Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Introduction

The foundation of all later Schools of Yoga go back to Patanjali.

The word Yoga automatically calls to mind Sage "Patanjali" the founder and father of Yoga Sutras. (Yogic teachings covering all aspects of Patanjali Yoga are common in pre-Patanjali literature of the Puranas, Mahabharata and Upanishads.) There are claims that he lived either in the second or third (*) century before Christ or the fifth century CE. He was a great philosopher and grammarian. He was also (**) a physician and a medical work is attributed to him. However this work is now lost in the pages of time.

(*) Download from YSP Archive: The Age of Patanjali by Pandit N. Bhashyacharya (1915)
 (**) Download from YSP Archive: The Two Patanjalis and their Identity by B.N. Puri

india shore temple His best known work is Patanjali Yoga Sutras of Aphorisms on Yoga. The path outlined is called Raja Yoga or the sovereign path. It is so called because of the regal, noble method by which the self is united with the overself.

Patanjali's Yoga has essentially to do with the mind and its modifications. It deals with the training of the mind to achieve oneness with the Universe. Incidental to this objective are the acquisition of siddhis or powers.

The aim of Patanjali Yoga is to set man free from the cage of matter. Mind is the highest form of matter and man freed from this dragnet of Chitta or Ahankara (mind or ego) becomes a pure being.

The mind or Chitta is said to operate at two levels-intellectual and emotional. Both these levels of operation must be removed and a dispassionate outlook replace them. Constant Vichara (enquiry) and Viveka (discrimination between the pleasant and the good) are the two means to slay the ego enmeshed in the intellect and emotions. Vairagya or dispassion is said to free one from the pain of opposites love and hate, pleasure and pain, honour and ignominy, happiness and sorrow.

The easiest path to reach this state of dispassion and undisturbed tranquillity is the path of Bhakti or love. Here, man surrenders his all-mind, soul, ego-to the Divine Being and is only led on by the Divine will. Self-surrender the Diving Name. Such repetition must not be mechanical but one-pointed and full of favor. For this, concentration is necessary. concentration can be there only if man has practiced to fix his attention on a particular object without letting it dwell on anything else.

Concentration also calls for regulation of conduct if Bhakti must develop. Good cheer, compassion, absence of jealousy, complacence towards the virtuous and consideration towards the wicked must be consciously cultivated.

There are also methods of regulated breathing which help reach concentration.

Yoga is an art and takes into purview the mind, the body and the soul of the man in its aim of reaching Divinity. The body must be purified and strengthened through various practices. The mind must be cleansed of all gross and the soul should turn inwards if a man should become a yogic adept. Study purifies the mind and surrender takes the soul towards God.

The human mind is subject to certain weaknesses which are universal. avidya-wrong notions of the external world, asmita-wrong notions of the external world, asmita-wrong notions of oneself, raga-longing and attachment for sensory objects and affections, dweshad is like and hatred for objects and persons, and abinivesha or the love of life are the five defects of the mind that must be removed. Constant meditation and introspection eradicate these mental flaws.

The human body is a vehicle for journeying this life. It must be kept in proper form if the mind should function well. For this, there are practices too, but Patanjali does not elucidate on them.

The Yoga of Patanjali is Ashtanga or comprised of 8 limbs.

They are:

1. Yama
2. Niyama
3. Asana
4. Pranayama
5. Pratyashara
6. Dharana
7. Dhyana and
8. Samadhi.

Ahimsa (non-injury), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-covetousness), Brahmacharya (continence) and Aparagriha (abstinence from avarice) come under Yama.

These five austerities are universal and absolute. Under no condition should they be deviated from. A Yogi must not cause injury or pain to another in thought, word or deed, One must not hurt even in self-defence. This is Ahimsa.

Truth is concurrence between thought, word and deed. it must be true to fact and at the same time pleasant. If by speaking the truth, another is hurt it ceases to be truth and becomes himsa. There is a story which illustrates this point.

patanjali amrtakatesvam templeIn olden days there was a sage renowned for his austerities and observance of the vow of truth. It so happened that once when he was sitting by his little hut, a frightened man with a bundle ran past him and disappeared into a cave nearby. a couple of minutes later there came a band of fierce robbers with gleaming knives, apparently looking for this man. Knowing that the sage would not lie, they asked him where the man with the bundle was hiding. At once, the sage, true to his vow of not uttering falsehood, showed them the cave/ The cruel robbers rushed into it, dragged out the scared man, killed him mercilessly and departed with his bundle. the sage never realised God in spite of his austerities and tenacity for truth for he had been instrumental in the murder of a man. This is not the kind of truth that yoga requires. It would have been better if the sage had remained quiet for that would have saved the poor man. Great care is therefore to be exercised in speaking and each word must be carefully weighed before it is uttered.

Yoga shows us all happiness is within our selves and trying to quench desires is like pouring ghee on fire which only makes it blaze more instead of putting it out. So with desire, It is never satisfied. yoga shows us that happiness for which we are eternally searching can be obtained through non-desire.

To achieve a state of non-desire, the mind must be trained to think clearly. A healthy mind requires a healthy body.