Patañjali: Wikis


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Patañjali Statue in Pantanjali Yog Peeth Haridwar

Patañjali (Devanāgarī पतञ्जलि) (fl. 150 BCE[1] or 2nd c. BCE[2][3]) is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice, and also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a major commentary on Panini's Ashtadhyayi. However, it is unlikely that these two works are that of the same author.[citation needed]

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 God, or Brahman. At the same time, his Mahābhāṣya, which first foregrounded the notion of meaning as referring to categorization, remains an important treatise in Sanskrit linguistic philosophy.



Patañjali as an incarnation of Adi Sesha

Whether these two works are by the same author has been the subject of considerable debate. The authorship of the two are first attributed to the same person in Bhojadeva's Rajamartanda, a relatively late (10th c.) commentary on the Yoga Sutras[4], as well as a large number of subsequent texts. As for the texts themselves, the Yoga Sutra iii.44 cites a sutra as that from Patanjali by name, but this line itself is not from the Mahābhāṣya. However, certain themes such as the unity of the constituent parts appear common to both. Sources of doubt include the lack of cross-references between the texts, and no mutual awareness of each other, quite unlike other cases of multiple works by (later) Sanskrit authors. Also, some elements in the Yoga Sutras may date from as late as the 4th c. AD[3], but such changes may be due to divergent authorship, or due to later additions which are not atypical in the oral tradition. In the absence of any concrete evidence for a second Patanjali, and given the approximately same time frame for the origin of both texts, and the traditional ascription of both to a Patanjali most scholars simply refer to both works as "by Patanjali".

In addition to the Mahābhāṣya and Yoga Sutras, the 11th c. text on Charaka by Chakrapani, and the 16th c. text Patanjalicharita ascribes to Patanjali a medical text called the Carakapratisamskritah (now lost) which is apparently a revision (pratisamskritah) of the medical treatise by Charaka. Some have cited the Patanjali reference in Yoga Sutra as possibly being from this text. Were he to be the author of all three works, it would be quite amazing, although such diversity would not be very uncommon in many early civilizations, as in the work of Pingala or Katyayana, both grammaticians who also worked in mathematics, or their contemporary Aristotle, say.

One tradition holds that all three works are by the same author, as in this invocation:[5]

yogena cittasya, padena vācāṃ, malaṃ śarīrasya ca vaidyakena
yo'pākarot taṃ pravaraṃ munīnāṃ patañjaliṃ prāñjalir ānato'smi

पतञ्जलिप्रार्थनं॥ योगेन चित्तस्य पदेन वाचां मलं शरीरस्य च वैदिकेन योपाकरोति तं प्रवरं मुनीनां पतञ्जलिं प्राञ्जलीरानतोस्मि॥

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In the Yoga tradition, Patañjali is a revered name and has been deified by many groups, especially in the Shaivite bhakti tradition. It is claimed that Patañjali is an incarnation of Ādi Śeṣa who is the first ego-expansion of Viṣṇu, Sankarshana. Sankarshana, the manifestation of Vishnu His primeval energies and opulences, is part of the so-called catur vyūha,[6] the fourfold manifestation of Vishnu. Thus may Patañjali be considered as the one incarnation of God defending the ego of yoga.

Even his name has been glorified. He is respectfully referred to as Patañjali Maharishi, or great sage.

In one popular legend, Patañjali was born to Atri (First of the Saptha Rishis) and his wife Anasuya (this would make him go back to the time of the creation by Brahma). According to this tradition, Anasuya had to go through a stern test of her chastity when the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva) themselves came as Bhikshuks and asked her for Bhiksha. She passed their test by accepting them as her children and fed them while naked. She got the boon where all the 3 Murtis will be born to them. They were SomaSkandan or Patañjali, Dattatreya, and Durvasa.


Tamil Shaivite legend

Regarding his early years, a Tamil Shaivite tradition from around 10th c. AD holds that Patañjali learned Yoga along with seven other disciples from the great Yogic Guru Nandhi Deva, as stated in Tirumular's Tirumandiram (Tantra 1).

Nandhi arulPetra Nadharai Naadinom
Nandhigal Nalvar Siva Yoga MaaMuni
Mandru thozhuda Patañjali Vyakramar
Endrivar Ennodu(Thirumoolar) Enmarumaame

English translation

By receiving Nandhi's grace we sought the feet of the Lord
The Four Nandhis (Sanagar, Santhanar, Sanath Sujatar, Sanath Kumarar),
Siva Yoga Maamuni, Patañjali, Vyakramapadar and I (Thirumoolar)
We were thus eight disciples.

The ancient Kali Kautuvam also describes how Patañjali and Vyagrapada gathered along with the gods in Thillai near Chidambaram to watch Shiva and Kali dance and perform the 108 mystic Karanas, which formed the foundation for the system of Natya Yoga.

