Saturday, March 12, 2011




Who composed Patanjali Yoga Sutras?

Obvious. Isn’t it?

It was Patanjali Maharishi.

But, this may not be as simple, as it looks.

Patanjali was perhaps a surname, the surname of a lineage, and not the actual name of a single Individual. Every male born in that lineage was Patanjali. Likewise, Vyasa seems to be a surname. The History of Patanjali , who wrote Patanjali Yoga Sutras is largely unknown to us. 

The ancient Indian sages never bothered to take credit for any work, big or small. Most of them have not even mentioned their names anywhere in their books. The reason was simple – none of these works can really be called original. They got the knowledge from their Gurus. They passed the same, on to their disciples. All knowledge was thus passing through a Guru-Sishya Parampara.

Lord Krishna has very clearly said in Bhagavad Gita that – all the knowledge that he was passing on to Arjuna was not any thing new from him – but was very ancient. Lord Krishna has also said that – he himself had passed on such knowledge in his previous births to many others.

Gita consists of 18 chapters, each of which is called a "Yoga". Gita is a vast store house of knowledge, which is extremely useful to every Individual. The knowledge of Yoga, of different hues, as elaborated by Lord Krishna in Gita, was available over 5000 years ago. It was available even much earlier than that through the Guru – Sishya Parampara.

What Patanjali deals with in his Yoga sutras, was dealt with in brief in the Dhyana Yoga chapter of Gita by Lord Krishna. Throughout Gita, we find many references detailing the methods, enabling circumstances, obstructions, benefits etc - of the Dhyana Yoga, or Meditation, as we loosely call it today. There were several successful practitioners of Yoga before Patanjali and after Patanjali too. Adi Sankaracharya has dealt with almost all the steps of Yoga in many of his works like Aparokshaanubhuthi.

But then, Neither Lord Krishna nor Adi Sankaracharya dealt with Yoga as a distinct and separate science. They dealt with it, in particular contexts and hence, before Patanjali, we do not have a distinct work dealing exclusively with the science of Yoga, which is actually Dhyana (or Samadhi) yoga.

Patanjali’s work also is very brief. He explains many concepts, but, in very few words. And, most of these words carry very special meanings.

He has very neatly divided the Dhyana Yoga into 8 steps and thus, it came to be called as the Ashtanga Yoga.

Let us understand that Lord Krishna calls the science of Action as Karma Yoga, the science of self knowledge as Jnana Yoga, the science of renunciation as sanyasa Yoga, the science of meditation as Dhyana Yoga, the science of composition of the universe (and the individual) as Guna thraya Vibhaga yoga and so on. Each chapter of Gita deals with a particular aspect of existence, and is called a particular Yoga. 

Lord Krishna himself is eulogized as 'yogeswara', the master of yoga. Lord Siva is called 'Adi Yogi' and 'yogeeswara'.

The point to observe here is – YOGA was as old as the first ever  being – human or divine, and therefore, it was not invented or created by any one.

A simple definition is - Yoga is the science which enables the Individual practitioner – to join with his REAL SELF. Outwardly, this looks a ridiculous statement. Isn’t he or she the real self already? Where is the question and scope for joining an individual with himself or herself?

This confusion persists, until one gets into this science of Ashtanga Yoga.

The readers who have followed Atma Bodha, Nirvana Shatkam, Maneesha Panchakam etc in this Blog earlier, will find this explanation easier to comprehend. Others will understand – after we go some distance with the Patanjali Yoga Sutras.

Patanjali Maharishi, Lord Krishna, Adi Sankaracharya are all great Yogis who have achieved the pinnacle of success in Yoga. We bow down before all of them and seek their blessings for our success too.

There is certainly no need to go into the dating of Patanjali or get into any other needless controversies. What is important is – to understand the Yoga sutras – and their place in the furtherance of man’s knowledge of himself.

There are four chapters in the Yoga Sutras. (1) Samaadhi Paadha (2) Saadhana Paadha (3) Vibhuthi Paadha and (4) Kaivalya Paadha.

At this point, it may not be practical to explain what each chapter contains. The four chapters are like four pillars (or four legs) of Yoga.

There are several commentaries on Patanjali Yoga by great Yoga practitioners of recent past, like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda, Acharya Rajneesh (Osho) and many others.

Serious practitioners of Yoga may go through these commentaries as well. This blog considers an understanding of Bhagavad Gita as a great preparation for studying Patanjali Yoga sutras. What is left unsaid in Yoga sutras is explained in Bhagavad Gita and what is left unsaid in Bhagavad Gita is explained in Yoga sutras. They are thus complimentary to each other, though separated by several thousands of years in authorship.

The request of this Blog to all readers is – here is your opportunity to gain tremendous new insights into (and master) your own self. The yoga sutras have Potential to lead you into mysterious inward journeys and unravel the internal, and external, Universe in a new light before you.

Readers must therefore strive to gain these critical insights into both the theory and practice of Yoga as laid down in Patanjali Yoga sutras. Kindly, do not be a casual reader – and lose this precious opportunity. One can preferably join a good yoga school too, to learn the basic steps. We will discuss all these  as we proceed further.

