“Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis)” – Swami Vivekananda

Those who practice and study Yoga would be familiar with the book ‘Yoga Sutra’. Yoga Sutra is considered as an authoritative textbook on Yoga. It is a collection of aphorisms explaining the eight limbs of Yoga.

Who is the author of ‘Yoga Sutra’? This ancient classical book was written by Patanjali. He is considered as the Father of yoga. Sutra is a Sanskrit word which means threads or wisdom outlines. One who learns and understands these threads or wisdom can have a meaningful and purposeful life.

There is not much information available about this scholar Patanjali. A number of Sanskrit works has been named after Patanjali. One of the popular ones is ‘Mahabhashya’ which explains the treatise of Sanskrit grammar. This text was titled as a bhasya or “commentary” on Katyayana-Panini’s work by Patanjali but is so revered in the Hindu traditions that it is widely known simply as Maha-bhasya or ‘Great commentary’. It is thought that this book was written in the 2nd century BCE.

Patanjali is also called as a medical authority according to Ayurvedic textbooks Yoga Ratnakara, Yogaratnasamucchaya, and Padartha Vijnana. It is believed that the Sanskrit author Patanjali and author of Yogasutras is a different Patanjali.

The Yogasutras is one of the most important texts in the Hindu tradition and the foundation of classical Yoga.

Let us look into some details on Yoga Sutra

  • It is a collection of 196 aphorisms on the theory and practice of yoga.
  • Yoga sutra is divided in to 4 chapters or Pada according to Sanskrit.
Samadhi Pada Sadhana Pada Vibhuti Pada Kaivalya Pada
Samadhi refers to a state of direct and reliable perception (pramaṇa) where the yogi’s self-identity is absorbed into the object meditated upon, collapsing the categories of witness, witnessing, and witnessed. The author describes yoga and then the nature and the means to attaining samadhi. Sadhana means practice or discipline. The author outlines two forms of Yoga: Kriyā Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga (Eightfold or Eightlimbed Yoga). Vibhuti means power or manifestation. Sidhi  or Super powers are acquired by the practice of yoga. Combined simultaneous practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi is referred to as Samyama, and is considered a tool of achieving various perfections, or Siddhis. Kaivalya means isolation. The process of liberation and the reality of the transcendental ego is explained here.

 

Now we can discuss the purpose of Yoga. If you have noticed the first quote I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you already know the purpose of Yoga.

Patanjali begins his treatise by stating the purpose of his book in the first sutra, followed by defining the word “yoga” in his second sutra of Book. 2

He says it is the progressive quieting of mind from the distractions. When we follow and practice yoga our mind gets devoid of any unwanted thoughts.

June 21st is celebrated worldwide as International Day of Yoga. An international day for yoga was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly.

References –

  1. Feuerstein 1978, p. 108, Quote: “As I have shown in my own detailed examination of the Yoga-Sûtra, this great scripture could well be a composite of only two distinct Yoga lineages. On the one hand there is the Yoga of eight limbs or ashta-anga-yoga (written ashtângayoga), and on the other, there is the Yoga of Action (kriyâ-yoga).” Feuerstein, Georg (2013-09-11). The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice (Kindle Locations 7580-7582). Hohm Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Sanskrit Original with Translation 1: The Yoga Philosophy TR Tatya (Translator), with Bhojaraja commentary; Harvard University Archives

Photo by Indian Yogi (Yogi Madhav) on Unsplash