This Tamil tradition also gives his birth place in South Kailash, possibly the modern day Thirumoorthy hills near Coimbatore. Some other traditions feel that his being born in Bharatavarsha - the part of the ancient world corresponding to South Asia - is beneath his godlike status, and that he must have been born in the Jambudvipa, the mythical center of the universe.

Patañjali as Siddha is also mentioned by the goldsmith-sage Bogar:

It was my Grandfather who said, "Climb and see."
But it was Kalangi Nathar who gave me birth.
Patañjali,Viyagiramar,and Sivayogi Muni all so rightly said,
"Look! This is the path!" - Bhogar, 7000 sayings

This tradition also holds that Patañjali was a master of dance.

Yoga Sūtras

The Yoga tradition is much older, there are references in the Mahābhārata, and the Gitā identifies three kinds of yoga, and it is also the subject of the late upanishad, Yogatattva. The Yoga Sūtras codifies the royal or best (rāja) yoga practices, presenting these as a eight-limbed system (ashtānga). The philosophic tradition is related to the Sāmkhya school. The focus is on the mind; the second sutra defines Yoga - it is the cessation of all mental fluctuations, all wandering thoughts cease and the mind is focused on a single thought (ekāgratā). The eight limbs or the Ashtānga Yoga propounded here are

  1. yama, ethics, restraint and ahimsā,
  2. niyama, cleanliness, ascetism, etc.
  3. āsana, posture
  4. prāNāyama, breath-control
  5. pratyahāra, sense-withdrawal
  6. dhāraNa, concentration
  7. dhyāna meditation, and
  8. samAdhi, oneness with the Pranava of the Ishvara.

In contrast to the focus on the mind in the Yoga sutras, later traditions of Yoga such as the Hatha yoga focus on more complex asanas or body postures.

Relevance of his contribution to the science of yoga

Patañjali defended in his yoga-treatise several ideas that are not mainstream of either Sankhya or Yoga. He, according to the Iyengar adept, biographer and scholar Kofi Busia, acknowledges the ego not as a separate entity. The subtle body linga sarira he would not regard as permanent and he would deny it a direct control over external matters. This is not in accord with classical Sankhya and Yoga.

Although much of the aphorisms in the Yoga Sutra possibly pre-dates Patanjali, it is clear that much is original and it is more than a mere compilation. The clarity and unity he brought to divergent views prevalent till then has inspired a long line of teachers and practitioners up to the present day in which his most renowned defender is B.K.S. Iyengar. With some translators he seems to be a dry and technical propounder of the philosophy, but with others he is an empathic and humorous witty friend and spiritual guide.

You can find Patanjali Siddar's Jeeva Samaadhi within Bhramapureeswar Temple in a village called Thirupattur approximately 20 kms from Trichy, Tamilnadu. It is situated 5kms west from a village called Siruganur which lies on NH45.

Trichy --> Sriruganur ---> Perambalur ------> Villupuram ------------> Chennai


The Mahābhāṣya ("great commentary") of Patañjali on the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini is a major early exposition on Panini, along with the somewhat earlier Varttika by Katyayana. Here he raises the issue of whether meaning ascribes to a specific instance or to a category:

kim punar AkritiH padArthaH, Ahosvid dravyam [7].
Now what is 'meaning' (artha) [of a word]? Is it a particular instance (dravya) or a general shape (Akriti)?

This discussion arises in Patanjali in connection with a sutra (Panini 1.2.58) that states that a plural form may be used in the sense of the singular when designating a species (jAti).

Another aspect dealt with by Patanjali relates to how words and meanings are associated - Patanjali claims shabdapramâNaH - that the evidentiary value of words is inherent in them, and not derived externally[8] - the word-meaning association is natural. The argument he gives is that people do not make an effort to manufacture words. When we need a pot, we ask the potter to make a pot for us. The same is not true of words - we do not usually approach grammarians and ask them to manufacture words for our use. [27] This is similar to the argument in the early part of Plato's Cratylus, where morphemes are described as natural, e.g. the sound 'l' is associated with softness.

These issues in the word-meaning relation (symbol) would elaborated in the Sanskrit linguistic tradition, in debates between the Mimamsa, Nyaya and Buddhist schools over the next fifteen centuries.

Sphota : An early phonemic theory?

Patanjali also defines an early notion of sphota, which would be elaborated considerably by later Sanskrit linguists like Bhartrihari. In Patanjali, a sphoTa (from sphuT, burst) is the invariant quality of speech. The noisy element (dhvani, audible part) can be long or short, but the sphoTa remains unaffected by individual speaker differences. Thus, a single letter or 'sound' (varNa) such as k, p or a is an abstraction, distinct from variants produced in actual enunciation[8]. This concept has been linked to the modern notion of phoneme, the minimum distinction that defines semantically distinct sounds. Thus a phoneme is an abstraction for a range of sounds. However, in later writings, especially in Bhartrihari (6th c. AD), the notion of sphoTa changes to become more of a mental state, preceding the actual utterance, akin to the psycholinguistic lemma.

