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Yoga Sutras



No one knows anything about the life of Patanjali, the compiler of the Yoga-Sutra. which is the classical text on Râja-Yoga. According to native Indic tradition, he was the same person who also wrote a widely respected Sanskrit commentary - the Mahabhashya - on Pflnini's Ashtcldhyayt, a famous work on grammar. Some also attribute to him various medical treatises. Patanjali the grammarian lived c. 200 B.C.E. However, this traditional identification is questionable. Internal evidence in the Yoga-Sutra suggests that it was composed c. 100-200 C.E. The curious thing is that the Sfltra nowhere mentions Patanjali as its compiler, and the first person to attribute this classical work on Yoga to him was Vâcaspati Mishra, the tenth-century author of the Tattva-Vaishâradi commentary on the Sutra.

Indic tradition in fact knows of several individuals by the name of Patanjali. In addition to the grammarian and compiler of the Yoga-Sutra, there also was a Sâmkhya philosopher by that name, and in Tamilnadu (South India), the great sage Tirumñlar names a Patanjali as one of his disciples. But both individuals were of a later date. So was the Patanjali who was the author of Nidâna-Stitra, a work on ritualism.

Patanjali, the compiler of the Yoga-Satra, has the following legend associated with him: One day, the old woman Gonikfl, who was barren, desired a son of her own. She fervently prayed to God Vishnu, who was greatly moved by her devotion. With his permission the cosmic serpent Ananta, who serves Vishnu as an eternal couch and who had been meaning to incarnate on Earth, resolved to become Gonikft's son. As she was stretching her hands, with upturned palms, in prayer toward Heaven, a minute fragment of Ananta's infinite body dropped straight into her palms.

She immediately knew her prayers had been answered, and she lovingly nursed the heavenly seed until it had gown into a young man. Because her hands had been in the prayerful gesture called anjali and because her son had fallen (pat) from Heaven, she called him Patanjali.

We can only surmise that he must have been a man of considerable stature and wisdom to feel competent enough to compile his aphoristic work on Yoga, the Yoga-Sutra. His lineage does not appear to be alive anymore, though the twentieth-century Yoga master Swami Harihar~nanda (1869-1947), composer of a Sanskrit commentary on the Yoga-Sutra, was initiated by a teacher - Swami Triloki Aranya - who allegedly stood in the direct lineage of Patanjali. However, Harih & flnanda's Sanskirit commentary on the Yoga-Sutra does not show any evidence of teachings other than those found in the extant Sanskrit literature on Patanjali's compilation. If Patanjali's lineage were still intact, one would have expected noticeably deeper explanations of the aphorisms (s2tra). Many of the aphorisms remain somewhat obscure.

There is a gap of at least 250 years between the composition of the Yoga-Satra and the appearance of the oldest available Sanskrit commentary on it- Vyâsa's Yoga-Bht2shya. But this shortcoming and also the uncertainty about Patanjali's life do not detract from the great merit of the Yoga-Satra. It is the most succinct traditional outline of the yogic path and should be studied in depth by all serious students of Yoga.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Patanjali's Sutras - Covers the art, science and philosophy of life. His compilation contains 196 sutras Sutra - short, terse, concise aphorism or mantra that is pregnant with meaning. The sounds themselves carry more than the intellectual content. Click-here for Yoga Sutras

Su - meaning thread

Tra - meaning to transcend

The Sutras are like pearls on a thread that helps the student to transcend.

Four (4) Chapters or Padas (parts) of Yoga Sutras

1. Samadhi-Pada - Chapter on Contemplation and Ecstasy

2. Sadhana-Pada - Chapter on the Pat of Realization and Practice

3. Vibhuti-Pada - Chapter on Properties and Powers

4. Kaivalya-Pada - Chapter on Emancipation and Liberation (freedom)

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Chapter 1.1 Atha yoga-anushasanam

Now let us begin together the study of yoga

Now the teachings of yoga are being explained.

