The Indian tradition attributes the work to Patañjali. Much confusion has been caused by the late medieval traditions of conflating Patañjali, the author of the grammatical Mahābhāṣya with the author of the same name who wrote the Yoga Sūtras. Yet the two works in Sanskrit are completely different in language, style and subject matter. Furthermore, before the time of Bhoja (11th century), Sanskrit authors did not conflate the authors, and treated them quite separately. And modern scholarship shows that these two authors are separated in time by about six hundred years. A third Patañjali is sometimes also invented, an author on medicine, in order to fill out the meaning of Bhoja's verse that said a single Patañjali cured speech through grammar, the mind through yoga, and the body through medicine. However, no major work of medicine by a Patañjali is known to Sanskrit literature.[note 1]
The most recent assessment of Patañjali's date, developed in the context of the first critical edition ever made of the Yoga Sūtras and bhāṣya based on a study of the surviving original Sanskrit manuscripts of the work, is that of Philipp A. Maas. Maas's detailed evaluation of the historical evidence and past scholarship on the subject, including the opinions of the majority of Sanskrit authors who wrote in the first millennium CE, is that Patañjali's work was composed in 400 CE plus or minus 25 years.
The Yoga Sutras are a composite of various texts. According to Feuerstein, the Yoga Sutras are a condensation of two different traditions, namely "eight limb yoga" (ashtanga yoga) and action yoga (kriya yoga). The kriya yoga part is contained in chapter 1, chapter 2 verse 1-27, chapter 3 except verse 54, and chapter 4. The "eight limb yoga" is described in chapter 2 verse 28-55, and chapter 3 verse 3 and 54.
Patañjali's composition was entitled Pātañjalayogaśāstra ("The Treatise on Yoga according to Patañjali") and consisted of both SūtrasandBhāṣya. According to Wuyastik, referencing Maas,
Patanjali took materials about yoga from older traditions, and added his own explanatory passages to create the unified work that, since 1100 CE, has been considered the work of two people.
This means that the earliest commentary on the sūtras, the Bhāṣya, that has commonly been ascribed to some unknown later author Vyāsa (the editor), was in fact Patañjali's own work.
Structure of the text
Patañjali divided his Yoga Sutras into four chapters or books (Sanskrit pada), containing in all 196 aphorisms, divided as follows:
Samadhi Pada (51 sutras). Samadhi refers to a blissful state where the yogi is absorbed into the One. Samadhi is the main technique the yogin learns by which to dive into the depths of the mind to achieve Kaivalya. The author describes yoga and then the nature and the means to attaining samādhi. This chapter contains the famous definitional verse: "Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ" ("Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications").
Sadhana Pada (55 sutras). 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 Rāja Yoga.
Vibhuti Pada (56 sutras). Vibhuti is the Sanskrit word for "power" or "manifestation". 'Supra-normal powers' (Sanskrit: siddhi) are acquired by the practice of yoga. Combined simultaneous practice of Dhāraṇā, Dhyana and Samādhi is referred to as Samyama, and is considered a tool of achieving various perfections, or Siddhis. The temptation of these powers should be avoided and the attention should be fixed only on liberation. The purpose of using samadhi is not to gain siddhis but to achieve Kaivalya. Siddhis are but distractions from Kaivalaya and are to be discouraged. Siddhis are but maya, or illusion.
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 process of liberation and the reality of the transcendental ego.
The eight limbs of Yoga
Ashtanga yoga consists of the following limbs: The first five are called external aids to Yoga (bahiranga sadhana)
Yama refers to the five abstentions: how we relate to the external world. (The five vows of Jainism are identical to these).
Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or harm to others or even to one's own self, it goes as far as nonviolence in thought, word and deed.
Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is one's own; non-stealing.
Brahmacharya: abstinence, particularly in the case of sexual activity. Also, responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. It suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. "Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others."
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 life force energies. 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 Chitta upon a physical object, such as a flame of a lamp, the midpoint 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 Samadhi: 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 superconscious. 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.
