Thursday, April 7, 2011

Greek Root Words of Autobiography of a Yogi

Welcome back, fans of Latin and Greek root words as they pertain to English vocabulary!  I and my colleagues in Portland, OR have just finished putting out our SAT and GRE vocabulary online learning system  that has been a labor of love.  Hence, I have a few moments to discuss a truly amazing book that I've just perused, the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Being true to this English vocabulary blog's mission, to fully analyze the Greek and Latin roots of the English translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, rest assured that I shall return to that labor of love in my next post.  But this cannot wait.

First, let's discuss two words in the title:

autobiography:  This word is comprised of the prefix auto-, which comes from the Greek root word autos, which means "self."  A few GRE (and more difficult) words that come from this prolific prefix include autochthonous, automaton, autodidactic, and autonomous.  From the stem, or primary morpheme, of this word, which derives from the Greek root word bios, "life," comes multiplicitous English vocabulary words:  biology, biome, biochemistry, bioethics, bionic, and bioengineering.  And lastly, the suffix -graphy, derived from the Greek root word graphein , "to write", come a whole host of English vocabulary words, such as: geography, paleography, cartography, selenography, and epigraphy.  Can you see what each of these has to do with writing? 

yogi:   This word comes from a Sanskrit word meaning "to join."  It is a yogi's and yogini's task to "join" with the Self, not to be confused with the phenomenal self, thereby recognizing her or his own true divinity.  This word is cognate with the Latin root word iungo, iungere, iunxi, iunctum, "to join," whence: junction, adjunct, conjunction, conjunctivitis, juncture, adjoin, etc.  Interested in more English derivatives that come from the aforementioned Greek and Latin roots?  Check out, the most exhaustive etymological dictionary in terms of visually displaying the power of Greek and Latin vocabulary as the foundation of the English language. 

Now, on to the phenomenal and I dare stay outstanding Autobiography of a Yogi.  If you have ever "done" yoga, or been interested in a modern-day experience and/or life of a fully accomplished yogi, this book sheds a great deal of light on those very topics.  Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship in California, engagingly and eruditely covers his variegated and colorful life from his origin in India, his days of schooling there (not a model student, I might add, but certainly a most interesting one), his apprenticeship in Yoga under Sri Yukteswar, and his eventual coming to the United States to bring the message of Kriya Yoga here.  Many yogis that Yogananda met in his travels are fully discussed, such as the ageless Babaji, The "Perfume Saint," the Levitating Saint, The Sleepless Saint, Giri Bala (a yogini who never eats), etc. etc.  He also discusses bilocation, a particular interest of mine.  Patanjali discusses various mystic powers of a yogi that are derived from the path of Yoga, most of which were shown to be physically possible from the people that Yogananda met and so eloquently speaks of.  I must admit that this book was a true eye opener, and has added dimensions to my own yoga practice that I had not even considered prior to its reading.  It's almost a modern-day corroboration of the seemingly far-removed expostulations and aphoristic conundrums of Patanjali, giving us all hope in this crazy modern-day world of a better way, possible for each and every human being on this planet.
      Even if you only have a small interest in yoga, read this book anyway.  Its verbiage uses exalted levels of English vocabulary, and it's a highly entertaining and informational read.  It's probably the best non-fiction work that I've ever perused.


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