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Who Is Patanjali Of The Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali: A Summary For Beginners

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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a text containing 196 sutras that can be followed like a guide for a yoga student to achieve enlightenment and final liberation. It is intended to not only educate anyone on the importance of discovering ones true Self but also to highlight the importance of understanding the yogis place in the universe.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are further categorized into four main parts, each with an intention behind the selected sutras. They are:

  • Samadhi pada
  • Sadhana pada
  • Vibhuti pada
  • Kaivalya pada
  • From these four primary categories, the yoga student is guided through the possible tribulations that may occur throughout the path towards enlightenment with different solutions that should keep them on track.

    If you already have foundation of the origin of Pajanjalis teachings and want to simply dive into articles on the practice application of these teachings, click this link for great info on how to practice the Yogic Lifestyle.

    For a more detailed understanding of the founding texts and father of modern yoga, read on about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali!  

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    Book Four: Kaivalya Absoluteness

    The final book brings everything together by explaining how the yogis state of being results in absoluteness. The Kaivalyam is the embodiment of the qualities of absoluteness and unlimitedness. The goals achieved by the practices of the Eight Limbs of Yoga and in particular the last three limbs, bring the yogi into an impressionless Karmic state resulting from a mind born of meditation. At this stage the yogi may not worry about death as the desire to live is eternal.

    This book also explains the Karmic fate of those who do not take into consideration their lifes journey and actions in affecting their next life. Perhaps they will unintentionally repeat or perpetuate a scenario or manifest a less than desirable outcome.

    If everyone perceives things differently and there is only one subject and one object, then we cannot rely on anyone elses perception, and, at the very least, we should question our own.

    We can only do this by practice and meditation.

    What are the chances of the practitioner of yoga reaching these Cosmic Conditions? Practically speaking, we can learn, study, question, practice, meditate, live an all-encompassing absolutely limitless life of non-attachment, to the best of our ability and with the best of intention. It is for the practitioner of yoga to find their actuality in the theory.

    Who Is God According To The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali

    Abbot George Burke

    Sutras 24 through 26 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

    24. Ishwara is a particular Purusha who is untouched by the afflictions of life , actions and the results and impressions produced by these actions.

    Ishwara, God, is not a mere conglomerate of all that exists, but is a distinctive Person or Spirit, the sole independent Being on Whom all else depends. God is a particular Spirit in the sense that He can be experienced as a definite, definable Beingeven pointed out by the Masters of Wisdom.

    Part of His uniqueness is the fact that He touches and rules all things, but is absolutely untouched by anything. Although the Source of Existence and Action, Ishwara transcends them and is therefore untouched/unaffected by the kleshastaints or afflictions inherent in relative existence. The kleshas are: ignorance, egotism, attractions and repulsions towards objects, and desperate clinging to physical life from the fear of death . No action affects Ishwara in any degree .

    Nevertheless, Ishwara is intimately connected to all things while remaining separate from them. Ishwara is present in all things as the universal Witness, and is nearer to us than anything can be, for Ishwara is the Self of our Self, the Paramatman within which our Atman exists.

    25. In Him is the highest limit of Omniscience.

    26. Being unconditioned by time He is Teacher even of the Ancients.

    God as Guru

    Yogananda on gurudom

    Progress without a guru?

    Saints on gurudom

    An Introduction To The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali

    Yoga is considered by some to be the oldest unbroken line of philosophical/spiritual thought. It has its origins in India at the time of the Rig Veda, perhaps the oldest book in the world. It spread to the north, to the east and eventually to the west.

    Yoga is one of the sad Darshanas of India, the six insights, or points of view. They are:

    1. Nyaya, founded by Gatama, a system of logic concerned with the means of acquiring the right knowledge;2. Vaisesika, founded by Kanada, classifies all knowledge of the objective world;3. Samkhya, founded by Kapila, comprehends the universe as a sum total of twenty-five categories and shows that all derived things in this world are produced from Spirit and Matter;4. Yoga as founded by Patanjali, concerned with the ways and means by which the individual can know Reality by direct experience;5. Mimamsa, founded by Jaimini, concerned with the correct interpretation of Vedic ritual and texts;6. Vedanta, founded by Badarayana, inquiry into the nature of Brahman.