Philosophical roots and influences
The Yoga sutras incorporated the teachings of many other Indian philosophical systems prevalent at the time. Samkhya and Yoga are thought to be two of the many schools of philosophy that originated over the centuries that had common roots in the non-Vedic cultures and traditions of India.[note 2][note 3] The orthodox Hindu philosophies of Samkhya, Yoga, Vedanta, as well as the non-orthodox Nastika systems of Jainism and Buddhism can all be seen as representing one stream of spiritual activity in ancient India, in contrast to the Bhakti traditions and Vedic ritualism which were also prevalent at the same time. The Vedanta-Sramana traditions, Idol worship and Vedic rituals can be identified with the Jnana marga, Bhakti marga and the Karma marga respectively that are outlined in the Bhagavad Gita.
The Yoga Sutras are built on a foundation of Samkhya philosophy, an orthodox (Astika) and atheistic Hindu system of dualism, and are generally seen as the practice while Samkhya is the theory. The influence of Samkhya is so pervasive in the Sutras that the historian Surendranath Dasgupta went so far as to deny independent categorization to Patañjali's system, preferring to refer to it as Patanjala Samkhya, similar to the position taken by the Jain writer Haribhadra in his commentary on Yoga. Patañjali's Yoga Sutras accept the Samkhya's division of the world and phenomena into twenty-five tattvas or principles, of which one is Purusha meaning Self or consciousness, the others being Prakriti (primal nature), Buddhi (intellect or will), Ahamkara (ego), Manas (mind), five buddhindriyas (sensory capabilities), five karmendriyas (action-capabilities) and ten elements. The second part of the Sutras, the Sadhana, also summarizes the Samkhya perspectives about all seen activity lying within the realm of the three Gunas of Sattva (illumination), Rajas (passion) and Tamas (lethargy).
The Yoga Sutras diverge from early Samkhya by the addition of the principle of Isvara or God, as exemplified by Sutra 1.23 - "Iśvara pranidhãnãt vã", which is interpreted to mean that surrender to God is one way to liberation.Isvara is defined here as "a distinct Consciousness, untouched by afflictions, actions, fruitions or their residue". In the sutras, it is suggested that devotion to Isvara, represented by the mystical syllable Om may be the most efficient method of achieving the goal of Yoga. This syllable Om is a central element of Hinduism, appearing in all the Upanishads, including the earliest Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads, and expounded upon in the Mandukya Upanishad.
Another divergence from Samkhya is that while the Samkhya holds that knowledge is the means to liberation, Patañjali's Yoga insists on the methods of concentration and active striving. The aim of Yoga is to free the individual from the clutches of matter, and considers intellectual knowledge alone to be inadequate for the purpose – which is different from the position taken by Samkhya.
However, the essential similarities between the Samkhya and Patañjali's system remained even after the addition of the Isvara principle,[note 4] with Max Müller noting that "the two philosophies were in popular parlance distinguished from each other as Samkhya with and Samkhya without a Lord...." The Bhagavad Gita, one of the chief scriptures of Hinduism, is considered to be based on this synthetic Samkhya-Yoga system.
Vyasa's Yogabhashya, the commentary to the Yogasutras, and Vacaspati Misra's subcommentary state directly that the samadhi techniques are directly borrowed from the Buddhists' Jhana, with the addition of the mystical and divine interpretations of mental absorption. According to David Gordon White, the language of the Yoga Sutras is often closer to "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, the Sanskrit of the early Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, than to the classical Sanskrit of other Hindu scriptures.
According to Karel Werner,
Patanjali's system is unthinkable without Buddhism. As far as its terminology goes there is much in the Yoga Sutras that reminds us of Buddhist formulations from the Pāli Canon and even more so from the SarvāstivādaAbhidharma and from Sautrāntika."
Robert Thurman writes that Patañjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the version of thought he considered orthodox. However, it is also to be noted that the Yoga Sutra, especially the fourth segment of Kaivalya Pada, contains several polemical verses critical of Buddhism, particularly the Vijñānavāda school of Vasubandhu.