Patañjali's writings also elaborate some principles of morphology (prakriyā). In the context of elaborating on Panini's aphorisms, he also discusses Kātyāyana's commentary, which are also aphoristic and sūtra-like; in the later tradition, these were transmitted as embedded in Patañjali's discussion. In general, he defends many positions of Panini which were interpreted somewhat differently in Katyayana.

Metaphysics as grammatical motivation

Unlike Panini's objectives in the Ashtyadhyayi which is to distinguish correct forms and meanings from incorrect ones (shabdaunushasana), Patanjali's objectives are more metaphysical. These include the correct recitations of the scriptures (Agama), maintaining the purity of texts (raksha), clarifying ambiguity (asamdeha), and also the pedagogic goal of providing an easier learning mechanism (laghu)[8]. This stronger metaphysical bent has also been indicated by some as one of the unifying themes between the Yoga Sutras and the Mahābhāṣya.

The text of the Mahābhāṣya had diversified somewhat in the late Sanskritic tradition, and the nineteenth-century orientalist Franz Kielhorn produced the first critical edition and developed philological criteria for distinguishing Kātyāyana's "voice" from Patañjali's. Subsequently a number of other texts have come out, the 1968 text by S.D. Joshi and J.H.F. Roodbergen often being considered definitive.

Patanjali also writes with a light touch. For example, his comment on the conflicts between the orthodox Brahminic (Astika) groups, versus the heterodox, nAstika groups (Buddhism, Jainism, and atheists) seems relevant for religious conflict even today: the hostility between these groups was like that between a mongoose and a snake[9]. He also sheds light on contemporary events, commenting on the recent Greek incursion, and also on several tribes that lived in the Northwest regions of the subcontinent.

Transcendental Meditation program and Patanjali

New Age author George D. Chryssides, believes that the Transcendental Meditation technique taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is derived from Patañjali's Yoga.[10][11] The TM-Sidhi Program is claimed to be based directly on the theory and practice of the Yoga sutras using a technique of Sanyama.

Actual lineal traditions of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali bear no similarity to the Neohindu Transcendental Meditation "sidhi" program [12], which cultivates yogic siddhis, and traditionally cultivation of yogic siddhis is considered a primary impediment to Enlightenment or Cosmic Consciousness (Skt.: turiyatita) and are disallowed in the Shankaracharya tradition for this reason [13].

See also


  1. ^ Jonardon Ganeri, Artha: Meaning, Oxford University Press 2006, 1.2, p. 12
  2. ^ S. Radhakrishnan, and C.A. Moore, (1957). A Source Book in Indian Philosophy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University, ch. XIII, Yoga, p.453
  3. ^ a b Gavin A. Flood, 1996
  4. ^ The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, ed. James Haughton Woods, 1914
  5. ^ Patañjali; James Haughton Woods (transl.) (1914), The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, Published for Harvard University by Ginn & Co., 
  6. ^ Srimad Bhagavatam: Glossary of Sanskrit Terms
  7. ^ Mahābhāṣya, Joshi/Roodbergen: 1968, p. 68
  8. ^ a b c The word and the world: India's contribution to the study of language (1990). Bimal Krishna Matilal. Oxford. 
  9. ^ Romila Thapar, Interpreting Early India. Oxford University Press, 1992, p.63
  10. ^ Chryssides, George D. (1999). Exploring new religions. London: Cassell. pp. 293–296. ISBN 978-0-8264-5959-6. 
  11. ^ Patel, Vimal (1998). "Understanding the Integration of Alternative Modalities into an Emerging Healthcare Model in the United States". in Humber, James M.; Almeder, Robert F.. Alternative medicine and ethics. Humana Press. pp. 55-56. ISBN 0896034402, 9780896034402. [1]
  12. ^ Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Arya, Usharbudh, ISBN 978-8120820692
  13. ^ Jivan-mukti-viveka of Swami Vidyaranya ISBN 9788175051829

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Patañjali (Devanāgarī पतञ्जलि) is the compiler of the Yoga Sutra, a major work containing aphorisms on the practical and philosophical wisdom regarding practice of Raja Yoga.



Yoga Sutras of Patañjali

  • Where the heart is full of kindness which seeks no injury to another, either in act or thought or wish, this full love creates an atmosphere of harmony, whose benign power touches with healing all who come within its influence. Peace in the heart radiates peace to other hearts, even more surely than contention breeds contention.
    • Translation by: Charles Johnston

The Mahābhāṣya

  • In deep meditation the flow of concentration is continuous like the flow of oil.
  • Peace can be reached through meditation on the knowledge which dreams give. Peace can also be reached through concentration upon that which is dearest to the heart.
  • Progress in meditation comes swiftly for those who try their hardest.
  • When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.
  • When a man becomes steadfast in his abstention from harming others, then all living creatures will cease to feel enmity in his presence
  • When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and your discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
    • As quoted by Wayne Dyer

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Patanjali lived in the 2nd century. He was an Indian. He wrote the first grammar of Sanskrit language. He also wrote books about yoga.


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