Patanjali Patanjali[1†]

Patanjali, also known as Gonardiya or Gonikaputra, was a Hindu author, mystic, and philosopher[1†]. He is estimated to have lived between the 2nd century BCE and the 4th century CE based on the analysis of his works[1†]. Patanjali is regarded as an avatar of Adi Sesha[1†], a deity in Hinduism, and is believed to be the author and compiler of a number of Sanskrit works[1†].

Early Years and Education

The details about Patanjali’s early life and education are sparse and shrouded in mystery, as is the case with many figures from ancient history[1†]. The dates proposed for Patanjali’s birth and life vary by a millennium. Some authorities suggest that he lived and flourished in the 4th century BCE, while others insist that he must have lived in the 6th century CE[1†][2†].

The Tamil Saiva Siddhanta tradition from around the 10th century AD holds that Patanjali learned Yoga along with seven other disciples from the great Yogic Guru Nandhi Deva (Nandi), as stated in Tirumular’s Tirumandiram (Tantra 1)[1†]. This suggests that Patanjali received his education in the spiritual and philosophical traditions of ancient India, which shaped his later works.

However, it’s important to note that these accounts are based on religious and cultural traditions, and there is no definitive historical evidence to confirm these details[1†]. The lack of concrete information about Patanjali’s early life and education is a reflection of the time he lived in, where records were not always meticulously kept or have not survived the test of time[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Patanjali is most renowned for his significant contributions to various fields of ancient Indian thought[3†][1†].

Despite the significant contributions attributed to Patanjali, it’s important to note that there is ongoing scholarly debate about whether these works were written by the same person or multiple individuals with the same name[3†][1†]. Regardless of the authorship, the works attributed to Patanjali have had a profound and lasting impact on yoga, linguistics, and medicine[3†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Patanjali is credited with the authorship of two significant classical Hindu texts[1†][3†]:

  1. Yoga Sutras: This is a collection of Sanskrit sutras (aphorisms) on the theory and practice of yoga[1†][4†]. The Yoga Sutras, compiled in the early centuries CE, are best known for their reference to ashtanga, the eight elements of practice culminating in samadhi[1†][4†]. These elements are yama (abstinences), niyama (observances), asana (yoga posture), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration of the mind), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption)[1†][4†]. The main aim of practice is kaivalya, discernment of purusha, the witness-consciousness, as distinct from prakriti, the cognitive apparatus[1†][4†].
  2. Mahābhāṣya: This is an ancient treatise on Sanskrit grammar and linguistics, based on the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini[1†][5†]. The Mahābhāṣya, also known as the “Great Commentary”, is both a defense of the grammarian Pāṇini against his chief critic and detractor Katyayana and a refutation of some of Pāṇini’s aphorisms[1†][3†][5†].

These works have had a profound impact on the fields of Yoga and Sanskrit grammar and linguistics, influencing scholars of other Indian religions such as Buddhism and Jainism[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Patanjali’s work, particularly the Yoga Sutras, has been traditionally regarded as representing the quintessence of the traditional Indian approach to psychology[6†]. His aphorisms (sūtras) are believed to have been composed around the second century BCE, providing a “how-to” manual based on practices well known by his time[6†]. The psychological core of Yoga, however, often remains hidden, especially from teachers and practitioners of psychology today[6†].

Patanjali’s Yoga system is viewed as part of the six “orthodox” systems of Indian thought, including three pairs of systems: the Sāṁkhya-Yoga, Pūrva- and Uttara Mīmāṁsā, and Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika[6†]. These are considered as “orthodox” since they accept the authority of the Veda, as distinguished from the heterodox systems of Buddhism, Jainism, and the materialist system of Cārvāka which do not accept the authority of the Veda[6†].

