Tuesday, 26 March 2013

 I could bore you by recounting five hours of scripture analysis in relation to yoga therapy, but I won’t.  That would be exhausting for everyone.  If you’re interested in reading more about yoga from a classical perspective however, you might want to find them for yourself and have a good browse.  We looked at two texts this weekend, the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. 

 We don’t know a lot about Patanjali.  It’s considered likely that he lived in Gondara, a “country in the east” (most likely Sri Lanka), somewhere around 150-100 BC and is believed to be the compiler of the Yoga Sutras.  There is some discussion about the possibility that Patanjali could possibly been a ‘pen name’ for more than one yogi but there’s no concrete evidence of this.  Like most surviving literature from before the ‘Common Era’, there’s a certain shroud of mystery around Patanjali’s texts.   My favourite subject in high school as Ancient History and I learned early on that you need to take the ravages of time, author bias and discrepancies in translation into consideration when shaping your understanding of history and subjects around a text written long before the invention of the printing press.  I was trying to remember this as we did some scanning through the Yoga Sutras on Saturday night and every one of us had a different translation of the text.  I used TKV Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga, which seems to me to be one of the most user-friendly editions explaining the sutras, but for a more slightly more classical approach I also like Edwin Bryant's translation.  The sutras prescribe adherence to the eight limbs of yoga and forms the theoretical and philosophical basis of Raja (classical/royal) yoga.  It features four chapters; including Samadhi (the blissful state), Sadhana Pada (practice/discipline), Vibhuti Pada (power/manifestation), and Kaivalya Pada (liberation).      

The Bhagavad Gita is even older that the Yoga Sutras, estimated to be have been composed somewhere between 500-200 BC (yes, that’s a big range but scholars don’t seem to be able to agree on anything concrete).  The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Mahabrata which is traditionally ascribed to the Sage Ved Vyasa.  It contains 18 chapters and consists of 700 verses detailing the conversation between the warrior Arjuna and Krishna.  Arjuna has asked Krisha to drive his chariot as the warrior goes to war in the name of his brother, the rightful heir to the throne, against his own friends and family.  Understandably, Arjuna needs a little counselling from Krishna about the whole upcoming ordeal.  If studying Shakespeare in high school gave you a headache, the Bhagavad Gita will look like an excruciating challenge at first glance which is why I recommend a well detailed translation including a good level of explanation between chapters for those who find verse difficult.  I really like Eknath Easwaran’s translation which includes detailed annotation that is pretty easy to read.  

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