Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ashtanga Yoga Darshana - Sutra Class 1

There was no transcription of the first sutra class. What follows covers the subject discussed:

“It is very important to understand yoga philosophy; without philosophy, practice is not good, and yoga practice is the starting place for yoga philosophy. Mixing both is actually the best.” - Jois & Anderson, Yoga International, Jan/Feb 1994

Pattabhi Jois was influenced by two philosophical/spiritual traditions: the tradition of yoga and the tradition of Advaita Vedanta. Two paths: one that starts from the dualistic experience of being in the body (yoga), the other, a non-dualistic (advaita) contemplation of divinity and the oneness of creation. The path of yoga starts in the dualistic realm of relativity of the physical and culminates in the non-dual experience of the essential Self, which is the purview of Advaita Vedanta. Hence they are not separate but conjoin at a certain point where yoga becomes an internal experience. The most important teacher in the lineage of Advaita Vedanta is Sri Shankaracharya. Shankaracharya, in addition to being an important saint in the advaita lineage was also a strong advocate of yoga. The main inspiration for advaita philosophy is the Upanishads.

We can see from the many interpretations that have been made of the sutras over the years, that the essential meaning and intention of Patanjali has many different nuances and no one can say with authority which is correct. In fact it is the nature of such spiritual texts that they should convey something essential to each individual based on his/her individual samskaras. Since Guruji’s perspective was that of Shankaracharya’s Advaita Vedanta, it would seem to make most sense to take this point of view while interpreting the sutras in accordance with Guruji’s philosophy.