Yoga Vidya Samhita
Art by Sri Vijayanath & Alex Gehrz
Self-published (2018) — Purchase link to follow when available
Part poetry, part prosody, and part Devil’s Dictionary, Yoga Vidya Samhita is Patanjali and Bodhidharma as told by Groucho Marx.
As ethics dictate, I should tell you first that this book was given to me by the author. It was not, however, given to me to review, as the book isn’t receiving a wide enough release for free review copies to be a good idea. It was given to me because I helped out a little bit with the editing and because the author, Vidyanath, is a very close friend of mine.
It would, therefore, have been easy enough for me to keep my mouth shut, say a few comforting platitudes to my friend, and never have said a word to the public if I didn’t like the book. Instead, I chose to write this brief review of Yoga Vidya Samhita because it’s exactly the sort of thing I wish there were more of in the marketplace of books on the occult, esoteric spirituality, Yoga, and related topics: an unpretentious, good-humored distillation of a lifetime of experience.
Vidyanath is the living embodiment of mysticism. He is faithful to his Way in every moment of his daily life but light-hearted non-dogmatic in his discussion of it. He has a light touch on heavy experiences, but isn’t too cowardly to abrade or upbraid when necessary. More than anything, Vidyanath has a sense for the essential. This book is not long, but it is deceptively dense. There were plenty of times during my first couple of reads when I couldn’t understand why a line had been included or why a paragraph was placed where it was, or how a joke was relevant to the topic under discussion. I would shrug and keep reading, for the time being, but when I came back through on a second, third, or later revisit, I found some of these things clicking into place. Nothing is without purpose, here, and there is no filler.
But who is it for? Clearly intended originally for his fellow initiates, or close friends of, the International Nath Order, Vidyanath has produced a handbook suitable to novices of Nath Yoga. Yoga Vidya Samhita does not provide direct instructions in meditation or ritual. Instead, it includes the sort of pointers which are often not explicitly discussed. One often wonders why these details are left out of books and other teachings and we must conclude that, often enough, it is simply because the teacher in question is not as qualified as could be hoped. Vidyanath is a rare Yogi of the modern world who has reached sufficient depth to come back and tell us about it in the simplest terms. As such, serious meditators outside of the INO would surely also find it a helpful field guide. It’s a shame that this work will probably never have the wide distribution that it deserves—given how little interest there is in mysticism utterly devoid of flash and pretension—but I’m extremely happy to have mine and to keep it handy for when I need a re-grooving.