The five yamas or the constraints of the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali bear an uncanny resemblance to the five major vows of Jainism, indicating influence of Jainism. Three other teachings closely associated with Jainism also make an appearance in Yoga: the doctrine of "colors" in karma (lesya); the Telos of isolation (kevala in Jainism and Kaivalyam in Yoga); and the practice of non-violence (ahimsa), though non-violence (ahimsa) made its first appearance in Indian philosophy-cum-religion in the Hindu texts known as the Upanishads [the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, dated to the 8th or 7th century BCE, one of the oldest Upanishads, has the earliest evidence for the use of the word Ahimsa in the sense familiar in Hinduism (a code of conduct). It bars violence against "all creatures" (sarvabhuta) and the practitioner of Ahimsa is said to escape from the cycle of metempsychosis/reincarnation (CU 8.15.1). It also names Ahinsa as one of five essential virtues].
Adi Shankara who wrote a commentary on Yoga Sutras
Many commentaries have been written on the Yoga Sutras.[note 5]
The Yogabhashya is a commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali which has traditionally been attributed in the discourse of the tradition to Vyasa. But according to Philipp A. Maas, Patañjali's composition was entitled Pātañjalayogaśāstra ("The Treatise on Yoga according to Patañjali") and consisted of both SūtrasandBhāṣya. which means that the Bhāṣya was in fact Patañjali's own work. These research findings change the historical understanding of the yoga tradition, since they allow us to take the Bhāṣya as Patañjali's very own explanation of the meaning of his somewhat cryptic sūtras.[note 6]
The Yogabhashya states that 'yoga' in the Yoga Sutra has the meaning of 'samadhi'. Shankara in his commentary, the Vivarana, confirms the interpretation of yogah samadhih (YBh. I.1): 'yoga' in Patañjali's sutra has the meaning of 'rest'. The interpretation of the word 'yoga' as union is the result of later, external influences that include the bhakti movement, Vedanta and Kashmiri Sivaism. But "Svaroopa-pratishthaa" (last sutra of last chapter in Patañjali's Yoga-Sutra), i.e., "resting in one's real identity" is the ultimate goal of Yoga, and it can also be expressed as "union with one's real identity, after putting to rest all movements in the mind", because 'Yoga' literally means 'Union'.
Ganganath Jha (1907) rendered a version of the Yoga Sutras with the Yogabhashya attributed to Vyasa into English in its entirety. This version of Jha's also include notes drawn from Vācaspati Miśra's Tattvavaiśāradī amongst other important texts in the Yoga commentarial tradition. Even though Vyasa is credited with the Yogabhashya, many hold its authorship to Vyasa impossible, particularly if Vyasa's immortality is not considered.
Countless commentaries on the Yoga Sutras are available today. 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.[note 7] 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. Some modern transaltions and interpretations are:
"Raja Yoga" - a book by Swami Vivekananda provides translation and an in-depth explanation of Yoga Sutra.
Ravi Shankar, taught a course in December 1994 on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the substance of which was published as a new commentary.
Patañjali was not the first to write about yoga. Much about yoga is written in the Mokṣadharma section of the epic Mahābhārata. The members of the Jaina faith had their own, different literature on yoga, and Buddhist' yoga stems from pre-Patanjali sources.
The major commentaries on the Yoga Stras were written between the ninth and sixteenth century. After the twelfth century, the school started to decline, and no defense of Patanjali's Yoga philosophy was written anymore. By the sixteenth century Patanjali's Yoga philosophy had virtually become extinct. The manuscript of the Yoga Sutras was no longer copied, since nobody read the text, and no instruction in its philosophy took place anymore.
Popular interest arose in the 19th century, when the practice of yoga according to the Yoga Sutras became regarded as the science of yoga and the "supreme contemplative path to selfrealization" by Vivekananda, following Helena Blavatsky, president of the Theosophical Society.
