How rare it is to find a teacher of supreme truth whose knowledge is without equal, whose ability to teach is unparalleled and whose primary concern is to render the utmost benefit to the students seated before him! Such a one was Sri Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj. Not only was he a master of yoga, Vedanta, the scriptures of India and the philosophy of both the East and West, he was also a saint and sage of great attainment. He was not someone who merely lectured from book knowledge; when he spoke, it was with a voice filled with the conviction manifested in a person who has realised the highest in his own vast and profound experience. Swamiji was able to explain the most philosophical concepts with clarity and insight. Once having heard him speak, the listener would have the feeling that everything that was needed had been provided.
As was mentioned in the Foreword, the lectures that make up the content of this book were given to a small group of students who had come to the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, India in the winter of 1970 to be instructed in the fundamentals of yoga. Swami Krishnanandaji began the lectures on the auspicious day of Makara Sankranti (January 14th) in the Bhajan Hall and spoke five days a week over a period of eight weeks—giving 34 talks altogether, up until the conclusion on March 4th, 1970. These talks were recorded and transcribed, and for many years the resulting manuscript was with Sri Swami Vimalanandaji, a senior monk of the Sivananda Ashram, who reverently used the text for his own study and meditation. Out of a conviction that these wonderful teachings should be made available to a wider audience, Swami Vimalanandaji eventually gave the manuscript to a devotee who has edited the text into its present form.
The talks here are meant to be immensely helpful to a seeker on the spiritual path who wants to understand the concepts of yoga and put them into practice. Swami Krishnanandaji has gone into great detail, but at the same time he has taken care to explain things slowly and concisely so that one could easily follow the lessons without confusion. His emphasis was on the philosophy, psychology and practice of yoga according to the teachings of sage Patanjali. The first seven limbs of yoga as expounded by Patanjali (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana and dhyana) form the basis of the instructions found herein.
Although there are a number of Sanskrit words used in the text, one need not be conversant with Sanskrit to follow the meaning. If a Sanskrit word is not explained through the context of the paragraph, an English translation is provided beside the word. In addition, there is a Sanskrit glossary at the end of the book to aid the reader. Most of the Sanskrit words have been italicised, with the exception of certain familiar words such as yoga, guru, karma and others that have become a part of common English. Readers from North America should take note that the grammar and spelling in the book accord with British standards of usage.
The editors would like to thank those who have helped in the work of bringing out this book and those donors whose gracious contributions made its printing possible. May the blessings of Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji be on all those who take to the study of this valuable book.
—The Divine Life Society
January 14th, 2005