Ready or not, it’s back to school time! And have we got just the thing to add to your reading list this semester, and probably many semesters to come in your studies as students of yogadork-versity. Firstly, if you haven’t read the excerpt yet, be sure to do so, and then come on back to enter to win a copy of Threads of Yoga: A Remix of Patanjali’s Sutras, With Commentary and Reverie by Matthew Remski.
Just as the Bhagavad Gita has been interpreted by many a scholar in multiple fashions, there are dozens of translations of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for the budding and seasoned yogi, alike. As a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner, novelist and poet, Matthew Remski does with his Threads what a diehard, fanboy might do in a discussion of video game history or analysis of Breaking Bad, he gives a passionate, in-depth and spirited commentary, respecting historical aspects while connecting them to our modern age. Through contemporary philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, Remski gives the ancient text new light while including some hidden gems and Easter eggs that we may have previously overlooked along the way.
Sound intriguing? This is definitely one to snuggle up with.
WIN: We are giving away FOUR copies of Threads of Yoga: A Remix of Patanjali’s Sutras, With Commentary and Reverie by Matthew Remski, courtesy of Mr. Remski.
TO ENTER: We know, this back to school thing is giving us the heebs, too, but bear with us! A lot of you responded when we asked a little while ago about your fall plans – going to yoga school or going to school school. Don’t worry, we’re not going to give you homework, just a wee little assignment to get the old noggin working. To enter, tell us in the comments your current favorite (or least favorite) sutra and why. OR, share a sutra that still doesn’t quite make sense to you. Maybe we can all help 😉
Giveaway will be open until 11:59 pm Tuesday, September 10. Four winners will be chosen at random and announced soon after. Good luck!
UPDATE: Congrats to Mary, Jena, Sean Feit and Angelique! Thanks to all for sharing!
My fave is I:33. “Cultivating friendliness toward the happy” always makes me smile, which seems a good first step toward cultivating friendliness.
Yoga Sutras 2.12-2.17
The accumulated imprints of past lives, rooted in afflictions, will be experienced in present and future lives. As long as the root of actions exists, it will give rise to class of birth, span of life and experiences. The wise man knows that owing to fluctuations, the qualities of nature, and subliminal impressions, even pleasant experiences are tinged with sorrows, and he keeps aloof from them. The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided. The cause of pain is the association or identification of the seer (atma) with the seen (prakrti) and the remedy lies in their dissociation.
1.2 – yoga chitta vritti nirodha
it rings true in my daily practice
My favorite sutra is (and may always be) atha yoganusasanam. It’s all about the present, about constantly beginning, about approaching whatever is in front of us with the yoga.
1.12-1.16, on Practice and Non-Attachment. Exercising of personal will and surrender. It’s a beautiful balance to be stuck in life, both on the mat and off.
So first, if any of you that are reading this article and haven’t read the book or have read the book and just don’t know… You can find Matthew reading the Remix on vibedeck.com… It soothes.
My favourite remix is 1.40 “In time, the heart can hold the smallest thing and the uncontainable.” I have this written on harmonium.
I.21 tîvra-samvegânâm âsannaï (For those who seek liberation wholeheartedly, realization is near) – This has helped keep me focused. Remember to try again. Remember that no progress can be lost. Realization is near.
Samtosad anuttamah sukhalabhah (Chapter II, v. 42)
From contentment unsurpassed happiness is obtained
This reminds me to relax and and find peace with where I am right now. Too many times i’m pushing for more and wanting better in life and yoga instead of contentment with what I have.
Sutra 1.1 – And now, Yoga begins.
It reminds me that Yoga is an ongoing process, not a goal to attain and also reminds me that I can start again, wherever I am, if I get off track with the rest of the sutras.
“To preserve the innate serenity of the mind, a yogin should be happy for those who are happy, be compassionate toward those who are unhappy, be delighted for those who are virtuous and be indifferent toward the wicked.” – Yoga Sutra 1.33
How straightforward. How not to fall backward. Timely and timeless.
Lots of greatest hits here so far, and all super, so I’ll go further afield with this beauty:
4.31: Once all the layers and imperfections concealing truth have been washed away, insight is boundless, with little left to know.” (Chip Hartranft’s excellent trans.)
Truth? Not far away… Already here. Just clear away the veils and it’s plain as day. “Little left to know.” (Does that mean that there *is* still a little left to know?? Sweet, if we take it to mean this. There’s no *end* to the Path. Just a little more to know, always.)
Wow. This I a lot like homework.
I’m really just starting to explore yoga for more than “a workout” so having a copy of this would really help!
Sutra 1.2: Yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah (The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga). It reminds me to step back and take a more holistic view when I get too into the asana part of my practice.
heyam dukham anagatam the pain of the future is to be avoided. reminds me that my actions/attitude right now are moving me in some direction, toward pain, joy, living wholeheartedly, whatever. it also reminds me to notice when i am anticipating pain and tightening up around it.
YS1:1 Atha Yoganusasanam.
Now the exposition of Yoga is being made.
