Unveiling the Mysteries of the Yoga Aphorisms
The first edition of “How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali” is a true rarity, signed by both renowned translators, Isherwood and Prabhavananda, on the front free endpaper. These visionaries, who co-founded the Vedanta Society of Southern California in 1930, delve deep into the ancient wisdom of the Vedanta scriptures.
Isherwood shared his personal journey in his book, “My Guru and His Disciple” (1980), shedding light on his spiritual exploration during the tumultuous backdrop of World War II. He candidly admits, “I felt lost, having abandoned my political beliefs. The left-wing slogans that once echoed in my mind now seemed hollow… I had heard whispers of Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley immersing themselves in the realms of Yoga, Hinduism, and Vedanta. However, I dismissively refused to truly understand these concepts” (p. 4). Initially, Isherwood found anything “Oriental” to be distasteful until a fortuitous visit to Los Angeles before his relocation in 1939. It was during this time, spending moments with Heard, Huxley, and Prabhavananda, that Isherwood’s perception underwent a profound transformation. He credits Swami Prabhavananda for guiding him from skepticism to becoming an ardent Vedantist, stating, “Without Prabhavananda, my life would have amounted to nothing” (p. 283). Isherwood dedicated the next 35 years of his life actively participating in the Vedanta Society, delivering occasional lectures at the temples in Hollywood and Santa Barbara, and assisting Prabhavananda in translating crucial texts.
Rediscovering the Yoga Sutras
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written between 500 BCE and 400 CE, were among the most widely translated ancient Indian texts during the medieval era. However, the work gradually faded into obscurity until it experienced a revival in the late 19th to mid-20th centuries, reclaiming its status as a timeless classic. Isherwood and Prabhavananda emphasize that these aphorisms “do not merely present an original philosophy but are a compilation and reformulation… Patanjali restated yoga philosophy and practice for his contemporaries” (p. 7). In their exhaustive and innovative commentary, the translators provide a gateway for serious yoga enthusiasts to delve into a deeper understanding of this profound text.
With their expertise and trustworthiness, Isherwood and Prabhavananda’s extensive knowledge makes “How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali” an indispensable resource for sincere seekers on the path of yoga.
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