Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: translations and commentaries on the text

Who was among the translators of the classical text on yoga, and what features they gave to their work.

Many who begin to practice yoga are attracted not only by the system of physical exercises but also by other aspects of yoga: breathing, concentration techniques, as well as a certain philosophical, worldview context. All aspects of yoga are described in ancient texts, the classic of which is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

I started doing yoga in 2007, and this was the first book on yoga I read – “Yoga Sutras” by Patanjali with comments by B.K.S. Iyengar, the publication that was easiest to find. Today, using the capabilities of the Internet, you can get acquainted with different versions of the translation of this text and with different comments. What are their differences?

If you have ever encountered the art of translation, you know that it is impossible to absolutely accurately translate a text from one language to another. Most of the translations of ancient Indian texts were made into English and only then into Russian. The error is doubled.

There is another peculiarity – the author of the translation or commentary. There is an academic scientist. The plus of such a translation is a clear agreement with the original text, the minus is the complexity of perception due to a large number of terminology.

Also, the text can be translated by a representative of any yoga school. In this case, the author understands the things described in the text and can describe them in an accessible way. But the translation may not always be accurate, including some propaganda from the school to which the author belongs.

The very first commentary on the yoga sutras of Patanjali was the commentary by Vyasa, in Sanskrit “Vyasa Bhashya”. The sutras themselves and the commentary to them in Russian translation from Sanskrit were published in 1987 by Soviet and Russian orientalists Elena Petrovna Ostrovskaya and Valery Isayevich Rudy. Also, the authors in this work refer to the “Tattva-Vaisharadi” Vachaspati Mishra – a later text of the Patanjali school, and draw analogies with Buddhism.

The Yoga Sutras were also translated by Swami Vivekananda, an Indian philosopher, and public figure who lived in the late 19th century. Both the yoga sutras and, in general, all of Vivekananda’s works are associated not only with ancient philosophical systems, but also reflect the beliefs of the author himself. He assimilates a variety of ideas, seeking to harmonize with each other in different directions of Vedanta.

The translation and commentary of the sutras by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of the Bihar School of Yoga, also reflects his personal experience. In addition, the author uses some simplifications that make the text easy to read. The work is focused specifically on people practicing yoga.

Also of note are the translations and commentaries of Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar. These are the great yoga teachers of the 20th century, scientists and Sanskritologists. Their works contain interpretations that reflect the long-term effective practice of the masters.

Many commentators have tried to express the hidden meaning contained in the stanzas of the yoga sutras. There are even comments on comments. Reading, analyzing, comparing different texts for a yoga practitioner is a great pleasure. Have you read yoga sutras?

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (11 simultaneous translations)

Soft area, 312 pages

We would like to express our special gratitude to Andrey Verba for supporting the project and help in compiling the introduction to the book, Pavel Konorovsky for the idea of ​​the book, collecting materials and layout, Alexander Buzykin for compiling the glossary, Alexey Popov for designing the book cover.

“Success is achieved only as a result of continuous practice over time, carried out with a positive attitude and zeal.”
Patanjali, Yoga Sutras, 1.14

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is the greatest work on yoga, considered in our time classical and describing various paths of spiritual development, including the current eight-step path of yoga. They were systematized and formulated by the sage Patanjali, therefore they are called the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.

This text presents 11 different translations into Russian of “Yoga – Sutras of Patanjali”, made from Sanskrit or from English, and the original spelling of the sutras, as well as a transcription for reading. Each of the translations has its own imprint of the translator’s and commentator’s subjectivity, therefore, having collected all the available translations, you are offered the opportunity to form your own vision of the essence and meaning of this text, noting for yourself the sharp corners of various translations and their features.

The book contains translations:

1. Bailey (translated from English)
2. Vivekananda new translation (translated from English)
3. Vivekananda old translation (translated from English)
4. Gandhanadha (translated from English)
5. Desikachara (and also Krishnamacharya) ( transl. from English)
6. Zagumennov (translated from Sanskrit)
7. Ostrovskaya and Rudoy (translated from Sanskrit)
8. Regina (translated from English)
9. Svenson (translated from English)
10. Falkov (translated from English) Sanskrit)
11. Swami Satyananda Saraswati (translated from English by Nirmala Drasta)

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. 11 simultaneous translations

“Yoga Sutras” as presented by Vivekananda, translated from English by Y. Popov

In the book: S. Vivekananda. Rajda Yoga and Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Sosnitsa, 1906

Before proceeding with the presentation of Patanjali’s aphorisms, let us consider one important issue on which, according to yogis, the whole theory of religion is based. All the great minds of the world seem to agree on the opinion, which, moreover, is almost proven by research carried out in the field of physical nature, that we are a product and a manifestation of the absolute principle lying behind our present relative state, and that we are going forward, so that again return to the same absolute. Once this is established, the question arises: which state is better, absolute, or is it real?

