Yoga Sutra Talk

Yoga Sutra Talk

Dr. Shelley Thomas, a language professor at Middle Tennessee State University, offers a class on awakening. They cover some of the primary world literature on the topic. Previously, they’ve invited academics to speak on the texts, but this session have invited awake people. Andrew Hewson had spoken to a prior class and suggested me for the Yoga Sutra. He also introduces me.

I review the structure, main points, and key places where the text is often misunderstood.

On YouTube

I often quote from the Yoga Sutra and have been considering compiling an illustrated version, so I have a spreadsheet with several translations. I compiled my version for the class.

Yoga Sutra of Patanjali – draft (pdf)
Main Points (pdf)

The talk was followed by an extended Q&A with diverse questions. That’s now posted here.
YouTube Talk & Q&A Playlist

Last Updated on September 17, 2023 by Davidya

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  1. Bryan

    Thanks David, towards the end of the clip you briefly mention different philosophical systems being linked with the different states of consciousness

    Seems like Transcendental Consciousness (TC) is solidly linked with Patanjali’s 8-limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

    You mention Vedanta Philosophy as being linked with ‘later stages”… perhaps Cosmic Consciousness (CC)?

    What systems link with God (GC) and then Unity Consciousness (UC)?


    1. Hi Bryan
      The 6 systems of Indian philosophy are called the Darshanas or Upangas. The basic idea is that they are different philosophies for different perspectives of reality. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi associated them with the stages.

      1) Nyaya is on logic
      2) Vaisheshika is waking state qualities
      3) Samkhya is what unfolds from transcending
      4) Yoga is about awakening, CC
      5) Karma Mimansa is on GC
      6) Vedanta or Uttara Mimansa is on Unity into Brahman

      However, these are generalities. Yoga talks a lot about the siddhis, for example, which are more about clarity and capacity of the physiology. That’s the sattva side of the equation rather than atman. As you observe, it also talks prominently about samadhi = TC. Vedanta also talks about Self Realization. And so on.

      We could say this is a general context. They’re not competing philosophies but rather a progression, each having their own value.

    1. Bryan

      Very detailed response, thanks David – reminds me of “Many Paths to the Same Summit” analogy…. in this case paths don’t all start from the same trailhead but are at different elevations along many, many vast ridgelines(!).

      Have you found a translation of the Karma Mimansa that you like/can recommend? How about the Brahma Stura as well?

      With appreciation,

  2. Hi Bryan
    On Karma Mimana, very much not. It’s quite a long text and largely seen as a bunch of rituals.

    With the Brahma Sutra, the major issue is it’s translated as a series of concepts and arguments rather than recognitions leading to the “aggregate” of wholeness. (Unity into Brahman process) One option here is the books “Conversations with Maharishi” which are some of the background discussions during his unpublished translation of the Brahma Sutra. It certainly gives better context and has some translation.

  3. harrison

    Will have to look up the conversations with Marharishi book – Maybe David you the person to write an updated commentary to the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali – I have five verisions and while I appreciate having them I am sure there is a place for a new one with a new depth of insight and clarity. Perhaps that is the case with Brahama Sutras? I wonder why Maharishi’s verision was not published?

    1. Hi Harrison
      Yes, it’s a fascinating read – Maharishi’s thinking behind the work, contrasted by the academics. His questions brought out great points.

      Don’t know that I’m qualified to do a commentary – that would require a lot more research. But I have explored publishing a better translation with some context, like the talk.

      Maharishi’s later Gita chapters and the Brahma Sutra were not competed. They’re entirely translated though. Just gaps in the commentary. His focused shifted to teaching. You’ll see the trend in the Conversations books. The Conversations became shorter and more spread out as they progress into the 2nd book.

      A decade ago, they were working to publish the 2nd 6 chapters of the Gita but were waiting on adding the scientific research. It was clear there was competing politics around it, unfortunately. To me, the research is better put on a web site that’s updated, then cite it in the work rather than clutter (and edit) the commentary and raise the cost of the book. (Oddly, they’ve made it difficult to link to research on their site.)

      I’m not sure they get how valuable some of this would be to long-term practitioners for who this is unfolding. We’ll see what unfolds.

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