It is believed that Maharishi Patanjali was the avatar of Adi Shesha - the Infinite Cosmic Serpent upon whom Lord Vishnu rests. He is considered to be the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, along with being the author of a commentary on Panini's Ashtadhyayi, known as Mahabhasya. He is also supposed to be the writer of a work on the ancient Indian medicine system, Ayurveda.
Scholars consider the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali formulations as one of the foundations of classical Yoga philosophy of Hinduism
Patanjali divided his Yoga Sutras into four 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. Samadhi is the main technique the yogin learns by which to dive into the depths of the mind to achieve Kaivalya. It describes yoga and then nature and the means to attaining Samadhi. This chapter contains the famous definitional verse: "Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ" ("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 is closely related to Karma Yoga, which 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 Rāja Yoga.
- 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. Combined simultaneous practice of Dhāraṇā, Dhyana and Samādhi is referred to as Samyama, and is considered a tool of achieving various perfections, or Siddhis. The temptation of these powers should be avoided and the attention should be fixed only on liberation. The purpose of using samadhi is not to gain siddhis but to achieve Kaivalya. Siddhis are but distractions from Kaivalaya and are to be discouraged. Siddhis are but maya, or illusion.
- 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 process of liberation and the reality of the transcendental ego.
Eight components of yoga
Yamas are ethical rules in Hinduism and can be thought of as moral imperatives. The five yamas listed by Patañjali in Yogasutra 2.30 are
- Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings
- Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood
- Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing
- Brahmacārya (ब्रह्मचर्य): celibacy, non-cheating on one's partner
- Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice, non-possessiveness
The second component of Patanjali's Yoga path is called niyama, which includes virtuous habits, behaviors and observances (the "dos"). Sadhana Pada Verse 32 lists the niyamas as
- Sauca: purity, clearness of mind, speech and body
- Santoṣa: contentment, acceptance of others, acceptance of one's circumstances as they are in order to get past or change them, optimism for self
- Tapas: persistence, perseverance, austerity
- Svadhyaya: study of Vedas (see Sabda in epistemology section), study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self's thoughts, speeches and actions
- Isvarapraṇidhana: contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality)
Patanjali begins discussion of Asanas (आसन, posture) by defining it in verse 46 of Book 2, as follows,
Translation 1: An asana is what is steady and pleasant.
Translation 2: Motionless and Agreeable form (of staying) is Asana (yoga posture).