Atha - now, auspiciousness, a prayer, a blessing, benediction, authority, a good omen

Yoga - joining, union, junction, combination, application, use, means, result, deep meditation, concentration

Anu - to flow where the current is taking you

Anusasnam - advice, direction, order, command, direction, laying down rules and precepts, a revised text, introduction, or guide given in procedural form. Thus, it means guidance in the codes of conduct, which are to be observed, and which form the base from which to cultivate one's ethical and spiritual life.

This sutra may be taken to mean: 'the disciplines of integration are here expounded through experience, and are given to humanity for the exploration and recognition of that hidden part of man which is beyond the awareness of the senses~

Chapter 1.2 Yogah citta-vrtti-nirodhah

Classical definition - Yoga is the restraint or bounding (like the banks of a river) of the fluctuations of the mind.

Yoga - union of individual soul with the Universal; also the means to attain this union

Chitta - mind stuff or consciousness

1. Manas - lower mind and senses

2. Buddhi - higher, intuitive mind

3. Ahantkara - ego

Vrtti - fluctuations in the mind

Nirodhah - embankment, restraint

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


The power to exercise our freedom, our ability to make correct, appropriate or helpful choices. Real source of nirodha is freedom.

o Yoga's Goal

Recognition - experiencing that the Divine has become our own true self.

Chapter 1.3 Tada Drastuh sva rupe' vasthanam

Then the Seer dwells in his own true nature.

Sva - our own, our authentic

Rupa - form

Key to yoga lies in empowering our experience of freedom to align with the currents of Divine Consciousness.

Chapter 1. 4 Vrtti Sarupyam Itaratra

In other states (when the seer is not established in his own true nature), the seer appears the same as the thought waves in the mind.

At other times, the seer identifies with the fluctuation consciousness.

Vrtti - behavior, fluctuation, modification, function, state of mind

Sarupyam - identification, likeness, closeness, nearness

Itaratra - at other times, elsewhere

Chapter 1. 5 Vrttayah Pancatayyah Klista Aklistah

The thought waves are fivefold; some are painful and some are not painful.

Vrttayah - movements, modification

Pancatayyah - fivefold

Klista - afflicting, tormenting, distressing, painful

Aldistah - untroubling, undisturbing, unafflicting, undistressing, pleasing

5 Chitta Vrttis - waves of the mind

1. Pramana - correct perception

a. Direct

b. Indirect

c. Inferred

2. Viparyaya - incorrect perception

3. Vikalpa - imagination

4. Nidra - sleep

5. Smrti - memory

a. Supernormal - new ideas, revelations, remembering our oneness of all creation

b. Normal - don't need to relearn how to walk

c. Sub normal - amnesia, Alzheimer's, senility

Chapter 1. 6 Pramana Viparyaya Vikalpa Nidra Snutayah

The five types of vrtti are: valid proof, wrong cognition, imaginary cognition, sleep, and memory.

Pramana - valid knowledge, experienced knowledge, correct knowledge, which is studied, and verified, proof, or evidence

Viparyaya - inverted perverse, contrary

Vikalpa - doubt, indecision, hesitation, fancy, imagination, or day-dreaming

Nidra - sleep, a state of emptiness

Smrtayah - memory

Chapter 1. 7 Pratyaksa Anumana Agamah Pramanani

Correct knowledge is direct, inferred or proven as factual.

Pratyaksa - direct perception

Anumana - inference

Agaxnah - traditional sacred texts or scriptural references, a person who is a scriptural authority and whose word can be relied on

Pramanani - kinds of proof

Chapter 1.8 Viparyayah Mithyajnanam Atadrupa Pratistham

Illusory or erroneous knowledge is based on non-fact or the non-real.

Viparyayah - perverse, unreal

Mithyajnanam - illusory knowledge

Atadrupa - not in its own form

Pratistham - occupying, standing, seeing, beholding

Chapter 1.9 Sabdajnana Anupati Vastusunyah Vikalpah

Verbal knowledge devoid of substance is fancy or imagination.

