Glory of Bharath  »  Scientists of Bharath - Part Ten
Acharya Pathanjali

The Science of Yoga is one of several unique contributions of India to the world. It seeks to discover and realize the ultimate Reality through yogic practices. Acharya Patanjali, the founder, hailed from the district of Gonda (Ganara) in Uttar Pradesh. He prescribed the control of prana (life breath) as the means to control the body, mind and soul. This subsequently rewards one with good health and inner happiness. Acharya Patanjali's 84 yogic postures effectively enhance the efficiency of the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive and endocrine systems and many other organs of the body. Yoga has eight limbs where Acharya Patanjali shows the attainment of the ultimate bliss of God in samadhi through the disciplines of: yam, niyam, asan, pranayam, pratyahar, dhyan and dharna. The Science of Yoga has gained popularity because of its scientific approach and benefits. Yoga also holds the honored place as one of six philosophies in the Indian philosophical system. Acharya Patanjali will forever be remembered and revered as a pioneer in the science of self-discipline, happiness and self-realization.

Pata˝jali is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. According to tradition, the same Pata˝jali was also the author of the Mahabhasya, a commentary on Katyayana's varttikas (short comments) on Panini's Aatadhyayi as well as an unspecified work of medicine (ayurveda).

In the Yoga tradition, Pata˝jali is a revered name and has been deified by many groups, especially in the Shaivite bhakti tradition. It is claimed that Pata˝jali is an incarnation of Adi Sesa, who is the first ego-expansion of Visnu, Sankarshana. Sankarshana is part of the so-called caturvyuha,[6] the fourfold manifestation of Vishnu. Pata˝jali is considered an incarnation of God defending the yoga. He is called Maharshi. In one popular legend, Pata˝jali was born to Atri and his wife Anasuya (this would make him go back to the time of the creation by Brahma). According to this tradition, Anasuya had to go through a stern test of her chastity when the Trimurti themselves came as Bhikshuks and asked her for Bhiksha. She passed their test by accepting them as her children and fed them. She got the boon where all the three Murtis will be born to them. They were Soma Skandan or Pata˝jali, Dattatreya, and Durvasa.


Yoga Sutras
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali prescribes adherence to eight "limbs" or steps the sum of which constitute "Ashtanga Yoga" to quiet one's mind and achieve kaivalya. The Yoga Sutras form the theoretical and philosophical basis of Raja Yoga, and are considered to be the most organized and complete definition of that discipline. The Sutras not only provide yoga with a thorough and consistent philosophical basis, they also clarify many important esoteric concepts which are common to all traditions of Indian thought, such as karma.

The Yoga Sutras are built on a foundation of Samkhya philosophy, an orthodox (Astika) Hindu system of dualism, and are generally seen as the practice while Samkhya is the theory. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the chief scriptures of Hinduism, is considered to be based on this Samkhya-Yoga system. These are thought to be two of the many schools of philosophy that originated over the centuries that had common mystical roots derived from the early Vedic and Indus-Saraswati period. 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.


Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Patanjali divided his Yoga Sutras into 4 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. The author describes yoga and then the nature and the means to attaining samadhi. This chapter contains the famous definitional verse: "Yogas citta-vritti-nirodhah" ("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 Raja Yoga. The Ashtanga or eight "limbs" prescribed are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

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. The temptation of these powers should be avoided and the attention should be fixed only on liberation.

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 nature of liberation and the reality of the transcendental self.


The eight limbs of Yoga
The cumulative and collective mastery of the eight limbs aids one in performing Samadhi efficiently. Samadhi then becomes the main tool used by the yogi to descend through the various layers of consciousness towards the very center of consciousness. Mastery of the eight limbs is only the prerequisite to begin the descent through consciousness to its center (bhindu or laya center). The descent through consciousness involves mastery of samskaras and overcoming the kleshas, and constitutes an effort of will perhaps greater than mastery of the eight limbs. It is through the descent of consciousness to its center, and passage through this center by dharma mega samadhi that the Atman is realized and Kaivalya is achieved. Kaivalya is related to "isolation" not because a relative being becomes isolated from all other relative beings, but because consciousness becomes its essential nature: the wholeness and fullness of the Absolute, of which there is only one. There is no other next to the Absolute; hence it is isolated. This state is the fullness, completeness, and total freedom of being (svatantra). In this state Atman is Brahman. Thus, the eight "limbs" are the means to samadhi, and samadhi is the means to the end which is Kaivalya.

Ashtanga yoga consists of the following limbs: The first five are called external aids to Yoga (bahiranga sadhana)

Yama refers to the five abstentions. These are the same as the five vows of Jainism. They are:
  • 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.

  • Satya: truth in word and thought.

  • Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is his own.

  • Brahmacharya: abstain from sexual intercourse; celibacy in case of unmarried people and monogamy in case of married people. Even this to the extent that one should not possess any sexual thoughts towards any other man or woman except one's own spouse. It is common to associate Brahmacharya with celibacy.

  • Aparigraha: non-possessiveness
Niyama refers to the five observances
  • Shaucha: cleanliness of body and mind.
  • Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one has.
  • Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline and thereby mental control.
  • Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within,
  • Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.
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 breath. 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 citta upon a physical object, such as a flame of a lamp, the mid point 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 or 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: 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 supraconscious: 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.

Combined simultaneous practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi is referred to as Samyama and is considered a tool of achieving various perfections, or Siddhis. But as stated above, siddhis are but distractions from Kaivalaya and are to be discouraged. Siddhis are but Maya. The purpose of using samadhi is not to gain siddhis but to achieve Kaivalya.


Traditional Commentary: Yogabhashya
The Yogabhashya is a commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which has been attributed in the discourse of the tradition to Vyasa. 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: 'yoga' in Patanjali's sutra has the meaning of 'rest'.


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