Patanjali has often been called the founder of Yoga because of his Yoga Sutras. While this is not fully correct -- his work is a treatise on Raja Yoga, built on the foundations of Samkhya and the Hindu scripture of the Bhagavad Gita -- he is certainly a major figure among the great Hindu thinkers and certainly is the father of Raja Yoga as its compiler. Besides the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga is found in the Puranas, Vedas and Upanishads.
There is some confusion as to which Patanjali was the author of this book. He has been identified with a grammarian by the same name, but the grammarian's dates do not match the age of the work as determined by the internal evidence. It is safe to assume that the Sutras were written somewhere between 1,700 and 2,200 years ago.
The techniques described in the book come under the heading of Raja Yoga, or the royal path to union with the divine. There are eight(8) steps in Patanjali's Yoga. They are; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. A number of commentators break these eight steps into two categories. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, and Pratyahara comprise the first category. The second category, called Samyama is comprised of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The division between the two categories exists because in Samyama there is no cognizance whereas in the first five steps cognizance exists.
- "Since there is no cognizance to these three stages (ed. Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi), they are not bound by time or succession. The result is that they exist independently and also exist simultaneously. Any one, two or three can exist at the same time. When the three stages exist simultaneously then it is called (ed. Samyamah) the simultaneous existence."
- Taken from the commentary on Patanjali Sutra III.4 by Master E.K.
- "The Yoga of Patanjali" Master E.K.; Kulapathi Book Trust ISBN 81-85943-05-2
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras fall under the six darshanas of Hindu or Vedic schools and is a milestone in the history of Yoga along with the Bhagavad Gita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
A compilation of Yogic thought that is largely Raja Yogic in nature, it was codified some time between the 2nd and 3rd century BC by Patanjali, and prescribes adherence to "eight limbs" (the sum of which constitute "Ashtanga Yoga") to quiet one's mind and merge with the infinite. These eight limbs not only systematized conventional moral principles espoused by the Gita, but elucidated the practice of Raja Yoga in a more detailed manner. Indeed, his "eight-limbed" path has formed the foundation for Raja Yoga and much of Tantra Yoga (a Hindu deific, Shiva-Shakti yoga system) and Vajrayana Buddhism (Buddhist Tantra Yoga) that came after. It goes as follows:
While Patanjali accepts the idea of what he terms "ishwar-devata" (worship of deities as manifestations of the single Brahman), his "ishwar" is not a conventional God and speaks more to a universal Brahman, an impersonal, unknowable, infinite force that is all and transcends all.
The Sanskrit word sutra means "thread" or "aphorism" and for that reason the work is sometimes translated as the Yoga Aphorisms. Patanjali created 4 chapters or books (Sanskrit pada), containing in all 195 aphorisms, divided as follows:
Samadhi refers to a blissful state where the yogi is absorbed into the One. The author describes yoga and then the means to attaining samadhi
is the Sanskrit word for "practice". Here the author outlines two forms of Yoga: kriya yoga
(action yoga) and ashtanga yoga
(eightfold yoga). Kriya yoga
, sometimes called karma yoga
, is reflected in the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita
, where Arjuna
is encouraged to act without attachment to the results of action. It is the yoga of selfless action or as some have observed, of service. Ashtanga yoga
consists of the following levels:
These are 5 in number
- ahimsa = abstention from violence = non-violence to all beings
- satya = abstention from lying = truth
- asteya = abstention from theft
- brahma charya = abstention from sexual activity = continence
- aparigraha = abstention from possessions
These also are 5 in number:
- Saucha = purity
- Santosha = contentment
- Tapas = austerities
- Svadhyaya = study
- Ishvarapranidhana = surrender to God
- Asana - Postures of the body
- Pranayama - Control of prana or vital breath
- Pratyahara - Abstraction; "is that by which the senses do not come into contact with their objects and, as it were, follow the nature of the mind." - Vyasa
- Dharana - Fixing the attention on a single object; concentration
- Dhyana - Meditation
- Samadhi - Super-conscious state or trance
Vibhuti is the Sanskrit word for "power" or "manifestation". This book describes the "higher" states of awareness and the techniques of yoga to attain them.
Kaivalya literally means "isolation", but like most Sanskrit words, used technically, this translation is misleading. In this sense it means emancipation
, liberation, used interchangeably with moksha
(liberation), which is the goal of Yoga.
The Yoga Sutras are in fact a collection of aphorisms that define synthetically and by sequential logical steps, a practical model for the consciousness-Nature and individual consciousness, how these are related, how is possible to understand and interfere with the elements of this model, and what is the outcome.
The text emphasizes a non-mental way of knowledge as alternative form of knowledge. The procedure to achieve this type of knowledge is schematically outlined in Yoga Sutras, as application of the principle that a steady concentration on a certain object allows identification of the concentrating subject with the object itself and with the process of concentrating. This allows the subject to gain direct knowledge of the object by identification with it, rather than by indirect means, i.e. through mental elaboration of the sense perception of the object. Such process, called samadhi, occurs only when the concentration on the object neutralizes the mental activity, whose waves prevent the individual consciousness to fuse with that of the object.
The Yoga Sutras form the theoretical and philosophical base of all Raja yoga. It can still today be considered the most organized and complete definition of the Raja Yoga discipline.
- [http://hrih.net/patanjali/ Internet archive of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, featuring
different interpretations (50+) translated into 22 different languages]