- This is an article about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. For general information on sutras, see Sutra. For a list of Hindu sutras, see List of sutras.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a foundational text of Yoga. It forms part of the corpus of Sutra literature dating to India's Mauryan period. In Indian philosophy, Yoga (also Raja Yoga to distinguish it from later schools) is the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools. Though brief, the Yoga Sutras are an enormously influential work on yoga philosophy and practice, held by principal proponents of yoga such as Iyengar (1993: p.xiii) as being of principal importance:
Patañjali fills each sutra with his experiential intelligence, stretching it like a thread (sūtra), and weaving it into a garland of pearls of wisdom to flavour and savour by those who love and live in yoga....
Compilation and dating
Radhakrishnan and Moore attribute the text to Patanjali, dating it as 2nd century BCE. Scholars such as S.N. Dasgupta
, claim this is the same Patanjali who authored the Mahabhasya
, a treatise on Sanskrit grammar
Indologist Axel Michaels is dismissive of claims that the work was written by Patanjali, characterizing it instead as a collection of fragments and traditions of texts stemming from the second or third century. Gavin Flood cites a wider period of uncertainty for the composition, between 100 BCE and 500 CE.
Philosophical roots and influences
The Sutras are built on a foundation of Samkhya
philosophy and also exhibit the influence of Upanishadic
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali prescribes adherence to eight "limbs" or steps (the sum of which constitute "Ashtanga Yoga", the title of the second chapter) to quiet one's mind and achieve kaivalya. The Yoga Sutras form the theoretical and philosophical basis of Raja Yoga, and are considered to be the most organized and complete definition of that discipline.
The Sutras not only provide yoga with a thorough and consistent philosophical basis, they also clarify many important esoteric concepts which are common to all traditions of Indian thought, such as karma.
Robert Thurman writes that Patanjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the version of thought he considered orthodox.
Although Patanjali's work does not cover the many types of Yogic practices that have become prevalent, its succinct form and availability caused it to be pressed into service by a variety of schools of Yogic thought.
The Sutras, with commentaries, have been published by a number of successful teachers of Yoga, as well as by academicians seeking to clarify issues of textual variation; there are also other versions from a variety of sources available on the Internet. The many versions display a wide variation, particularly in translation. The text has not been submitted in its entirety to any rigorous textual analysis, and the contextual meaning of many of the Sanskrit words and phrases remains a matter of some dispute.
Patanjali divided his Yoga Sutras into 4 chapters or books (Sanskrit pada
), containing in all 196 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 nature and the means to attaining samadhi. This chapter contains the famous definitional verse: "Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ" ("Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications).
- 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 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
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.
- Chatterjee, Satischandra; Datta, Dhirendramohan (1984). An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. Eighth Reprint Edition, Calcutta: University of Calcutta.
- Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Michaels, Axel (2004). Hinduism: Past and Present. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
- Müeller, Max (1899). Six Systems of Indian Philosophy; Samkhya and Yoga, Naya and Vaiseshika. Calcutta: Susil Gupta (India) Ltd.. Reprint edition; Originally published under the title of The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy.
- Patanjali. 1989. (Feuerstein, G. trans). The Yoga-Sutra of Patañjali: A New Translation and Commentary. Inner Traditions.
- Radhakrishnan, S.; Moore, C. A. (1957). A Source Book in Indian Philosophy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Princeton paperback 12th printing, 1989.
- Sharma, Chandradhar (1987). An Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
- Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993, 2002). Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Hammersmith, London, UK: Thorsons. ISBN-13 978-0-00-714516-4
- Master E.K., The Yoga of Patanjali Kulapathi Book Trust ISBN 81-85943-05-2