the thinking principle.” What can
anyone do with that?

All this caused me much frustration in my own quest to fathom
the Yoga Sutras. The commentaries that I found were either abstruse
or vague, and almost always disjointed. I wanted a straight-to-thepoint
explanation of what Patanjali was really saying, and how to
apply it in my own spiritual quest. And since yoga is widely known
to mean “union [of the soul with Spirit],” I wanted to know what
Patanjali said about Spirit; alas, commentators too often go to great
lengths to avoid even mentioning God.

Still I hoped, for in his Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda
stated that Patanjali was an avatar, one who has achieved
divine union and reincarnated in order to help others. “That must
mean,” I reasoned, “that there’s more to these aphorisms than what
I’ve seen. How can I found out?”

In this book, Swami Kriyananda has shown us that there is indeed
more—much more. His training with his guru, Paramhansa
Yogananda, gave him the deep understanding and penetrating, intuitive
insight necessary to unlock the secrets of the Yoga Sutras. His
extraordinary clarity of presentation gives us a fresh and accessible—
yet uncompromisingly deep—perspective on this timeless scripture.
Kriyananda reveals Patanjali’s clear vision of the single, eminently
practical path that underlies all spiritual traditions—that of moving
from ego-identification to soul-identification—and how to walk
that path using the nonsectarian tools of yoga. Here at last is the
thread that ties together these 196 aphorisms.

Kriyananda has written more than 140 books, and in this one,
he shows once again that he is an unsurpassed exponent of the yoga
science. Although Paramhansa Yogananda never wrote a commentary
on the Yoga Sutras, I feel that he has now done so through his
direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda. A veil has been lifted, and Patanjali’s
teaching is revealed as it truly is: a deep and inspiring scripture—
yet also a practical scripture, accessible and applicable to any
spiritual seeker.

This book is a blessing. It shows the eternal way to lasting happiness
and freedom. It’s not just another intellectual exploration; it’s
a handbook for the true practice of yoga.

See Also: Contents  Sample Chapter  

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