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Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (Bollingen Series, Vol. LVI)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (Bollingen Series, Vol. LVI).pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Mircea Eliade(Author),Willard R. Trask(Translator)

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In this landmark book the renowned scholar of religion Mircea Eliade lays the groundwork for a Western understanding of Yoga, exploring how its guiding principle, that of freedom, involves remaining in the world without letting oneself be exhausted by such "conditionings" as time and history. Drawing on years of study and experience in India, Eliade provides a comprehensive survey of Yoga in theory and practice from its earliest foreshadowings in the Vedas through the twentieth century. The subjects discussed include Patañjali, author of the Yoga-sutras; yogic techniques, such as concentration "on a Single Point," postures, and respiratory discipline; and Yoga in relation to Brahmanism, Buddhism, Tantrism, Oriental alchemy, mystical erotism, and shamanism.


"[I]t states with clarity and precision what the beliefs and practices of yoga are, and how they originated from the primeval Indic religions."--The New Yorker

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  • By fiberwiazard on September 24, 2015

    For one discerning the Truth of Christ, this book excellently and succinctly tells a Christian why they should steer away from yoga. It is not of Christ. An open heart is needed to read this book and realize the spiritual dangers to the soul if one continues in this path. Pray before, during and after reading. Ask Jesus to direct you in this matter. I cannot "like" this book under the criterion provided, but think caution is necessary for those contemplating yoga as a valid spiritual path to truth.

  • By Ian M. Slater on December 26, 2012

    For some reason, Amazon hasn't managed to carry over reviews from earlier editions of Mircea Eliade's "Yoga: Immortality and Freedom" to this 2009 edition from the Princeton University Press MYTHOS and "Princeton Classics" series; there are, I think, seven, for various printings under different imprints. They are generally quite enthusiastic, reflecting the largely favorable response the book has produced over the decades. (Many complaints -- not all -- on Amazon and elsewhere seem aimed more at the kind of book it is, rather than its particular contents.) The present edition differs from earlier versions (those since 1969) only in cover art and the presence of a fourteen-page introduction by David Gordon White.Originally published in 1954 as "Le Yoga. Immortalite et Liberte," the fine English translation by Willard R. Trask appeared in the Bollingen Series in 1958 (Volume 56), and was slightly revised, and the bibliography updated, in 1969. The present version is the current successor to the Princeton/Bollingen Paperback of 1970, which I read until the spine was failing, and I finally ordered a replacement early this year.Eliade's "Yoga" is generally regarded as a landmark in Western Yoga studies, and a standard reference and point of departure for academics. It is also one of the more widely accepted examples of his "History of Religions" approach to subjects (which some people see as essentially anti-historical.) Perhaps as part of this acceptance, it has been viewed as purely the product of textual study, albeit in India.The "New Introduction" is, therefore, of some importance to readers unfamiliar with Eliade's life, since it points out that Eliade not only studied Yoga in India with the historian of philosophy Surendranath Dasgupta, he then also practiced Tantric Yoga under the direction of an advanced teacher. Eliade never mentions this in his books on Yoga -- he was being strictly faithful to the rule that only a qualified teacher (which he was not) could pass on details of practice, and then to qualified students (not unknown readers, or strangers attending a lecture). He did mention the episode in the first volume of his autobiography (not published in English until 1981), but still withheld information on things like breathing techniques.It is somewhat ironic that the book had to be translated from French -- not even his native Romanian, in which he had early literary success -- since his earlier Yoga studies, on which it was in part based, were in fact written in English, to fit the then-existing curriculum in India. (Dasgupta himself published -- voluminously -- in English.) At the end of World War II he had wound up as a struggling exile in Paris, until his publications brought him academic acclaim, some financial security, and later a position at the University of Chicago. (Where he was somewhat notorious for his obliviousness to mere material realities, like departmental regulations, and wars; which may help explain, if not really clarify, his confusingly, and alarmingly, pro-and-con relations with various European fascist movements.)Although Eliade opens with an interesting Foreword noting the "absorbing story ... of the discovery and interpretation of India by Western consciousness," the opening chapter is mostly a rather dry exposition of the basic premises of Indian philosophy, quickly moving from the introductory to the technical, including the strikingly parallel contents of the Yoga and Samkhya "schools," and generally imposes a barrier to the mere seeker after "Oriental Mysticism" and miraculous powers (which latter, Eliade, like Dasgupta, believes were disdained by "true" Yogins, who were really in quest of Liberation, not power). The chapter is also helpful in understanding other books on Hindu and Buddhist thought. Later portions appear more accessible, but in fact are based on the primary exposition; so those who skip the first chapter probably will miss a lot of what Eliade is talking about.As has often been said, this is a book for the serious inquirer -- or for someone who really needs to pass a course!The bibliography and related discussions of text editions, etc. -- together over a hundred pages! -- are now forty years old, and therefore badly dated. Attitudes toward such things as recognizing Yogic postures in images from the ancient Harappan civilization have changed (and changed again) in the intervening years, weakening his attempts at pre-history of Yoga in India. Scattered through it is an interesting introduction to the role of what Eliade considers religious symbolism in Yoga theory and practice; there are frequent, but not always obvious, connections to Eliade's books on general "History of Religions," notably "The Myth of Eternal Return; or Cosmos and History" and "Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy" (Bollingen Series 46 and 76; both also translated by Trask, and available in the MYTHOS series; the 1969 edition includes additional cross-references to the translations.) Some of the comparisons may reveal more about Eliade's attitudes (like the desire to escape from 'history') than they do about either Yoga or Religion in general Still, the book remains an impressive synthesis of Indian thought on the nature of the universe, true reality, and their relation to human consciousness.

