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Publisher's Summary

Consisting of fewer than 200 verses written in an obscure if not impenetrable language and style, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is today extolled by the yoga establishment as a perennial classic and guide to yoga practice. As David Gordon White demonstrates in this groundbreaking study, both of these assumptions are incorrect. Virtually forgotten in India for hundreds of years and maligned when it was first discovered in the West, the Yoga Sutra has been elevated to its present iconic status - and translated into more than 40 languages - only in the course of the past 40 years.
White retraces the strange and circuitous journey of this confounding work from its ancient origins down through its heyday in the seventh through eleventh centuries, its gradual fall into obscurity, and its modern resurgence since the nineteenth century. First introduced to the West by the British Orientalist Henry Thomas Colebrooke, the Yoga Sutra was revived largely in Europe and America, and predominantly in English. White brings to life the improbable cast of characters whose interpretations - and misappropriations - of the Yoga Sutra led to its revered place in popular culture today. Tracing the remarkable trajectory of this enigmatic work, White’s exhaustively researched book also demonstrates why the yoga of India’s past bears little resemblance to the yoga practiced today.
©2014 Princeton University Press (P)2014 Audible Inc.
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Customer Reviews

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By justme on 04-11-16

Very Thankful for this Work!

Would you listen to The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali again? Why?

Yes, I plan to listen to it several times. Many yogis use dates and facts that are not supported by the facts. Doesn't mean they are wrong, they just can't be supported. i.e. "Yoga as described in the Sutras goes back 5,000 years." Maybe, but probably not. I'm interested in what is really "known" about the sutras. Let's start with the truth, then build from there. If a yogi is afraid of the truth, I'm not sure that's a good foundation for their practice.

What did you like best about this story?

Historical context & accuracy.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Yoga Sutras Exposed: What We Really Know.

Any additional comments?

It's hard to find a fair, purely academic treatment of Yoga. I'm sorry to see the yoga practitioners who rate this work poorly. One person gave this 1 star because they meant to purchase a traditional commentary, so instead of taking responsibility for their mistake, they took it out on the work. Not a shining example of yogic Ahimsa. The next reviewer found it a hubristic, cynical, sarcastic, and racist diatribe that is "veiled" as academic. So much so that they didn't complete it. Hmmm. No examples provide to support their position, no attempt to illustrate how the work is academically incorrect. If there was ever a need to practice Satya (2nd limb, 2nd observance: truth in thought, word, and deed), this is it. If you feel the work is bad, then state it as a feeling, not as a fact. If you're going to state is a fact, then back it up with examples, so the reader can decide for themselves. While I'm neither a practioner nor an academic, I do find it sad how yogic practitioners can behave so badly when confronted with an academic treatment of the texts they hold dear. It's not a question of intelligence: many of them sound highly intelligent, as the reader above who found the work hubristic. But, instead of attacking back because we feel our beliefs were attacked, we need to meet the academics on their battlefield and engage. Not launch potshots from a safe distance.

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16 of 21 people found this review helpful


By Kevlaur3 on 05-06-15

Obviously author not a practitioner

I mistakenly purchased this thinking it was a translation and commentary. It is not. It is a "scholarly" work appropriate for the intellectual elitists. The author loves his intellect and spends much of his energy in a cynical and sarcastic tone. Great if you are writing a college paper, a waste of time if you are a practitioner.

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28 of 38 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Daljit S Sangalsole on 12-30-14

Biography but not much detail

This audio spends much time on history around Patanjali but relatively little time on the sutra themselves.

Interesting if you wish to learn of historians

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful


By Paul Rohe on 07-11-16

Truthful appraisal of Yoga Sutra History.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read exactly what this book covers, it's about the HISTORY of the Yogasutra as opposed to the "religious" MYTH presented to us and so beloved among most misinformed yoga practitioners, both Western & Eastern. IT IS NOT a commentary and this can clearly be deduced by any who read the books description.

Having said the above those reviewers giving this audio book such a low review rating obviously must not have read the description properly thus showing a decisive lack of Buddhi, as well as showing Himsa in their attitude as opposed to what they should be cultivating i.e. Ahimsa !

Now for the book. It strips the mostly modern myth surrounding both the primary importance and influence of the Yogasutra on Yoga, it also strips the modern myth surrounding many modern Yoga teachers from the last 100 years (oh diary me lol), this is something most Yoga practitioners just can't stomach for they would rather have beautiful lies rather than Satya (Truth) and yet miss this irony with their negative reviews. These are things some Yoga practitioners become really upset about which is really a shame for the truth should always be important not ones opinion...

Oh, and yes I am a practitioner though I also like well researched scholarly tracts on Yoga as well, the truth of the pudding is in the eating thus the truth of Yoga is in the Practice, and NOT ones often naive ideas of what it should or should not be, historically or otherwise.

I would add something else as well, this, as the author of this book brings up though does not necessarily affirm himself, this looks more like a Buddhist work than Hindu, now personally as a Buddhist myself I would say that this is a Buddhist work, no doubt to the great discomfort of many, why do I say this, well, any knowledgeble Buddhist who reads the Yoga sutra can clearly see this, Buddhists through history never attacked this work simple because it agrees with Buddhist ideas, and believe it or not Patanjali (whoever he may have been) is recognized as a Buddhist Saint in the Tibetan Canon (which came from India), this would not happen to a non Buddhist ! So I grin and stick my tongue out at those reviewers who are upset with this audio book.

As a practitioner myself I wholeheartedly recommend this book, IF AND ONLY IF YOU LIKE THE TRUTH or SATYA ! And I find it really funny I have to say this to Yoga practitioners themselves, well, some of them anyway.

Happy reading/listening.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Anonymous User on 07-26-17

crap crap crap

struggled and did not finish it. dry, boring, condescending and self righteous. could not recommend it

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