His life at glance
Almost everything about Patanjali(sometime between 2nd century B.C. and 5th century A.D.) is unknown; and his life had been distorted by myth and numerous legends. He is also called Gonardiya or Gonkaputra.According to one legend he was the son of Angiras, one of the ten sons of Brahma, the Creator; and of Sati, the consort of Siva. If so, this would make him not only the grandson of the Creator of the universe, but also the brother of Brhaspati, god of wisdom and eloquence and chief offeror of sacrifices. As for where exactly he was born is also not clear. Nor is clear exactly where he lived. His marriage is also legendary. One day he discovered an exquisitely and enchantingly beautiful woman, Lolupa, in the hollow of a tree on the north slope of Mount Sumeru-the top of the celestial mountain of enlightenment. He promptly married her, thus indissolubly joining himself to the fruits of spiritual quest, and lived happy old age.
He authored various books. Among them, he is famous as an author or one of the authors of two great Hindu classics: the first, Yoga Sutras (also known as Yoga Darshana), a categorization of Yogic thought arranged in four volumes; and the second, the Mahabhashya ("Great Commentary").
The Yoga Sutra seems to span several centuries, the first three volumes apparently written in the 2nd century B.C. and the last book in the 5th century A.D. Authorities therefore tend to credit more than one author writing under this name, although there is wide variance in opinion. There is a possibility that many persons used this name, because it was used by the authors of a number of other works on such diverse subjects as medicine, metrics, music, and alchemy. The name itself is obviously a pseudonym, since it denotes no caste and implies divine descent from the Great Serpent, Shesha.In addition to our lack of definite knowledge about Patanjali's life, confusion arises from contrasting appraisals of the Yoga Sutras itself. There is a strong consensus that the Yoga Sutras represents a masterly compendium of various Yoga practices which can be traced back through the Upanishads to the Vedas. Many forms of Yoga existed by the time this treatise was written, and Patanjali came at the end of a long and ancient line of yogis.
Establishments and achievements
He is recognized as a truly great dancer. To this day dancers in India working in the classical traditions invoke him and pay him their respects. Patanjali, therefore, is effectively the patron saint of dance. Some say that Patanjali also wrote a treatise on ayurvedic medicine.
He was a great grammarian and his Mahabhashya or Great Commentary on Panini's grammar (the first grammar written for any language) was magisterial. It is still read and acknowledged today. In the Mahabhashya, he defined the rules of Sanskrit grammar and greatly enlarged its vocabulary. He gave Sanskrit a muscular power that made it a more precise, subtle, effective and artistic instrument capable of expressing any aspect whatever of human thought or existence.
And importantly, he is the founder of the system of yoga and author of Yoga Sutras, the ancient text that establishes the practice and philosophy of yoga. In the Yoga Sutras-he brought many threads from the Vedas, Upanishads and Buddhism, altogether.
Highlights of his teachings
The Yoga of Patanjali represents the climax of a long development of yogic technology. Of all the numerous schools that existed in the opening centuries of the Common Era, Patanjali's school was the one to become acknowledged as the authoritative system (darshana) of the Yoga tradition. There are countless parallels between Patanjali's Yoga and Buddhism. Patanjali gave the Yoga tradition its classical format, and hence his school is often referred to as Classical Yoga. Patanjalipresentedan eight-limbed system of yoga (Ashtanga)-Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The first Yoga Sutra says: "Now the exposition of yoga," implying that there must be something leading up to yoga in the form of necessary developments of consciousness and personality. These prerequisites may be thought of as the Pillars of Yoga, and are known as Yama and Niyama (or Ten Commandments of Yoga).The Yoga Sutras constitutes a practitioner's manual, and has long been cherished as the pristine expression of Raja Yoga, which is essentially concerned with mind control, meditation and self-study.The focus is on the mind.The metapsychology of the Yoga Sutras bridges complex metaphysics and compelling ethics, creative transcendence and critical immanence, in an original, inspiring and penetrating style, whilst its aphoristic method leaves much unsaid, throwing aspirants back upon themselves with a powerful stimulus to self-testing and self-discovery.
Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D. (2008). The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. HOHM PRESS, Arizona.
Britannica Online Encyclopedia: www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/446218/Patanjali