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.


The text of the Yogasūtra consists of 196 aphorisms (sūtras) divided into four chapters or books (Sanskrit: pāda) as follows:

  • Samādhi Pāda (51 sutras): Deals with the general nature of Yoga and its technique. Its main topic is the different stages of samādhi (a state of absorption sometimes translated as "ecstasy", "contemplation", "trance", etc.), where the yogi becomes one with the object of meditation.
  • Sādhanā Pāda (55 sutras). Describes the practice or discipline (sādhanā meaning "a means to accomplishing something") that leads to the attainment of samādhi. It includes two forms of yoga: i) a preliminary one called Kriya Yoga and, ii) the first five "limbs" of the eightfold system yoga (aṣṭāṅga yoga), which are referred to as bahiraṅga or "external".
  • Vibhuti Pāda (56 sutras). The first part of the third book deals with the three remaining and highest "limbs" of the eightfold system, referred to as antaraṅga or "internal". The rest of the book describes the supra-normal powers (Sanskrit: siddhi) that result from the practice of yoga, both in their positive and negative aspects.
  • Kaivalya Pāda (34 sutras). Describes the nature of liberation (mokṣa) from the cycle of rebirth and the reality of the transcendental self. This is the state of "emancipation" (Sanskrit: kaivalya, literally "isolation").


The following is an overview of topics discussed by Patañjali.[1]

Book 1: On Samādhi

1: Opening aphorism

2: Preliminary definition of Yoga

3-4: The Self in relation to consciousness

5-11: The fluctuations of consciousness

12-16: General means of steadying the consciousness fluctuations: practice and dispassion

17-20: Types of samādhi

21-2: Degrees of commitment

23-8: "The Lord" and his symbolic representation

29-32: The obstacles on the yogic path and the means of their removal

33-9: Specific means of steadying the consciousness fluctuations

40: The range of meditational objects mastered by the adept

41-45: Types of object-oriented samādhi

46-50: The culmination of the object-oriented samādhi

51: The “seedless” samādhi

Book 2: On Means

1-2: The three components of Kriya-Yoga and their rationale

3-14: The causes-of-affliction—their nature, effects and removal

15-17: Sorrow—its cause and removal

18-19: The nature of objective reality (the “seen”)

20-5: The nature of subjective reality (the “seer” or Self) and its relation to the “seen”

26-7: The “vision of discernment” as the means of dispelling nescience

28-9: The components and rationale of the “eight limb” Yoga

30-4: Specification of the constituents of “restraint” and “observance”, and the method for ensuring their cultivation

35-9: Individual definitions of the various constituents of “restraint”

40-5: Individual definitions of the various constituents of “observance”

46-8: The practice of “posture” and its results

49-53: The practice of “breath control” and its results

54-5: The practice of “sense-withdrawal” and its results

Book 3: On Powers

1: Definition of “concentration”

2: Definition of “meditation”

3: Definition of (object-oriented) “samādhi”

4-6: Definition of “samyama” and its results

7-8: Explanation of what is meant by “inner” and “outer” “limbs” of Yoga

9-15: Consciousness interiorisation in the light of the philosophical concept of “transformation”

16-49: The practice of “samyama” upon various contents of consciousness and the “powers” resulting from it

50-1: The higher form of “dispassion” and last possible obstacles

52-5: The terminal phases of interiorisation

Book 4: On Emancipation

1: The various means of obtaining the “powers”

2-5: The process of creation, with particular regard to the emergence of the finite consciousness

6: The nature of consciousness transmuted through Yoga

7-11: The factors underlying the mechanism of retribution and re-birth

12: The nature of time

13-16: Further explanations about the nature of objective real¬ity

17-23: The knowledge process and the Self as ultimate principle of Awareness

24: The teleological nature (“other-purposiveness”) of objec¬tive reality

25-8: The “vision of discernment”

29-31: The “cloud of dharma samādhi” and its consequence

32-4: The terminal phase of samādhi in terms of the concept of “transformation” and final emancipation

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



  1. Adapted from: Georg Feuerstein, The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali. A New Translation and Commentary, (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1989), 19-21.