Patanjali + the yoga sutras

Sage Patanjali (c. 200 BC), the greademo yoga master of all times, the author of the principle text on yoga — The Yoga Sutras, in whom is present the soul of all great masters of yoga who practiced, taught & lived yoga in their lives. Our homage khổng lồ the successive sầu tradition of all masters through which the yogic wisdom has reached us khổng lồ enlighten our world with the noble principles of non-violence (ahimsa), friendliness (maitri) và karuna (compassion).

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Sage Patanjali in the Patanjali Yoga Kendra. In March 1998, different Pujas were performed for the purification of the new, enlarged Yoga Hall and for the installation of Sage Patanjali.

His Life

Patanjali, undoubtedly the greatest expounder of Yoga, lived sometime between 500 & 200 B.C. The life of Patanjali is an enigma to modern historians, và almost nothing is known about this great Master who epitomizes Yoga. It is only with the help of legends that one can draw inferences about hyên ổn. Undoubtedly he was a great Yoga adept & was perhaps the head of a school in which “Swadhyaya”, study of the Self, was regarded as an important aspect of spiritual practice.

Indian history is presumptive sầu of several individuals by the name of Patanjali. Three of them were well-known; the first one being the famous grammarian who wrote the commentary on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi (the Mahabhashya) and compiled the Yoga Sutras, the classical text on Raja Yoga. The Mahabhashya symbolises the perfection of the discipline in grammar. The object of grammar is to supply rules for control of current speech (laukika) for the preservation of the integrity of the Vedas and the comprehension of proper meaning. The second person named Patanjali wrote the Nidana-Sutras, considered indispensable for the study of the Vedic ritual literature; while the third was a well-known teacher of Samkhya Philosophy. The above sầu three people, in the historian"s view, happen to lớn come from different time periods và are considered to be different personalities. The Indian Tradition however, differs in opinion strongly & advocates that the above sầu different treatises were done by a single person and even further, attributes various medical treatises lớn hyên ổn.

In the Indian tradition, Patanjali is said to lớn be self-born, swayambhu. He was a highly-evolved soul who incarnated of his own will in a human size to lớn help humanity.

He is also considered an incarnation of Ananta, the source of all wisdom (Jnana) & of Shesha, the thousand-headed ruler of the serpent race, which is thought lớn guard the hidden treasures of the earth. Ananta depicts a couch on which God Vishnu reclines. He is the Lord of serpents và his many heads symbolize Infinity or Omnipresence. Many yogis bow to Ananta before they begin their daily yogic practice.

In one of the legends, it is said that Lord Vishnu was seated on Adishesha, the Lord of serpents as His couch, watching the enchanting dance of Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu was so totally absorbed in the dance of Lord Shiva, that His toàn thân began to lớn vibrate to lớn its rhythm. This vibration made Hyên ổn heavier & heavier, causing Adishesha to lớn feel so uncomfortable that he was gasping for breath và was on the point of collapse. The moment the dance came lớn an end, Lord Vishnu’s toàn thân became light again. Adishesha was amazed và asked his master the cause of these stupendous changes. The Lord explained that the grace, beauty, majesty và grandeur of Lord Shiva’s dance had created corresponding vibrations in His own toàn thân, making it heavy. Marvelling at this, Adishesha professed a desire to lớn learn dance so as khổng lồ exalternative text his Lord. Vishnu then became thoughtful, and predicted that soon Lord Shiva would grace Adishesha khổng lồ write a commentary on grammar, và that he would then also be able to lớn devote himself lớn perfection in the art of dance. Adishesha was overjoyed by these words and looked forward to the descent of Lord Shiva’s grace.

Adishesha then began khổng lồ meditate to ascertain who would be his mother on earth. In meditation, he had the vision of a yogini by the name of Gonika who was praying for a worthy son khổng lồ whom she could impart her knowledge và wisdom. He at once realized that she would be a worthy mother for hlặng, & awaited an auspicious moment khổng lồ become her son.

Gonika, thinking that her earthly life was approaching its end, và that her desire of finding a worthy son would remain unfulfilled; now, as a last resort looked khổng lồ the Sun God, the living witness of God on earth and prayed to lớn Hlặng to fulfil her desire. She took a handful of water as a final oblation to Hyên ổn, closed her eyes & meditated on the Sun. As she was about lớn offer the water, she opened her eyes và looked at her palms. To her surprise, she saw a tiny snake moving in her palms, who soon took on a human form. This tiny male human being prostrated to lớn Gonika & asked her to accept him as her son. This she did and named hyên ổn Patanjali because her hands had been in the prayerful gesture (anjali) và he had fallen (pat) from heaven.*

Compiled from “Light on Patanjali Yoga Sutras” by Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar.


