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The Yoga Yajnavalkya (Sanskrit: योगयाज्ञवल्क्य, yoga-yājñavalkya) is a classical treatise on yoga traditionally attributed to sage Yajnavalkya. It takes the form of a dialogue between Yajnavalkya and his wife Gargi, a renowned female philosopher. The extant Sanskrit text consists of 12 chapters and contains 504 verses. Most later yoga texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Yoga Kundalini and Yoga Tattva Upanishads have borrowed verses almost verbatim from or make frequent references to the Yoga Yajnavalkya. In the Yoga Yajnavalkya, yoga is defined as the union between the individual self (jivatma) and the Divine (paramatma). The yogi, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, considered Yoga Yajnavalkya to be one of the most important yoga texts and refers to this text in the introduction to his book, Yoga Makaranda (1934).
The method of yoga described in the Yoga Yajnavalkya is both comprehensive and universally applicable—open to both women and men. Yajnavalkya explains the principles and practice of yoga, the path to freedom, to Gargi, his wife. The Yoga Yajnavalkya demonstrates that Vedic culture provided women with equal opportunities and encouragement for their spiritual pursuits to attain freedom.
Like the Yoga Sutras, the Yoga Yajavalkya describes eight limbs of yoga and describes the path of yoga practice as the development of these eight limbs. The text also dispels much of the aura of mystery surrounding the concept of kundalini by explaining it logically and relating to other terms and concepts in Vedic thought. An important feature of this text is the comprehensive discussion of pranayama, which sets it apart from other texts on yoga. Up to a hundred verses or slokas are devoted to elucidating the various techniques, applications and results of pranayama. The text also discusses the use of pranayama as a therapeutic tool, its role in ayurveda, and methods for incorporating pranayama with pratyahara, dharana and the other limbs of Patanjali yoga.
The Yoga Yajnavalkya provides insight into the various forms of meditation practiced during the Vedic period. It also addresses the issue of how to use form (Saguna Brahman, or God with form) to go beyond form (Nirguna Brahman, or the Godhead).
There are differing opinions as to the dating of Yoga Yajnavalkya. Prahlad Divanji, editor of Yoga-Yajnavalkya: A Treatise on Yoga as Taught by Yogi Yajnavalkya published by the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (BBRAS), traced its origin to the period between the second century BCE and fourth century CE. According to Divanji, the author of the Yoga Yajnavalkya is also the author of the Yājñavalkya Smṛti. Gerald James Larson, a professor at Indiana University, has dated this text to about the 13th or 14th century CE.
Versions and translations
Only two English translations of the text are known. According to T. K. V. Desikachar's English translation: "In the 1960s only two [Sanskrit] versions of this valuable text were available [BBRAS and Trivandrum editions], and both were incomplete or inaccurate. He [Krishnamacharya] took the pains of writing the whole manuscript." Desikachar further states in his introduction: "However many verses of this twelve-chapter text are missing in both versions... He [Krishnamacharya] even corrected those manuscripts that were incomplete." In The Heart of Yoga, Desikachar indicates: "There is one critical edition of the Yoga Yājñavalkya written by Śrī Prabhad [sic] C. Divanji [BBRAS edition]."
According to A. G. Mohan's English translation:
- "However, a comparative reading shows that the KYM edition [Desikachar's 2000 translation] is a faithful reproduction of the 1938 Trivandrum publication. The only edits made are to fill in a negligible number of missing words—around 60 words out of 6000—in mostly obvious contexts. There are no significant corrections to existing verses.
- The BBRA publication is easily more complete and error free, containing copious footnotes comparing different versions of the text from sixteen manuscripts and five printed editions (including the Trivandrum publication). That is why Krishnamacharya recommended the BBRA publication when he browsed through it.
- The Trivandrum publication offered by the KYM misses 39 1⁄2 verses that appear in the BBRA publication, and the word choice is less suitable in places. Appendix I contains a comparison between the two publications."
Title of work and alternate names
The Yoga Yajnavalkya is also known by the following names in various manuscripts and printed editions:
- Sri Yajnavalkyasamhitopanishat
- Yajnavalkya Gitopanishadah
- Yajnavalkya Samhita
- Yajnavalkya Samhitopanishad
- Yoga Yajnavalkya Gita
- Yoga Yajnavalkya Gitopanishadah
- Yoga Yajnavalkyam
- Yoga Yajnavalkya Samhita
- Yoga Yajnavalkya Smrti
- Yoga Yajnavalkya Upanishad
- Yogi Yajnavalkya
- Yogi Yajnavalkyam
- Yogi Yajnavalkya Smrti
According to K. Sambasiva Sastri, editor of The Yogayajnavalkya (Trivandrum Sanskrit Series No. CXXXIV), "the title of the work is known to be Yogayājñavalkya" and "the title Yogayājñavalkya is herein preferred." Sastri further indicates that it is "presumable that the work is also styled 'Yājñavalkya Gītā'."
- Divanji (1954).
- Mohan (2010), p. 127.
- Desikachar (1995), p. 231.
- Mohan (2013), p. i.
- Desikachar (2000), p. XXI.
- Mohan (2000), p. 19.
- Desikachar (1995), p. 230.
- Mohan (2010), p. back cover.
- Divanji (1954), p. 105.
- Divanji (1954), p. 118.
- Larson (2008), p. 476.
- Desikachar (2000), p. back cover.
- Desikachar (2000), p. XIX.
- Mohan (2013), p. iii.
- Bharati (2009), p. xxix.
- Desikachar (1995).
- Divanji (1953 and 1954).
- Larson (2008).
- Mohan (2000, 2010, and 2013).
- Sastri (1938), p. ii.
- Sastri (1938).
- Krishnamacharya (1938), p. vii.
- Desikachar (2000).
- Sastri (1938), p. ii.
- Bharati, Swami Veda (2009). Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-8120820692.
- Desikachar, T. K. V. (1995). The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice. Rochester: Inner Traditions International. ISBN 978-0-89281-764-1.
- Desikachar, T. K. V., translator (2000). Yogayajnavalkya Samhita: The Yoga Treatise of Yajnavalkya. Chennai, India: Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. ISBN 81-87847-09-3.
- Divanji, Prahlad; Kane, P. V., eds. (1953). Yoga-yājñavalkya. Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 28. Bombay, India: Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.
- Divanji, Prahlad, ed. (1954). Yoga Yajnavalkya: A Treatise on Yoga as Taught by Yogi Yajnavalkya. B.B.R.A. Society's Monograph No. 3. Bombay, India: Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.
- Krishnamacharya, Tirumalai (1938). Yoga Makaranda or Yoga Saram (Part 1) (in Kannada). Translated by C. M. V. Krishnamacharya (Tamil ed.). Madurai, India: C. M. V. Press.
- Larson, Gerald James (2008). The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Yoga: India's philosophy of meditation. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-3349-4.
- Mohan, A. G., translator (2000). Yoga-Yajnavalkya. Chennai, India: Ganesh & Co. ISBN 81-85988-15-3.
- Mohan, A. G. (2010). Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings. Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 978-1-59030-800-4.
- Mohan, A. G., translator (2013). Yoga Yajnavalkya (2nd ed.). Svastha Yoga. ISBN 978-9810716486.
- Sastri, K. Sambasiva, ed. (1938). The Yogayajnavalkya. Trivandrum Sanskrit Series No. CXXXIV. Trivandrum, India: Government Press.