Bhakti Yoga: Tales and Teachings from the Bhagavata Purana

Edwin F. Bryant. North Point, $35 (688p) ISBN 978-0-86547-775-9
Bryant (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), professor of Indian religions at Rutgers University, explores the Bhagavata Purana (“The Beautiful Legend of God”), probably finalized between the fourth to sixth centuries C.E., which focuses on “devotional surrender” to Krishna as Isvara or Bhagavan (God). Rather than providing a comprehensive overview of bhakti spiritual paths, Bryant investigates this one tradition in depth, drawing primarily on 16th-century commentaries. In Bryant’s extensive introduction, which occupies the first third of the book, he explores with precision and assurance such topics as the definitions of bhakti, the nine bhakti practices, and the relationship of bhakti to other types of yoga, along with many religious and philosophical aspects of this tradition. His analysis serves as an invaluable preface to the subsequent texts, primarily stories, that he translates, in which readers will encounter bhaktas (bhakti devotees) attaining bliss by contemplating God, Krishna’s mischievous boyhood, philosophical discourses, warnings against the dangers of worldly attachments, and lush descriptions of bejeweled deities. The extensive use of Sanskrit terminology and the complexity of key concepts in Hinduism may offer an initial challenge for nonspecialists, but Bryant is an accomplished, helpful, and humble guide to this intriguing tradition, which is still largely unexplored in the West. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/08/2017
Release date: 07/11/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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