In developing his theory, Patanjali adaptively reused the wording in which the Sarvāstivāda theories were formulated, the specific objections against these theories, and their refutations to win the philosophical debate about temporality against Sarvāstivāda Buddhism[6†][7†]. His approach towards the Sarvāstivāda Buddhist theories was possible, even though his system of Yoga is based on an ontology that differs considerably from that of Sarvāstivāda Buddhism because both systems share the philosophical view that time is not a separate ontological entity in itself[6†][7†]. Time is a concept deduced from change in the empirical world[6†][7†].

Patanjali’s theory of transformation is thus of central importance for his Sāṁkhya ontology, according to which the world consists of 25 categories or constituents (tattva), i.e., of primal matter (prakṛti) and its transformations and pure consciousness (puruṣa)[6†][7†].

Personal Life

Little is known about the personal life of Patanjali, as he lived many centuries ago and left behind few personal details[1†][3†][8†]. The primary sources of information about him are his works, which focus on philosophy, yoga, and linguistics rather than personal experiences[1†][3†][8†].

There are some references to Patanjali in various texts that suggest he may have had a daughter named Arundhati, who was married to Vasistha, one of the sapta-rishis[1†][9†]. However, these accounts are not universally accepted and should be approached with caution[1†][9†].

Patanjali’s teachings, particularly those found in the Yoga Sutras, suggest a deep understanding of human psychology and personal development[1†][10†]. He identified five hindrances to personal growth: avidya (ignorance), sense of personality, desire, hate, and sense of attachment[1†][10†]. This suggests that Patanjali had a keen interest in the inner workings of the mind and the obstacles that prevent individuals from reaching their full potential[1†][10†].

Despite the lack of concrete details about Patanjali’s personal life, his profound influence on Hindu philosophy, yoga, and linguistics is undeniable[1†][3†][8†]. His works continue to be studied and revered to this day, indicating the lasting impact of his teachings[1†][3†][8†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Patanjali’s influence on Hindu philosophy, yoga, and linguistics is profound and enduring[6†][1†]. His works, particularly the Yoga Sutras, have shaped the understanding and practice of yoga for centuries[6†][1†]. Despite the passage of time, his teachings remain relevant and continue to be studied by scholars and practitioners alike[6†][1†].

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, in particular, have had a significant impact on the field of psychology[6†]. His insights into the human mind and the obstacles to personal growth are considered foundational to Indian psychology[6†]. Patanjali’s work is not just a historical artifact but continues to inform contemporary psychological thought[6†].

In addition to his contributions to yoga and psychology, Patanjali is also recognized for his work in linguistics[6†][1†]. His commentary on Sanskrit grammar, the Mahābhāṣya, has been the authority on classical Sanskrit for over 2,000 years[6†][1†]. His ideas on language structure and philosophy have influenced scholars of other Indian religions such as Buddhism and Jainism[6†][1†].

Patanjali’s legacy extends beyond his works. He is honored with invocations and shrines in some modern schools of yoga, including Iyengar Yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga[6†][1†]. His teachings continue to inspire and guide individuals on their spiritual journeys[6†][1†].

In conclusion, Patanjali’s contributions to yoga, psychology, and linguistics have left an indelible mark on Indian thought and culture. His works continue to be revered for their depth and insight, and his legacy lives on in the many individuals and schools that follow his teachings[6†][1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Patanjali [website] - link
  2. KofiBusia.com - A biography of Patañjali written by Kofi Busia, Yoga Teacher, in honour of his Teacher, BKS Iyengar; [website] - link
  3. Britannica - Patanjali: Hindu author, mystic, and philosopher [website] - link
  4. Wikipedia (English) - Yoga Sutras of Patanjali [website] - link
  5. Wikipedia (English) - Mahabhashya [website] - link
  6. Springer Link - Patañjali: The Most Distinguished Psychologist from India [website] - link
  7. Springer Link - Sarvāstivāda Buddhist Theories of Temporality and the Pātañjala Yoga Theory of Transformation (pariṇāma) [website] - link
  8. Yogapedia - Who is Patanjali? - Definition from Yogapedia [website] - link
  9. New World Encyclopedia - Patañjali [website] - link
  10. Social Sci LibreTexts - Page not found [website] - link
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