Comment on Patanjali
Even a great translation of Patanjali’s definition of yoga doesn’t address some nagging issues. Being arguably among the 2 greatest grammarians of the last 2500 years, and the field of Grammar, Speech, is very sophisticated and wide spread in Indian culture, he composed a SUTRA, a compressed form of Speech, capable of delivering a lot of reference in very few syllables. It is called Yoga Sutra. Other sutras composed during his time and before are unfathomable without commentary. Certainly “Ashtadhyayi,” Panini’s grammar, also in Sutra, had to be redacted in the 16th century, because even the commentary had become too arcane for many students of the time.
Patanjali’s tradition was Speech, and he was one of the greatest masters of it. Yet, we want to read him, as if he was writing as, for example, a 19th century philosopher, presenting his speculations on Truth or God. Although we may assign him to a darshana, or philosophical school, he was not a philosopher, his compositions were not expository, he wasn’t writing non-fiction, he was writing CODE. Not that anything was secret, or he didn’t want others to know – “To the grammarian, to save even a single syllable, was equivalent to the birth of a son (source: shastra stuck inside my head).”
In these sutras and some tantric styles of composition, the references are NOT to ideas, but syllables, and indeed syllables appear where there were none, through decompression, as if we would unzip files on a computer. And the syllables, in turn have references. A master of grammar & composition can send the references in many directions at the same time. Patanjali was such a master.
To extract what looks like a word from The Yoga Sutra, and look it up in Monier-Williams English Sanskrit dictionary, is good for your professor at the university, but just doesn’t cut it among adepts and magi – or yogis. Patanjali is in a class of the greatest esotericists of the last few thousand years.
Yes, we can be inspired by all great literature, make our lives more conscious and happy, and we can do the same with Yoga Sutra. It’s part of its greatness and that of its author.
It’s a lot bigger than it seems. That’s the nature of sutra.