According to David Gordon White, the Yoga Sutras popularity is of a very recent date. They were
[v]irtually forgotten in India for hundreds of years and maligned when it was first discovered in the West, the Yoga Sutra has been elevated to its present iconic status--and translated into more than forty languages--only in the course of the past forty years.
It was only with the rediscovery by a British Orientalist in the early 1800s that interest in the Yoga Sutras arose.
Christian and Islamic response
There has recently been considerable debate in non-dharmic contexts regarding the philosophical debt that Yoga owes to the Hindu civilizational milieu that it arose in. Controversy has arisen from the claims by Christian and Muslim religious leaders that the practice of Yoga violates the core tenets of Christianity and Islam owing to its unmistakably Hindu content. This was attempted to be overcome by promoting Yoga as divorced from Hindu spirituality, which in turn led to protests from Hindu and Indian groups.
^Radhakrishnan and Moore attribute the text to the grammarian Patañjali, dating it as 2nd century BCE, during the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE): see Radhakrishnan and Moore, p. 453. Scholars such as S.N. Dasgupta, (Yoga-As Philosophy and Religion Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1924) claim this is the same Patañjali who authored the Mahabhasya, a treatise on Sanskritgrammar. For an argument about the philosophical nature of Sanskrit grammarian thought see: Lata, Bidyut (editor); Panini to Patañjali: A Grammatical March. New Delhi, 2004. Against these older views, Axel Michaels disagrees that the work was written by Patañjali, characterizing it instead as a collection of fragments and traditions of texts stemming from the 2nd or 3rd century: see Michaels, p. 267.
^Zimmer: "[Jainism] does not derive from Brahman-Aryan sources, but reflects the cosmology and anthropology of a much older pre-Aryan upper class of northeastern India - being rooted in the same subsoil of archaic metaphysical speculation as Yoga, Sankhya, and Buddhism, the other non-Vedic Indian systems."
^Zimmer's point of view is supported by other scholars, such as Niniam Smart, in Doctrine and argument in Indian Philosophy, 1964, p.27-32 & p.76, and S.K. Belvakar & R.D. Ranade in History of Indian philosophy, 1974 (1927), p.81 & p.303-409. See Crangle 1994 page 5-7.
^Zimmer (1951), p. 280.These two are regarded in India as twins, the two aspects of a single discipline. Sāṅkhya provides a basic theoretical exposition of human nature, enumerating and defining its elements, analyzing their manner of co-operation in a state of bondage ("bandha"), and describing their state of disentanglement or separation in release ("mokṣa"), while Yoga treats specifically of the dynamics of the process for the disentanglement, and outlines practical techniques for the gaining of release, or "isolation-integration" ("kaivalya").
^For an overview of the scope of earlier commentaries: Complete Commentary by Sankara on the Yoga Sutras: Vivarana Sub-commentary to Vyasabhasya on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Tr.fr. Sanskrit, Trevor Leggett, Rev. Ed. Routledge (1990) ISBN 978-0-7103-0277-9.
^Tähtinen pp. 2–5; English translation: Schmidt p. 631.
^Christopher Chapple (2008) Yoga and the Luminous: Patañjali's Spiritual Path to Freedom New York: SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-7475-4
^Sankaracarya; Patañjali; T. S. Rukmani; Vyasa. Yogasutrabhasyavivarana of Sankara: Vivarana Text with English Translation, and Critical Notes along with Text and English Translation of Patañjali's Yogasutras and Vyasabhasya. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2001. ISBN 978-81-215-0908-4.
^Ganganatha Jha (translator) (1907). The Yoga Darśana: The Sutras of Patañjali with the Bhāṣya of Vyāsa. With notes from Vācaspati Miśra's Tattvavaiśāradī, Vijnana Bhiksu's Yogavartika and Bhoja's Rajamartanda. Rajaram Tukaram Tatya: Bombay Theosophical Publication Fund. Source:  (accessed: January 16, 2011)
^Christopher Key Chapple; Reading Patañjali without Vyasa: A Critique of Four Yoga Sutra Passages, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Spring, 1994), pp. 85-105.
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