This is the sutra I refer to most. Every moment, is a moment to practice. W/O practice, nothing can be achieved! Practice, now…and now….
remski’s book isn’t a remix or a translation, it is a rewrite to match his own ideology which disagrees in fundamental ways with patanjali. he includes a potpourri of actual translations alongside brief reasons for his rewrite. a good introduction to the text is edwin bryant’s, whose understanding of the text shows in his clear translation, allowing the commentary to be in the background.
my favorite is 2.33-34 which bryant gives as:
Upon being harassed by negative thoughts, one should cultivate counteracting thoughts. Negative thoughts are violence, etc. They may be [personally] performed, performed on one’s behalf by another, or authorized by oneself; they may be triggered by greed, anger or delusion; and they may be slight, moderate, or extreme in intensity. One should cultivate counteracting thoughts, namely, that the end results [of negative thoughts] are ongoing suffering and ignorance.
I totally agree that Bryant’s translation is rich and faithful, and given his excellent work (and that of Miller, Hartranft, Houston, Ranganathan and others), my goal was different and more complex than direct translation and repetition of oral tradition. The text, and all of my descriptions of it online and elsewhere, are transparent about this. I’m very careful to be upfront about my biases, as is Bryant, for example, when he argues that Patanjali was likely a Vaisnavite like himself, and so this will inform his interpretation of “Isvara”. Many other translators actively conceal their biases.
Throughout the book I pursue a direct engagement with the question of the relevance of Patanjali’s worldview to contemporary yoga practice. It’s an important question, given its arbitrarily central position in current pedagogy. For every sutra, I asked the questions: Is this useful, given what we now know (not from “ideology”, but from contemporary philosophy, science, medicine)? And: If this were to be written today, what might it point towards?
I feel it’s important to mention that I don’t give “brief reasons” for my revisionist rewriting of an Iron Age text that still captivates millions. About 75% of the 220-page book directly argues for a post-ascetic, post-hard-dualism, post-transcendental, post-celibate, and post-magical thinking yoga as a vital tool to address our current psychic and environmental crises.
in other words, your own ideology (contemporary and informed as it may be) differs in fundamental ways with the work itself, and you use the work as scaffolding to express this. i wrote that clarification because it isn’t clear from the writeup what the book is (and ‘remix’ is not yet a term of literature). i haven’t read it except in excerpt and on amazon (and http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/09/threads-of-yoga-a-remix-of-patanjali/ where your revision is without your commentary), and i apologize for saying your reasons were “brief”, but a task “more complex” – teehee, we certainly show our biases regardless of disclosure.. what percentage of the book is memoir? in first-person?
i don’t think bryant’s work is perfect, i’d rather he not have translated some terms (like ‘atman’ as ‘soul’ ), but for introductory works colored by what the text says rather than what its interpreter would rather it say, it’s great.
not to double-entry myself, but I also like 3.35, which bryant gives as:
Worldly experience consists of the notion that there is no distinction between the puruṣa self and pure intelligence, although these two are completely distinct. Worldly experience exists for another [i.e. for puruṣa]. [By saṃyama] on that which exists for itself [i.e., on puruṣa], comes knowledge of puruṣa.
That’s about right, except that “ideology” suggests a closed system, and I’m far too baffled to have decided anything. I doubt you’ll detect a coherent ideology in a text that dialogues with history through multiple and often conflicting lenses. Strong opinions at times. Perhaps 5% anecdote, and 5% in first person, unless you include the claims I qualify with “in my opinion”.
Instead of “more complex”, let me amend that to “less direct”. The book takes enough risks for me to be mistaken as pompous on top of it all!
I relied on Bryant, Miller, and Hartranft, and about a dozen others. All extraordinary works. Go ahead and triple-entry — I hope you win!
I’m going to have to agree with others here, I have always liked 1.1. A reminder from the beginning that the only time is now.
Many of the other sutras have confused me, seemingly obscure and a little ‘out there’ for me! That said, I do come back to reread again and again, each time gaining a little more from the words and ideas.
Remski’s work is a valuable addition to the library of yogic knowledge 🙂
2.16- Heyam duhkham anagatam- Pain that has not yet come is avoidable…Simple. Let go.
Focusing with perfect discipline on the tortoise channel, one cultivates steadiness.
I watched Animal Planet nonstop for a solid week now I can’t get off my ass. Samadhi. In your face, Patanjali.
2.16 – pain that has not yet come is avoidable. My sutras fall open to this page because I go back to remind myself so frequently.
My favorite sutra reminds me that practice must be sustained over a long period of time, without interruption. This encourages me not to stray from daily practice and meditation.
I’m very fond of 2.31 – the universal importance of truth. This is the origins of satyagraha.
I third “Heyam dukham anagatam.” A strong reminder that the future is not the past, not yet written, and this very moment matters.
2.33, which discusses pratipaksha bhavanam. Whenever I have negative thoughts, this reminds me to override them with positive ones.
I like 1.22 “How near depends on whether the practice is mild, moderate, or intense.”