    The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, also known as Raja Yoga and Classical Yoga, was probably written around 200 A.D. The cosmology of Patanjali is very similar to that of Samkhya and historically, they are seen as very close to each other. Patanjali was not the founder of Yoga, but he compiled many known elements of Yoga and presented them in a dualistic manner.

    The Story Of Patanjali

    Patanjali Yoga Sutras

    The Yoga Sutras were composed by a man named Patanjali. There is not much known about him, except that he was presumably Indian and lived somewhere between the second and fourth century BC. Patanjali is also credited with writing the Mahabhasya, a treatise of Sanskrit grammar and a commentary on Charaka Samhita, the basic text of Ayurveda. Whether they are the same or different people remains a scholastic argument.

    Mythologically,the maintainer of the Universe, sleeps between creations, resting on the great multi-headed serpent Anantha, floating on the Ocean of Consciousness. When Shiva Nataraj woke Vishnu with his dance of creation, Anantha asked to be born as a great teacher. Shiva granted his wish and he was born as Patanjali in the palm of the great Yogini, Gonika.

    In ancient times, most teaching was done orally and students learned by way of sutras. The word sutra comes from the same root as the medical term suture, meaning to connect or hold together. When the teacher expounded on a piece of knowledge, the student would be given a short phrase that would later remind him/her of the greater body of material. This was somewhat the equivalent of modern-day cue cards.

    We cannot be sure exactly what Patanjali meant to tell us. His Yoga Sutras have been translated and commented on by many people over the years. The three versions which I like and use as a reference are:

    Sutra 2: Yoga And Focus Of The Mind

    Questioner: Sadhguru, Patanjalis second Yoga Sutra says, yogash chitta vritti nirodhah, which could be translated as Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively towards an object and sustain that direction without any distractions. What does this really mean?


    Sadhguru: This is called . Dharana means there is you and an object, and you are entirely focused on that object. If you focus on it absolutely, after some time, only you will be there, or only the object will be there. This is called , which is the next stage of focus. If you can hold the state of dhyana, after some time, neither you nor the object will be there. There will be some other huge presence. This is called . These are progressive states of practice.

    When we say, Hold your attention on an object, people think they have to worship a god or do something in particular. No, you can focus on a flower, a leaf, a grain of sand, a worm it does not matter. But if you want to hold your attention on something, it must inspire a certain level of passion and emotion in you. Only then will your attention stay there. Why is it that it is so difficult for students to keep their attention on the textbook, but if there is a girl in the neighborhood that a boy is interested in, you do not have to tell him, Think about her? He anyway stays focused on her, because there is a certain emotion behind it.

    A version of this article was originally published in Forest Flower, August 2018.

    The Four Chapters Of The Yoga Sutras

    Phew! I know that was a lot. But now that we have a solid understanding around the Yoga Sutras, we can get into the structure and content of them.

    Patanjali divided the Yoga Sutras into its four chapters or padas:

    • Chapter I Samadhi, what Yoga is
    • Chapter II Sadhana, the Yoga practice and obstacles to it
    • Chapter III Vibhuti, the benefits of Yoga
    • Chapter IV Kaivalya, how to achieve liberation or freedom from suffering

    All of the four padas have different levels of depth. As you progress on your spiritual journey, youll go deeper into each pada, which eventually leads to an ultimate feeling of liberation.

    Ready to dive deeper into each chapter? Lets go!

    How Old Are The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali

    Yoga Journal reports that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are around 2,000 years old. That does not mean the teachings have any less impact on our modern lives as they did our great-great-great-grandparents. With an emphasis on reconnecting and living a happy life, the texts have withstood the sands of time. 