Sabdajnana - verbal knowledge

Anupati - followed in sequence, pursued, phased in regular succession

Vastusunyah - devoid of things, devoid of substance or meaning

Vikalpah - imagination, fancy

Chapter 1.10 Abhava Pratyaya Alambana

Vrttih Nidra

Sleep is the non-deliberate absence of thought-waves or knowledge.

Dreamless sleep is an inert state of consciousness in which the sense of existence is not felt.

Abhava - non-existence, a feeling of non-being, absence of awareness

Pratyaya - going towards conviction, trust, confidence, reliance, usage, knowledge, understanding, instrument, means, intellect

Alainbana - support, abode, dependence on a prop, mental exercise to bring before one's thoughts the gross form of the external

Vrttih - function, condition, thought-wave

Nidra - sleep without dreams

Chapter 1.11 Anubhuta Visaya Asampramosah Smrtih

Memory is the unmodified recollection of words and experiences.

Aunbhuta - perceived, apprehended, experienced, knowledge, derived from direct perception, inference and comparison, verbal knowledge

Visaya - an object, a sense of object, an affair, a transaction

Asampramosah - not allowing to slip away, without stealing from anything else

Smrtih - memory of a thing experienced, recollection of words or experiences

Chapter 1.12 Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah

They (the modifications) are controlled by practice and dispassion.

Practice and detachment are the means to still the movement of consciousness.

Abhyasa - repeated practice

Vairagyabhyam - freedom from desires, detachment, renunciation

Tannirodhah - their restraint

Chapter 1.13 Tatra Sthitau Yatnah Abhyasah

Practice is the steadfast effort to still these fluctuations.

Tatra - of these, under these circumstances, in that case

Sthitau - as regards steadiness, as regards perfect restraint

Yatnah - continuous effort

Abhyasah - practice

Chapter 1.14 Sa Tu Dirghakala Nairantarya Satkara

Asevitah Drdhabhumih

Long uninterrupted, alert practice is the firm foundation for restraining the fluctuations.



Dirghakala - for a long time

Nairantarya - without interruption, continuous

Satkara - dedication, devotion

Asevitah - zealously practiced, performed assiduously

Drdhabhumih - of firm ground, firmly rooted, well fixed

Chapter 1.15 Drsta Anusravika Visaya Vitrsnasya Vasikarasamjna Vairagyam

Renunciation is the practice of detachment from desires.

Drsta - perceptible, visible

Anusravika - heard or listening, resting on the Vedas or on tradition according to oral testimony

Visaya - a thing, an object of enjoyment, matter

o Vitrsnasya - freedom from desire, contentment

Vasikara - subjugation, supremacy, bringing under control

Samjna - consciousness, intellect, understanding

Vairagyam absence of worldly desires and passions, dispassion, detachment, indifference to the world, renunciation

Chapter 1.16 Tatparam Purusakhyateh Gunavaitrsnyam

The ultimate renunciation is when one transcends the qualities of nature and perceives the soul.

Tatparam - that highest, that most excellent, the ultimate, the best, the purest, the supreme

Purusakhyateh - the highest knowledge of the soul, perception of the soul

Gunavaitrsnyam - indifference to the qualities of nature, inertia or dormancy (tamas), passion or vibrance (rajas) and luminosity or serenity (sattva)

Chapter 1.17 Vitarka Vicara Ananda Asmitarupa Anugamat Samprajnatah

Practice and detachment develop four types of Samadhi: self-analysis, synthesis, bliss, and the experience of purr being.

Vitarka - analytical thinking or analytical study, argument, inference, conjecture

Vicara - reason, meditation, insight, perfect intelligence where all logic comes to an end

Ananda - elation, bliss, felicity

Asmitarupa - consciousness of being one with oneself

Anugamat - by accompanying, by following, comprehending, grasping

Samprajnatah - distinguish, know actually, know accurately