This anthology is a thorough introduction to classic literature for those who have not yet experienced these literary masterworks. For those who have known and loved these works in the past, this is an invitation to reunite with old friends in a fresh new format.
From Shakespeare s finesse to Oscar Wilde s wit, this unique collection brings together works as diverse and influential as The Pilgrim s Progress and Othello. As an anthology that invites readers to immerse themselves in the masterpieces of the literary giants, it is must-have addition to any library.
Annie Besant was an early feminist, a theosophist and colleague of Helen Blavatsky, a socialist, a supporter of Indian self-rule, and a proponent of yoga and the Vedas. This short book is quite literally an introduction to the science of yoga, as she calls it, and if read carefully and slowly, it’s extremely illuminating.
I’ve been a student of yoga since the 70s. I was given a first edition of this book decades ago but read it through too rapidly, not really absorbing much at the time. This Kindle edition, for all its typos, gave me a better grasp of what Besant is trying to explain in generally simple terms, although she is guilty of intellectual and mystical obscurity at times.
There are thousands of books about Yoga out there and you could spend your entire life and a dozen or so reincarnations reading them all. But if you give this one your full attention, you’ll soon grasp what it’s all about. And then you can determine whether you want to learn more.
Reviews of Introduction to Yoga
Review 1: An introduction to yoga as orthodox Indian Philosophy, not as a system of fitness
If it were being released today it might be called “An Introduction to Yogic Philosophy” or “An Introduction to Jnana Yoga” to avoid confusion. Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge, as opposed to Karma Yoga (the yoga of action) or Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of devotion,) and it’s Jnana Yoga that’s the focus of this work.
I was ignorant of who Annie Besant was when I read this book. I’d heard of the Theosophical Society, but mainly in the context of being an organization that Jiddu Krishnamurti had been a prominent member of, but then had a falling out with.
So theosophy is knowledge of the divine and it suggests that a mystical path to knowing god can be achieved. I mention all this so that the reader will be aware that this isn’t “what is yoga?” through the eyes of a Hindu or a yogi as much as it is “what is yoga?” framed by a Theosophist. (That’s not to imply any objectionable biases in the book, just in the interest of full disclosure.)
Having clarified what the book isn’t, it’s now time to turn to what the book is. It’s divided into four lectures. The first is entitled “The Nature of Yoga” and revolves around the questions of what is consciousness, what is divine, and how do they interrelate.
Again this is the practice of Jnana Yoga, and not yoga as it’s practiced today. Besides some discussion of diet and vague statements about how to purify the physical body, there’s no discussion of practices other than Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation.)
In more specific detail, the book addresses the following topics: the 4 states of consciousness, the 3 aspects of consciousness, the 5 stages of the mind, the 3 gunas, the 5 functions of pain, and the 7 obstacles to yogic progress.
I don’t mean to make it sound like the book is entirely a listopia, but the author is very organized—and, to be fair, a lot of these lists are passed on from ancient works. Given this book is the product is 19th century English, its readability is tolerable—especially considering the complex and abstract concepts under consideration.
That said, there’s no attempt to put the abstractions in more concrete terms by way of narrative techniques or the like.
I’d recommend this book for those who are interested in Yoga as a philosophy. If you’re interested in the philosophy of the Theosophists, all the better. Again, it’s not of much value for an individual who wants to know about yoga as an approach to fitness, or even someone who wants a balanced view of the eight limbs of yoga.