Another incidence is said to lớn have sầu happened in Chidambaram (also known as Thillai ) located about a hundred miles from Madras. Chidambaram is considered lớn be one of the holiest temples in India. In this temple, Lord Nataraja is present in his cosmic-nhảy đầm form. The story goes that once in Darukavanam giới, Shiva wished to lớn teach a lesson lớn the Rishis who were proud of their learning. Shiva took the form of a mendicant with a begging bowl in hvà, accompanied by Vishnu disguised as Mohini. The rishipatnis (wives of the Rishis) were attracted by the sight of this beautiful pair.

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The Rishis grew angry & tried khổng lồ destroy the pair. They performed a sacrificial fire and raised a tiger from the fire, which sprang at Shiva. Shiva pealed off the skin of the tiger và wrapped it round his waist. Then again the Rishis sent a poisonous serpent và Shiva tied it round his neck. Then the Rishis sent against Shiva an Apasmara Purusha, Muyalaka, whom Lord Shiva crushed by pressing hyên to the ground with his foot.

At this, the Rishis confessed defeat & Shiva started to dance before all the Gods & Rishis. Lord Adishesha heard the description of Shiva’s dance at Darukavanam giới from Vishnu & requested Vishnu to allow hyên ổn lớn witness the dance himself. Vishnu agreed lớn this. Adishesha performed penance và prayed to lớn Shiva to allow hyên ổn to see the dance. Being pleased with his penance, Shiva appeared to lớn hlặng & promised that he would dance at Tillai (Chidambaram). Accordingly, Adishesha was born as a human being, as Patanjali, và went khổng lồ the forest of Tillai.

At this time a certain sage, Vyaghrapada, also lived in this forest. Vyaghrapada was the son of Madhyandina Rishi who lived on the banks of the Ganga. He came khổng lồ the South under the directions of his father and started praying lớn the Swayambhulinga under a banyan tree near a tank in this Tillai forest. He used khổng lồ collect flowers for puja và he prayed for the boon of getting tiger’s feet and claws, so that he could easily climb up the trees và pluck plenty of flowers. He also prayed for the eyes of bees, so that he could collect the flowers before any bee could taste the honey in them. His prayer for these two blessings was granted, và since he had the feet of a tiger, he was called Vyaghrapadomain authority.

Each constructed his own hermitage, Patanjali at Ananteeswaram and Vyaghrapadomain authority at Tirupuleeswaram in Chidambaram. They started worshipping Shiva in the khung of the Swayambhulinga in Tillai forest. Days passed & when the time came for Shiva lớn give them Darshan, the guardian Goddess of the place, Kalika Devi, interfered và did not allow Shiva lớn give sầu His Darshan.

Shortly afterwards, Shiva và Devi agreed that they should participate in a dance contest & that the winner should have sầu undisputed possession of Tillai. So the dance started. At one moment during the dance, the Lord’s earrings fell down, but the Lord took them up from the floor in such a way that nobody toàn thân could notice the loss và the recovery. This dance is called Urdhva Tandavam in which Shiva defeated Kalika Devi.

Now Nataraja performed the Anandomain authority Tandavam, i.e. the Dance of Bliss, in the presence of Shivakamasundari and all the Gods and Rishis, và at the same time fulfilled the wish of the two devotees, Patanjali và Vyaghrapada, by allowing them to lớn witness it & thus satisfying them.

Another story tells that once upon a time Nandi, Shiva’s carrier, would not allow Patanjali Muni to have Darshan of Lord Shiva (Nataraja of Chidambaram). In order lớn reach Lord Shiva, Patanjali, with his mastery over grammatical forms, spontaneously composed a prayer in praise of the Lord without using any extended (Dirgha) syllable, (without Charana & Shringa) i.e. leg and horn, to tease Nandi.

Shiva was quickly pleased, gave sầu Darshan to the devotee and danced khổng lồ the lilting tune of this song.

These three short legends throw some light upon Patanjali and his greatness. Today unfortunately even Patanjali’s lineage does not appear lớn exist anymore. Patanjali’s life is obscure, with precise details about his place of birth, life và personality missing; this uncertainty however does not detract the great merit of the Patanjali Yoga-Sutras. It is the most condensed traditional outline of the yogic path and should be studied in depth by all serious students of Yoga. Yogacharya B.K.S Iyengar, who is definitely one of the greademo exponents of Patanjali Yoga Sutras, is responsible for shedding much light on the greatness of Patanjali và his writings. It is his great vision that brought khổng lồ the forefront, the science of Patanjali Yoga Sutras và its benefit to lớn our daily lives.