    History Of The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali

    As far as the origin of the teachings that the sutras are based on, that remains a bit of a mystery. The assumption is that Patanjali collected all the thoughts, mantras, and teachings of yoga from generations before him. 

    From these understandings, he organized the knowledge and applied his interpretation of the lessons he wished to instill in his students. It was from this gathering of knowledge that the Yoga Sutras were written by Patanjali around 400 BCE in India. 

    Once the texts were complete, and people began following their guidance, it quickly became the most influential teaching of yoga and self-discovery. In the medieval era, it was translated into 42 languages, including Old Javanese and Arabic. 

    Unfortunately, the teachings fell out of popularity for about 700 years. It wasnt until the 19th century that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali gained fame once more thanks to the efforts of Swami Vivekananda, the Theosophical Society, and others. In the 20th century, along with the growing popularity of yoga as a practice of meditation and stress relief, it gained popularity once more and is now available to the general public. .

    Who Is The Founder Of Yoga

    The founding father of yoga is credited to a man named Patanjali. It was his belief system and ability to take an acceptable, scientific thought process and turn it into a philosophical and spiritual guide towards understanding oneself better. 

    He took the ancient Indian philosophies of Sankhya , and he used it to conclude that only by controlling your prana could you be in complete control over the body, mind, and soul. From all of this, he wrote the 196 Yoga Sutras.

    According to Chopra, the mythology behind Patanjali is that he came about as a reincarnation of Anantha, a multi-headed serpent that Vishnu sleeps upon in between creations. Once Vishnu woke up again, Anantha asked him to make him a great teacher; Vishnu allowed him this in the form of Patanjali.

    Father Of The Yoga Sutras

    Have you heard of the famous Yoga Sutras Patanjali penned? Perhaps youve read about them or even dedicated yourself to a full-fledged dive into studying them. Maybe one of your yoga teachers takes quotes from the Yoga Sutras to theme her yoga classes from time to time. If youve been practicing yoga for awhile, you may have heard Patanjalis name, and you might have heard of the Yoga Sutras, but beyond that, maybe youd like to know more.

    What Is The Significance Of Yoga

    Yoga has proven itself by providing healthy and positive vibes to the body, mind, and soul. From ancient times Yoga is been practiced by Indians. It wouldnt be wrong if we say that India has given Yoga to the world. Now Yoga is so much popular that from 21 June 2015, it is been celebrated internationally as International Yoga Day. Now the Entire world has understood the benefits and goodness of Yoga. It is believed that Yoga is originated in India around 5000 years ago. People practice Yoga as an exercise for relaxation of Mind and Body.

    See Also: International Yoga Day Details

    The Yoga Sutras Are Not Philosophy

    The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali eBook by Charles Johnston ...

    Today, because everyone can publish a book, there are a hundred different interpretations of the Yoga Sutras. But the Yoga Sutras are not a philosophy to be interpreted. Nor do the Yoga Sutras give any practices. They are like a scientific document. They only talk about what does what in the system. Depending upon your intention or what you want to create in the system, accordingly you design a certain kriya.

    The word literally means thread. A garland has a thread, but you never wear the garland for its thread. What kind of flowers, beads, pearls, or diamonds you add to it depends on the skill of the person who is putting it together. Patanjali is only providing the sutra, because without the thread, there is no garland. But you never wear a garland for the sake of its thread. So do not look at the thread and come to conclusions. The sutras are not meant to be read and logically understood. If you approach it logically, trying to understand things intellectually, it will become nonsensical.  

    For someone who is in a certain state of experience, this thread means a lot; he will use it to prepare a garland. Patanjalis Yoga Sutras are not to be read like a book. Take one sutra and make it a reality in your life. If one sutra becomes a living reality for you, you do not have to necessarily read the other sutras.

    The Chapters Of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

    Patanjalis Yoga Sutras are broken up into the following four chapters:

    Samadhi pada: Defines yoga, but is meant to guide those who are already close to samadhi, or self-realization.

