Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

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The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are 196 sūtras (aphorisms) that constitute the foundational text of yoga, and in particular of rāja yoga. They present the royal (rāja) yoga in an eight-limbed (ashtānga) system. The text is based on the Sankhya school.

The Yoga Sūtras were written (or compiled) by Patañjali, the opinion of many scholars being that Patañjali was not the creator of yoga, which existed well before him, but merely a great expounder.

General description

The Sanskrit word sūtra means a thread or line that holds things together. It refers both to an aphorism and to a group of aphorisms that summarizes a doctrine in the form of a manual. This kind of abbreviated manual was traditionally prepared for memorization by the student, and meant to be completed by oral instruction.

Patañjali's Yogasūtra is an important part of the Hindu Scripture and a foundational text that has had an enormous influence on yoga philosophy and practice. The text is a compendium of a pre-existing ancient oral yoga tradition. The dates ascribed to its composition vary widely from 250 BCE to 250 CE.

The Yogasūtra shares most of its philosophical ideas with the Sāṃkhya school, except that Yoga proposes the existence of a god (Īśvara) (sūtra-s I. 24-27) where Sāṃkhya puts the question aside as not susceptible of proof.

The Yogasūtra gives a practical instruction of how the state of yoga, and, eventually, of mokṣa (liberation from the cycles of birth) can be attained by disciplined activity.

Structure

Patañjali divided his Yogasūtra into four chapters or books (Sanskrit: pada) as follows:

  • Samadhi Pada (51 sutras): Describes the state of absorption (samādhi) where the yogi becomes one with the object of meditation.
  • Sadhana Pada (55 sutras). Describes the practice or discipline that leads to the attainment of samādhi. It includes two forms of yoga: a preliminar one called Kriya Yoga and the first five "limbs" of the eightfold yoga (ashtānga yoga).
  • Vibhuti Pada (56 sutras). Describes the three final and central "limbs" of the eightfold system and the psychic powers (Sanskrit: siddhi) that result from the practice of yoga.
  • Kaivalya Pada (34 sutras). Describes the process of liberation (Sanskrit: Kaivalya, literally "isolation"), which is the goal of yoga.

Theosophists and the Yoga Sutras

Several members of the Theosophical Society translated this text or written commentaries about it:

  • Tukaram Tatya.The Yoga Philosophy: Being the Text of Patanjali, with Bhoja Raja's Commentary. Bombay: Subodha-Prakash Press, 1885. 2nd edition revised, edited, and reprinted for the Bombay Theosophical Publication Fund by Tookaram Tatya, with introduction by Col. Olcott. Translations in English by Dr. Ballantyne and Govind Shastri Deva. Available at Blavatsky Archives.
  • Manilal N. Dvidedi. The Yoga-sūtras of Patanjali: Sanskrit Text and English Translation Together, with an Introduction and an Appendix, and Notes on Each Sutra Based upon Several Authentic Commentaries, All in English. Revised edition Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications: 1980. Available at Hathitrust
  • I. K. Taimni . The Science of Yoga: the Yoga-sūtras of Patañjali in Sanskrit with Transliteration in Roman, Translation and Commentary in English. Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1961. Numerous editions, under various titles, including versions in Italian, Finnish, and recorded for the blind. Limited online access at Hathitrust.
  • Rohit Mehta Yoga: The Art of Integration. Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1975. A review of this collection of lectures is available from M. P. Pandit.[1] Available as CD audiorecording from Quest Books.[2] Limited online access at HathiTrust.

See also

Online resources

Books