  • By DBroach on July 11, 2017

    This is a fantastic and comprehensive read. I can't recommend enough to read this book. Should be required reading in any yoga teacher training program that seek to an authentic grounding in traditional yoga.

  • By Guest on June 11, 2000

    Eliade researched for this book, while staying with Surendranath Dasgupta in India, who was the formost scholar of indian philosophy and thelogy at his time. Eliade meticulously analyzed the indian scriptures and commentaries on sankhya and yoga and presents yoga as a huge, complex and precise system of practice and philosphy with the goal of kaivalyam (libration). This book is a lighthouse in the present time of publishing as much as the printing press can print.

  • By JYT on October 27, 2007

    Eliade is the greatest of the modern interpreters of myth and religious practice, and Shamanism, along with his Yoga: Immorality and Freedom, are his two most brilliant works. If you love the study of comparative religion any myth, you'll love this book. Bear in mind that these books are about what people believe and how they think about those beliefs. Eliade is a scholar, not a pseudo-mystic, so expect brilliant analysis and insights, not a how-to book on New Age levitation, hepatoscopy, and Oomantia (divination using egg whites!).

  • By Bryan on October 2, 2014

    Intelligent work on yoga

  • By Laurie on October 24, 2008

    This is a uniquely valuable and fascinating book, but first let's say what it's not. It isn't going to help you with your practice of yoga-postures and breathing. It isn't going to help you (much) with your spiritual practice of yoga.Over the last 60 years a lot of effort has been made to adapt Asian spiritualities to the West. With an intimidating depth of scholarship, Eliade does the opposite. He discusses Patanjali's Dualistic Yoga, Shankara's Nondualism, Tantra, the "heretical" systems of Jainism and Buddhism in their original context, showing that all are variants of a single sublime and terrifying Idea given to us by India: that the whole universe of time, space and matter must be rejected because it is subject to change, decay and death; that it is possible to transcend the human condition entirely and to attain a diamond-like state of eternal purity, peace, changelessness and boundlessness devoid of specific characteristics. He shows too how these ways of liberation are all thoroughly intertwined with archaic cosmologies, physical theories and images of the body.Instead of asking, What can the Buddha mean to us? he asks, What did the Buddha himself actually mean? The answer is stranger than you might imagine, and a hundred worlds away from contemporary Western-tailored Buddhism. This book is not for the faint-hearted: threaded with long Sanskrit word, capped by 65 pages of Notes. But persistence will be richly rewarded: with your newfound knowledge you will be able to infuriate your spiritually-minded friends and start any number of futile arguments.


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