    Sadhana pada: Describes the eight steps to follow for spiritual evolution. This chapter is targeted toward the common person. Its possibly the most important of all the chapters, as most yogis use the eightfold path as a reference for yogic life. This includes ethical moral behavior, asana, pranayama, mastery of the senses, concentration, meditation, and self-realization; accomplished in this step-by-step order.

    Vibhuta pada: Describes and also warns against the temptations of the eight siddhis or supernatural powers that a yogi can achieve in the higher levels of spiritual development.

    Kaivalya pada: Describes how to live in the world in a detached manner, beyond the influences of the three gunas  or qualities of energy. Together, these four chapters focus on a persons overall evolution in action, thought, and speech. Patanjali has provided the ultimate instruction manual for yoga and spiritual development, making Patanjalis Yoga Sutras one of the most referred-to sources of yogic wisdom.

    What Actually Means Sutra In Ysp

    Sutra is a term that is used in various traditions to denote the teachings of spiritual masters. In Sanskrit literature , the literal translation of the term Sutra is Aphorism.

    According to Yourdictionary :

    An aphorism is a brief saying or phrase that expresses an opinion or makes a statement of wisdom without the flowery language of a proverb.

    A Common AnalogySutra of YSP can be compared to a mathematical formula. Just like a mathematical formula is a short, definitive, & descriptive but brief form of large expression, the same way, Sutra of YSP has written in a short form of aphorisms that is easily memorable. One can elaborate it according to their understanding once Sutras meaning has known.

    Sadhguru explains the term Sutra of YSP in the form of Thread.

    Just like a thread is a base of a garland, no matter what kinds of flowers, beads, or diamonds you add into it, the thread is the most significant entity, But the beauty of a garland is because of flowers, beads, or diamonds, not because of thread.

    In the same way, Sutra in YSP is the base of knowledge. But until you dont know how to apply this knowledge in your life, its just like an empty garland or a garland with thread only.

    Philosophical Roots And Influences


    The Yoga Sutras incorporated the teachings of many other Indian philosophical systems prevalent at the time. According to Zimmer, Samkhya and Yoga are two of several schools of philosophy that originated over the centuries that had common roots in the pre-Aryan cultures and traditions of India. Yet, the orthodox Hindu philosophies of , , , as well as the non-orthodox systems of Jainism and Buddhism can all be seen as representing one stream of spiritual activity in ancient India, in contrast to the traditions and ritualism which were also prevalent at the same time. The – traditions, iconolatry and Vedic rituals can be identified with the marga, marga and the marga respectively that are outlined in the Bhagavad Gita.

    Ii Sadhana Pada 55 Sutras

    Sadhana in Sanskrit means practice and Sadhana Pada simply means, the path of practice. Here, in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains the two paths or the two forms of Yoga: Kriya Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga .

    Kriya Yoga

    He begins with a definition of Kriya Yoga, the yoga of action, which consists of a deliberate effort, a study of the self and traditional texts, and devotion. The purpose of Kriya Yoga is to alleviate the causes of suffering and to attain Samadhi. Kriya Yoga has three parts:

    • Tapas Endurance and Acceptance.


    The eight limbs of yoga support one another, but their progression isnt meant to be rigid. For example, someone might begin the practice of an asana before they have mastered Niyama, still, they must follow the overall elements of the 8 limbs to have a wholesome growth.

    Read More

    The Yoga Sutras Today

    Knowing more about how and why yoga developed the way it did doesnt discredit a contemporary version of the teachings. The interpretation of philosophy, just like asana, must be allowed to evolve to suit the modern yogi or else it will become obsolete.

    Perhaps the best known of the sutras is the second one: yoga citta vritti nirodha. While each of these words has a number of possible translations, Millers is Yoga is the cessation of the turnings of thought. Although Patanjali was almost certainly not talking about the effects of the physical practice as we know it, this definition is a very apt description of the effect yoga asana has on the mind. Perhaps the Yoga Sutras continue to be taught today because they continue to resonate with us, regardless of their indirect route to the mat.


