The Yogasûtrabhâshyavivarana transl. by Rukmani

T. S. Rukmani. Yogasutrabhasyavivarana of Sankara. Vivarana text with English translation and critical notes along with text and English translation of Patanjali’s Yogasutras and Vyasabhasya.New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2001. 2 vols. Hardcover, 389 + 230 pages.

I first heard about the Yoga- Sûtra-Bhâshya-Vivarana of Shankara Bhagavatpâda in the 1980s from Trevor Leggett, who some years later (in 1990) published a first English translation of this important text. In agreement with Paul Hacker, Leggett felt that both content and style pointed to the famous Shankara as the author of the Vivarana. However, in his review of Leggett’s translation, Tuvia Gelblum challenged the identification of theVivarana author with the famous Shankara.

Now we have T. S. Rukmani’s masterful translation of this Sanskrit work and her thoughtful observations regarding the author’s identity for comparison. Rukmani, who is a professor of Hindu Studies in Montreal, is well known for her translation of the voluminous and difficult Yoga- Vârttika by Vijnâna Bhikshu, which included the Yoga- Sûtra and Yoga- Bhâshya. She dismisses Hacker’s speculations and firmly sides with Gelblum in distinguishing the Vivarana author from Shankara, the great teacher of Kevala Advaita Vedânta, making the point that India has known many Shankaras. She proposes that the Vivarana author lived in Kerala after Vâcaspati Mishra (ninth century) but not later than the fifteenth century. Short of finding conclusive proof of the Vivarana author’s identity, Rukmani’s observations are the last word on this topic.

Rukmani, who is an accomplished Sanskritist, also questions Leggett’s affirmation that the Vivarana shows great originality and cites many instances of scholastic formalism. Be that as it may, the text is still a significant contribution to Classical Yoga, as Rukmani herself readily admits. Although she finds the author’s style at times “pompous and pedantic,” she confirms that he is “not an immature writer and he needs to be read with care.” This would explain why a renowned yogi-scholar like Vijnâna Bhikshu (sixteenth century) bothered to refer to the Vivarana.

Rukmani’s rendering is clearly more faithful to the actual text than is Leggett’s. It is also, however, more demanding on the reader, who is expected to be familiar with the subject matter. She deserves our gratitude and admiration for her conscientious translation and the stamina to tackle such a bulky and intricate text.

Originally reviewed © Copyright 2002. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.

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