I like this one because of the quality of inclusiveness. Everyone has a different path they follow – and this sutra promises hope and instills faith that regardless of your practice, everyone has the opportunity to experience realization. It is also humbling because we can’t qualify what constitutes “mild, moderate, or intense” – which is all relative – so all we can do is our best work and to me, that is enough.
3.27. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the moon comes a knowledge of the lunar mansions.
Or is it:
3.26 By self-control on the Moon comes knowledge of the heavens.
…because meditating on the Moon and Lunar Mansions are both great!
I don’t even know what sutra is yet. I had to write that four times because my device kept auto correcting as “I don’t even know what sugar is yet.” So I am not going to even attempt Sanskrit on this thing. For some reason it auto corrects “Namaste” as “warlord” and that’s totally the wrong vibe. So you see how much karmic help I need…
I’m not quite sure what a sutra is and just starting to expand my yoga horizons so this book will come in very handy…
Stihra Sukham Asanam is one of my favourites. Reminds me to try and be as grounded as possible with good foundation in my practice
1.12… both effort & release are required to stop the madness
you can’t stay hooked into outcomes, or let your imagination of outcome keep you from acting…
I think Nike translated this sutta in extreme shorthand with their ‘just do it’ campaign…
I know of the sutras but do not know any to refer to. I am ready to learn!
Today, I have been reading and rereading b2#3 Ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and clinging to bodily life are five obstacles.
First of all, I am coming up on the 2yr anniversary of being told “you should be dead” after an intoxicated driver and my husband met on a highway. I was in the hospital for a week, and got better. But I struggle with ‘clinging to bodily life’ a lot. More so now that I am marking 2 yrs, internal organs officially healed at 2 yrs so that good.
Second I am a foster mother. Tonight our two foster sons will be on their way to live with their grandma and grandpa. It is a safe home, and I don’t worry that their basic needs wont be met. But egoism, attachment and hatred are certainly obstacles. We are still working through our last two foster sons leaving after 7mths. Sadly, I am worried that their basic needs are not being met. I am trying to overcome hatred, concerning that situation. It is hard to let go and remember the divine is with you on your journey, and find peace.
Maybe not tonight (ice cream helps) but perhaps tomorrow.
Today that is my favorite sutra…
Everyday -1.1 Now the exposition of yoga is being made
Going to be honest, I don’t know any… and I’d like to learn, especially since I’m delving into an upcoming yoga teacher training course! So… this book would be a huge help 🙂
“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward happiness, compassion toward suffering, delight toward virtue, and equanimity toward vice, thoughts become purified, and the obstacles to self-knowledge are lessened.”
This is a daily inspiring quote for me. It’s also posted in my car on the dashboard. It addresses many of the issues I have living in a large city and being in my late 20s. It gives a solution to the things you would normally quickly react to.
I just finished writing a commentary! One a day for 196 days in a row. This text is so vast and rich with teachings that I feel I’ve only barely begun to scratch the surface. The sutra I’m most drawn to presently is 2.36 on satya, or truth. My favorite commentary on this sutra is B.K.S. Iyengar’s. He says, “When the sadhaka is firmly established in the practice of truth, his words become so potent that whatever he says comes to realization. Most of us think we tell the truth, but truth is casual, not integrated and cellular. For instance, if we say ‘I will never eat chocolates again,’ as long as one cell of our body holds back and disagrees with the others, our success is not assured. If the stated intention is totally whole hearted, not one cell dissembling, then we create the reality we desire. It is not our mind, but the inner voice of our cells which has the power to implement our intentions.”
It’s so good.
1.12 Abhyāsa vairāgyābhyām tan nirodhah
The slowing down and eventual stopping of vrittis becomes possible through practice and dispassion.
Practice and dispassion, the two poles of yoga practice.
I’m eager to deepen my practice, having been introduced to sutras by an instructor in a class-each one I read here, reads as if it was meant to guide me now. Other than that I have the knowledge of a newborn so please teach me more! I hope to get one of these copies 🙂
The first two — 1.1. & 1.2
Here’s yoga and here’s what it’s for.
My favorite sutra is the very first one.
And now, the discipline of yoga.
To me, this says it all. No need for complicated philosophy (although that may enhance your practice). Just do it. All it takes is discipline.
God’s voice is Om.
Ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and clinging to bodily life are the five obstacles.
I experience all five!
Sthira sukham asanam – such a metaphor for life!
One of my many fave sutras – sutra 2.16
heyam dukham anagatam (it’s super fun to say!)
The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided- BKS Iyengar
2.45 From an attitude of letting go into one’s source (ishvarapranidhana), the state of perfected concentration (samadhi) is attained.
(samadhi siddhih ishvarapranidhana)
My recent life has led me to a place where surrender is the only option to move forward and it’s so hard to step away from the fight. As I am slowly learning what it means to truly surrender, my pain dissolves into peace and I feel whole and connected to the Universe. I’m learning that ishvara pranidahna takes diligence and patience and practice.
2.42 From an attitude of contentment, unexcelled happiness, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.