Many eminent thinkers are of the opinion that we are the manifested particles of an undifferentiated being and that this is our differentiated state above the absolute. Since there can be no qualities in the absolute, they imagine that it must be insensible, numb, lifeless, that only life as we know it is capable of providing pleasure and that therefore we must value it.

In order to judge the correctness of this view, it is necessary to get acquainted with other solutions to the question of life. There is an old opinion that after death a person remains the same as he was here, that all his good sides minus the bad ones remain forever. Logically, we can conclude that the purpose of man is this world; the same world, but a degree higher and freed from evil is called heaven. This theory is essentially nonsense and childish since it claims the impossible. There can be no good without evil or evil without good. To live in a world where everything is good and there are nothing evil means what Sanskrit logicians call “daydreaming.”

Recently, some schools have put forward a different theory, namely, that the purpose of a person to improve more and more, to constantly strive forward, never reaching the goal. This position seems to be very graceful, also ridiculous because there is no such thing as moving in a straight line. Every movement takes place in a circle. A straight line, endlessly extended, turns into a circle. Therefore, the idea that a person’s purpose is to move forward and forward, never stopping, is absurd.

I will note – although this does not apply to the subject – that the truth I have expressed now explains the ethical theory, according to which one should not hate, but should love, because here it is exactly the same as in the case of electricity or any other force, regarding of which the newest theory says that the force comes out of the dynamo and completes the circle back to the dynamo. It is the same with all the forces of nature: they necessarily return to their source. Therefore, do not hate anyone, since that power, that hatred that comes from us, will inevitably return to you later. If you love, love will return to you, ending the circular circulation. There is no doubt that every drop of hatred and every urge of love emanating from the heart of a person returns to him in full, and nothing can stop them.

The theory of perpetual motion forward cannot be accepted for another practical reason, because destruction is the lot of everything earthly. All our aspirations and hopes and fears and joys, where do they lead? The end of all of us is death. Nothing is as true as this. Where, then, is this movement in a straight line, this endless improvement? It passes only a certain distance and again returns to the center from which the movement began. See how the sun, moon, and stars are formed from a nebula, then collapse and turn back into a nebula. The same is done everywhere. The plant takes material from the ground, decomposes, and gives it back. Every form in this world is formed from surrounding atoms and turns into the same atoms.

It cannot be that one and the same law operates differently in different areas. The law is monotony. This is certainly true. If this is a law of nature, then it is also a law of thought: thought will decompose and return to what it came from. Whether we like it or not, we must return to our beginning, which is called God, or the Absolute. We are all descended from God, and all must go to God, no matter what name this God is called; call it God, or the Absolute, or nature, a hundred names that you like, the fact remains the same. “From whom this whole universe originated, in whom everything that is born lives, to whom everything will return.” This is the only true fact. Nature acts according to the same plan: what happens in one sphere; the same thing happens in millions of realms. What you see about the planets, the same will be with the earth, with people and with the stars. A huge wave is a mighty combination of small waves, perhaps millions; the life of the whole world is the union of millions of small lives, and the death of the whole world is the union of the deaths of these millions of small beings.

Now the question arises: is the return to God a higher state or not? Yoga philosophers categorically answer that the highest. They say that the present state of man is a state of degeneration; and there is not a single religion on earth that says that man is a product of perfection. They believe that the beginning of man is perfect and pure, that he is falling and will fall to the utmost possible limit; then the time must come when he rushes up again to complete the circle; the circle must be completed. No matter how low a person descends, in the end, he must turn up again and go to the original source, which is God. In the beginning, a man comes from God, in the middle he becomes a man, and in the end, he goes back to God. This is a method of explanation in a dualistic form. In the monistic form, you say

If our present state is the highest, then why is there so much horror and calamity, and why does it end like this? If this is the highest state, why does it end at all? That which deteriorates and degenerates cannot be the highest state. Why is it so unsatisfactory, so devilish? – It can be justified only if through it we accept the highest processing if we have to go through it in order to be reborn again. Put the grain in the soil, and after a while, it decomposes into its component parts, dissolves, and a magnificent tree comes out of this decomposition. Every soul must first degenerate in order to later become a magnificent tree. It follows from this that the sooner we get out of this state, which we call “human,” the better for us. But then why not get out of it by suicide? In no way: it would make our condition the worst. Self-mortification, or denial of the world, is not a way out. We must go through despair and abyss, and the sooner we get through the better. You should always understand that the present state is not the highest.