Patanjali



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Fast Facts
Patanjali.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Maharshi Patanjali, Patañjali
Function: 
Sage
Traditions: 
Yoga
Main Countries of Activity: 
India
Date of Birth: 
150BC
Place of Birth: 
Chidambaram, India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
50BC
Descendant Gurus: 

Biography

Patañjali (Devanāgarī पतञ्जलि) is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, a major work containing aphorisms on the philosophical aspects of mind and consciousness, and also the author of a major commentary on Panini's Ashtadhyayi, although many scholars do not consider these two texts to have been written by the same individual. In recent decades the Yoga Sutra has become quite popular worldwide for the precepts regarding practice of Raja Yoga and its philosophical basis. "Yoga" in traditional Hinduism involves inner contemplation, a rigorous system of meditation practice, ethics, metaphysics, and devotion to the one common soul, God, or Brahman.

There is little historical information available on Patanjali. Several scholars suggest several persons may have developed yoga under the pseudonym of Patanjali. In any case, Patanjali existed around 150 B.C. in India. He developed yoga based on a loose set of doctrines and practices from the Upanishads, themselves a set of mystical writings. The Upanishads are part of the Aranyakas, philosophical concepts that are part of the Veda, the most ancient body of literature of Hinduism. Patanjali gave these combined philosophical and esoteric writings a common foundation in his Yoga Sutra, a set of 196 concise aphorisms (wise sayings) that form the principles of yoga. He also drew upon Samkhya, the oldest classic system of Hindu philosophy. Patanjali's yoga accepted Samkhya metaphysics and the concept of a supreme soul. He established an eight-stage discipline of self-control and meditation. The individual sutras (verses) lay out the entire tradition of meditation. They also describe the moral and physical disciplines needed for the soul to attain absolute freedom from the body and self.

Teachings

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Patanjali divided his Yoga Sutras into 4 chapters or books (Sanskrit pada), containing in all 196 aphorisms, divided as follows:

Samadhi Pada (51 sutras) - Samadhi refers to a blissful state where the yogi is absorbed into the One. The author describes yoga and then the nature and the means to attaining samādhi. This chapter contains the famous definitional verse: "Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ" ("Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications").

Sadhana Pada (55 sutras) - Sadhana is the Sanskrit word for "practice" or "discipline". Here the author outlines two forms of Yoga: Kriya Yoga (Action Yoga) and Ashtanga Yoga (Eightfold or Eightlimbed Yoga). Kriya yoga, sometimes called Karma Yoga, is also expounded in Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna is encouraged by Krishna to act without attachment to the results or fruit of action and activity. It is the yoga of selfless action and service. Ashtanga Yoga describes the eight limbs that together constitute Raja Yoga.

Vibhuti Pada (56 sutras) - Vibhuti is the Sanskrit word for "power" or "manifestation". 'Supra-normal powers' (Sanskrit: siddhi) are acquired by the practice of yoga. The temptation of these powers should be avoided and the attention should be fixed only on liberation.

Kaivalya Pada (34 sutras) - Kaivalya literally means "isolation", but as used in the Sutras stands for emancipation, liberation and used interchangeably with moksha (liberation), which is the goal of Yoga. The Kaivalya Pada describes the nature of liberation and the reality of the transcendental self.

The eight limbs (asthanga) of Raja Yoga

The eight "limbs" or steps prescribed in the second pada of the Yoga Sutras are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Ashtanga yoga consists of the following steps: The first five are called external aids to Yoga (bahiranga sadhana)

  • Yama refers to the five abstentions. These are the same as the five vows of Jainism.
  • Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or harm to others or even to one's ownself, it goes as far as nonviolence in thought, word and deed.
  • Satya: truth in word & thought.
  • Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is not his own.
  • Brahmacharya: abstain from sexual intercourse; celibacy in case of unmarried people and monogamy in case of married people. Even this to the extent that one should not possess any unholy thoughts towards any other man or woman except one's own spouse. It's common to associate Brahmacharya with celibacy.
  • Aparigraha: non-possessiveness
  • Niyama refers to the five observances
  • Shaucha: cleanliness of body & mind.
  • Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one has..
  • Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline & thereby mental control.
  • Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within,
  • Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.
  • Asana: Discipline of the body: rules and postures to keep it disease-free and for preserving vital energy. Correct postures are a physical aid to meditation, for they control the limbs and nervous system and prevent them from producing disturbances.
  • Pranayama: control of breath. Beneficial to health, steadies the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.
  • Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses from their external objects.

The last three levels are called internal aids to Yoga (antaranga sadhana)

  • Dharana: concentration of the citta upon a physical object, such as a flame of a lamp, the mid point of the eyebrows, or the image of a deity.
  • Dhyana: steadfast meditation. Undisturbed flow of thought around the object of meditation (pratyayaikatanata). The act of meditation and the object of meditation remain distinct and separate.
  • Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation. Samadhi is of two kinds:
    • Samprajnata Samadhi conscious samadhi. The mind remains concentrated (ekagra) on the object of meditation, therefore the consciousness of the object of meditation persists. Mental modifications arise only in respect of this object of meditation.

      This state is of four kinds:

      • Savitarka: the Citta is concentrated upon a gross object of meditation such as a flame of a lamp, the tip of the nose, or the image of a deity.
      • Savichara: the Citta is concentrated upon a subtle object of meditation , such as the tanmatras
      • Sananda: the Citta is concentrated upon a still subtler object of meditation, like the senses.
      • Sasmita: the Citta is concentrated upon the ego-substance with which the self is generally identified.
    • Asamprajnata Samadhi supraconscious. The citta and the object of meditation are fused together. The consciousness of the object of meditation is transcended. All mental modifications are checked (niruddha), although latent impressions may continue.

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

Yoga sutras: The textbook of Yoga psychology

by Ramamurti S. Mishra

(Paperback)

The Textbook of Yoga Psychology, written by noted Sanskrit scholar and yogi Ramamurti S. Mishra, M.D., combines his definitive translation with an inspiring interpretation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Patanjali's ancient formulae for self-analysis make this text crucial to the proper understanding of the philosophy, psychology and practice of Yoga. An extensive Introduction provides a lucid and thorough examination of the Sankhya Yoga Philosophy from which the Yoga Sutras emerged.

The accessibility of Dr. Mishra's translation of the Yoga Sutras has made this the favorite among beginning Yoga students, while experienced yogis and novices both appreciate the clarity of his commentaries on each sutra. Dr. Mishra's interpretation is unique in placing this ancient work in a modern context, examining Yoga psychology in the light of recent advances in psychiatry, psychology and parapsychology.

Increasing its value as a reference, this edition features a new Appendix with the entire text of the Yoga Sutras in the original Sanskrit and in a transliterated form, with a revised, literal English translation by the author.

Pro Opinions

first one to codify the sacred knowledge...

archana.anchal's picture

Though Yoga has been given to the mankind By Shiva himself, but Patanjali has been the first one to codify the sacred knowledge...

The Most Wonderful Text Author

NIDHI PARKASH's picture

Patanjali is regarded as one of the most revered sages, in real sense This is the Divinity directly incarnated as sage for to give 'the inner spontaneous divine path to humanity' which is also called