Now, we start examining the Sutras in the first chapter, the Samaadhi Paadha. The sanskrit words are given with spellings which approximate to their pronunciation. This is for the convenience of Readers - and the spellings given by other commentators may differ from them for this reason. For example Samaadhi Paadha - may be spelled as Samadhi Pada by others. This obviously is a trifling aspect. 


Atha Yogaanusaasanam

Meaning : Now, the Discipline of Yoga.

A lot has been said about this one simple looking verse. There are three words in this verse : Now (atha) – Yoga – discipline(anisaasanam).

Which means - Now, starts (let us have) the discipline of Yoga.

What is  - NOW’?

We are not capable of defining how long or short is ‘NOW’. We may say -  ‘NOW’ means this ‘Present Moment’.

We have substituted one word with two words – adding no better clarity or value to it. In respect of these two New Words - We can’t answer, what is Present and what is moment.

Actually, we all live at a much more grosser level than this micro level of  ‘NOW’, or, “this moment.” We can understand a Year, a month, or even a minute easily. But, not a ‘MOMENT’. And, not the concept of  ‘NOW’.

Let’s see what we know about NOW :
Ø I am (and all of us are) always present in the NOW - physically.
Ø I cannot go back or forth on my volition into the past or future physically.
Ø In the NOW, I am always alive. So are you. I can never be dead in the NOW.
Ø All of my ACTIONS, physical, mental and emotional, are always in the now.
Ø Even if I am thinking of the past or of the future, this feeling is still done in the present.
Ø While I am in action always in the NOW, the unseen TIME is moving me on its roller-coaster and moving my future into my NOW.
Ø NOW is the firm pedestal on which TIME keeps me and moves me along with the NOW Pedestal, on its world tour, or, on my LIFE TOUR.
Ø The journey is always uni-directional, into the future – and never into the Past.
Ø NOW is never the same for any two individuals.
Ø NOW is constantly changing for the same individual too.

 We can mention many more characteristics of the NOW, or, the PRESENT MOMENT, yet, without adequately understanding the NOW and its significance.

It is for this reason, that Patanjali says – NOW, the discipline of YOGA.

NOW is the highest point in Yoga. We understand NOW at this point. The discipline of Yoga  leads us into NOW TOTALLY.  As we have seen, when we are in the NOW, we are never dead. We will explain more of it, as we proceed.

The second word is YOGA. Yoga is the science of joining – joining our dis-united self, a self steeped in Ignorance, with the REAL SELF; Yoga is the science of removal, of the veil of Maya, of ignorance, which keeps us away from perceiving our REAL SELF.

As I said – we will understand more of it, as we proceed.

The third word is DISCIPLINE.

Saasanam means Law, order or rules laid down by some authority. Anusaasanam, on the other hand, stands for discipline, which one voluntarily follows for a purpose.

Yoga is a discipline. It has its rules, procedures, methods – and is a well laid out science in it self. It is a discipline.

So, this discipline intends to remove your veil of ignorance and make you perceive (or join you with) your REAL SELF  - not after death– but in the NOW, in the PRESENT MOMENT, even as you are alive.

What exactly is this discipline? What are the benefits of this Yoga to me? How difficult or easy is this process? What happens, if I don’t succeed in reaching the final Goal in Yoga?  We will answer all these questions and many more – as we proceed further. We will discover how great a science is - the science of SELF KNOWLEDGE, contained in the Patanjali Yoga sutras

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  1. Yoga has brought peace and happiness to me. It is the best thing I have ever experienced.


  2. Dear Nora,

    You are absolutely right. Yoga brings a rare peace and happiness and a much greater clarity on life.

    Please continue your study of Yoga through this series on Patanjali - and discover some new and rare insights from the ancient sages on this subject.

    After the first few aphorisms - we will introduce many practical aspects of Yoga - making it highly useful to you all for daily practice.

    I Wish you all success and joy in your pursuit of Yoga.

  3. Sir,

    My name is Karthik. I have recently started learning yoga. I am not only interested in practising Asanas but also keen about its philosophy...bhakti, jnana...

    My father teaches vedanta. Hence, I have some inclination already. Your explaination above is further inspiring. You are doing a karma yoga by helping all of us.

    Thank you for sharing it with all.

    Kind regards,

  4. Dear Karthik,

    Thank you for your encouraging comments.

    Please do continue reading this Blog.As you read, whatever, you can practically apply in your life - start applying.

    There is nothing to lose - and every thing to gain.As you practice, you will become better and better - and more and more joyful.

    You will find practical application of karma yoga, dhyana Yoga and Jnana Yoga in commentaries on various texts like Gita, Atma Bodha etc already covered in this blog.

    This, of course, is possible, because of great Gurus' teachings.

    Right now, I am trying to explain Patanjali with practical application hints .

    I will be explaining the most essential aspects of practical application of Karma Yoga - in 2 or 3 articles-soon. The knowledge of that will be extremely helpful to every one in their normal life. A lot of misery vanishes, and a lot more joy will enter into our lives - when we understand the implications of Karma Yoga.

    The effort will continue - as long as the grace of Gurus is with us.