    Liv x For much more information, check out these sources:

    Miller, Barbara Stoler. Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali. University of California Press, 1996.

    Singleton, Mark. Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. Oxford University Press, 2010.

    White, David Gordon. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography. Princeton University Press, 2014.

    Why Modern Yogas Favourite Philosophical Text Isnt What You Thought

    The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is often cited as the philosophical counterpart to todays physical yoga practices. The implication is that the two were passed down together through the ages hand in hand, but it wont surprise anyone who has researched the history of yoga asana to find out that thats not really the case. Just as most of the yoga poses we routinely practice date back no further than the last century, the yoking of hatha yoga and Patanjalis famous text is also a relatively recent phenomenon. However, this revelation doesnt mean that these two things dont work well together in the present. By delving into what we do know about the history of the Yoga Sutras we can learn a lot about how yoga introduced to the Western world.

    David Gordon Whites excellent book The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography is a deep dive on this subject and, except where otherwise noted, the primary source for the following information. Barbara Stoler Millers Yoga: Discipline of Freedom is Whites preferred Yoga Sutras translation and commentary and provides another invaluable reference.

    Decoding The Ancient Wisdom Of Patanjali

    If youre new to yoga, then you may not yet be familiar with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In a nutshell, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a collection of 196 short verses that serve as a guide to attain wisdom and self-realization through yoga. The text is estimated to have been written in roughly 400 C.E., and is regarded by many as the basis of yoga philosophy.

    The 196 sutras are separated into four padas : Samadhi, Sadhana, Vibhuti, and Kaivalya. The text itself is open to interpretation by the practitioner, but at its core, the Yoga Sutras are intended to provide depth and practical wisdom to help yogis and yoginis explore the central meaning of yoga.

    Samadhi Padas

    The first chapter of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali discusses the meaning of yoga. The messaging in the 51 sutras in this section speaks to those who have already adopted yoga into their daily life, and focuses on themes of enlightenment, concentration, and meditation.

    Sadhana Padas

    Moving forward in the book, but perhaps backward in philosophy, chapter two of the Yoga Sutras explains how to achieve a yogic state. The 55 sutras in this section discuss the practice of yoga, and introduce the eight limbs of yoga, which are:

    • Yama Five principles of ethics
    • Niyama Five principles of conduct & discipline
    • Asana Physical practice of yoga
    • Pranayama Breath regulation

    The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali

    The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

    The tradition of PataƱjali in the oral and textual tradition of the Yoga Stras is accepted by traditional Vedic schools as the authoritative source on Yoga, and it retains this status in circles into the present day. In contrast to its modern Western transplanted forms, Yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or discursive thought, and of eventually attaining a state where consciousness is unaware of any object external to itself, that is, is only aware of its own nature as consciousness unmixed with any other object. This state is not only desirable in its own right, but its attainment guarantees the practitioner freedom from every kind of material pain or suffering, and, indeed, is the primary classical means of attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the Indic soteriological traditions, that is, in the theological study of salvation in India. The Yoga Stras were thus seen by all schools, not only as the orthodox manual for guidance in the techniques and practices of meditation, but also for the classical Indian position on the nature and function of mind and consciousness, for the mechanisms of action in the world and consequent rebirth, and for the metaphysical underpinnings and description of the attainment of mystical powers.

    How Has The Name Patanjali Been Derived

    The term Patanjali has been derived from two words from our Indian Sanskrit language: the first one is Pata which means to fall and the second one is Anjali which refers to the palms of your hands together. 

    According to a narrative, it is said that Maharishi Patanjali fell into the arms of his mother while she was immersed in praying to God. Although, the historic texts have not discussed much the childhood and the young days of Patanjali there is so much more to know about Maharishi Patanjali apart from the yoga sutras and his childhood days.

    It is also said that Maharishi Patanjali has composed one text-based on Sanskrit language and grammar known as . It is based on Paninis Astadhyayi who is considered to be the father of linguistics.


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