Laura Gonzalez


20 Apr 2016

The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali with commentary by Chip Hartranft***


Reading dates: 05 April 2015 — 13 April 2016

It is difficult to write a review of the Sutras without a disclaimer. What I gave three stars to is this particular edition and commentary, not Patanjali’s work, which probably deserves a whole galaxy for its conciseness, ambition, erudition, beauty and precision.

Chip Hartranft’s version of the Yoga-Sutras has been my first incursion into yoga philosophy and, for that, it has been invaluable, clear and has left me wanting more. It is a short book, providing context for the four sections of the Sutras. It is well structured, simple and articulated in such a way that I could read it for a whole year, just a few lines at a time, during my 6 minute subway journey to the shala. It gave me focus, intention, and food for thought for what I was about to do on my mat. The commentary is considered, deceptive in its simplicity, at times very beautiful and loving of this ancient text. I chose it because it is a Western approach, which I thought would be more understandable as a starting point, for me at least. I found a table online, with comparative translations of all the Sutras (they are so different) and Hartranft’s jumped out at me. I got three different translations, but I started with his.

Why 3 stars? When in November last year I spent a whole weekend looking at book 1 of the Sutras with James Boag, I realised the impossible task of Hartranft. I got a lot of the oral transmission and live translation James gave us and I wondered if oral commentary and satsang wasn’t simply the best way for this work to be transmitted (which might be why James has not written a book). With him, the Sutras took another dimension as a breathing text. The permanence of the written work was not so attractive. Then, there was the issue of Sankrit. Hartranft’s edition is fully in English, with online access to the Sanskrit text and sutras are grouped together for commentary. The long, punctilious work of my weekend paid off, leaving the groupings of the book as too cursory. I guess what I am trying to say is that, in my year of reading it, I outgrew the book, went through the door it provided, studied it and now I need to approach a different type of commentary. I still needed to be shown the door, though, and maybe for that, for being there and being perfect for what I needed at the time, it does deserve 5 stars.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reading

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About Me

I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.

I am currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric. In 2013, together with Child and Adolescent Mental Health practitioner Frances Davies, I co-edited the book ‘Madness, Women and the Power of Art’, to which I contributed a work authored with Eleanor Bowen. My book ‘Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces’ was published by Cambridge Scholars in 2016. In this text, investigates psychoanalytic approaches to making and understanding objects of seduction, including an examination of parallels between artistic and analytic practices, a study of Manolo Blahnik’s shoes as objects of desire, a disturbing encounter with Marcel Duchamp’s last work, and the creation of a psychoanalytically inspired Discourse of the Artefact, a framework enabling the circulation of questions and answers through a relational approach to artworks.