Patañjali (Sanskrit: पतञ्जलि, IPA: [pət̪əɲɟəli]; fl. 150 BC or 2nd century BC) is one among the 18 siddhars in the Tamil siddha tradition. He is the compiler of the Yoga Sūtras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. According to tradition, the same Patañjali was also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a commentary on Kātyāyana's vārttikas (short comments) on Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī and of an unspecified work of medicine (āyurveda).
Patanjali's place of birth is held to be "Gonarda" (Thiru-Gona-Malai), India and he described himself as a "Gonardiya" throughout his life. This corroborates Tirumular's Tirumandhiram, which describes him as hailing from Then Kailasam (Koneswaram temple, Trincomalee), and he famously visited the Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, where he wrote the Charana Shrungarahita Stotram on Nataraja. In recent decades,[when?] the Yoga Sutra has become quite popular worldwide for the precepts regarding practice of Raja Yoga and its philosophical basis. "Yoga" in traditional Hinduism involves inner contemplation, a system of meditation practice and ethics.
The compound name Patañjali is explained in two ways. The first explanation of the word is añjalau patan iti patañjali (Patañjali is one falling into folded hands), which is a mayūravyaṁsakādi compound with śakandhvādi Sandhi. The name comes from a legend about his birth which says that Śeṣa, the divine serpent-king incarnated as a snakelet and fell into the folded hands (Anjali Mudra) of a Brahmin. The second explanation parses the word as a Bahuvrihi compound patanto namaskāryatvena janānāmañjalayo yasmin viṣaye sa (He for whom the folded hands of people are falling is Patañjali).
In the Vyakarana tradition, Patañjali is believed to have lived in the first century B.C. in Varanasi. The tradition holds Patañjali lectured on Paninian grammar at a place called Nāgakūpa, which is identified with modern day Nagakuan (Hindi: नागकुआँ). He lectured for 85 days, which resulted in the 85 Āhnikas of the Mahābhāshya. Many writers in the grammar tradition, including Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita, Hari Dikhsita, Nagesha Bhatta, and Kaunda Bhatta, hold Patañjali to be an incarnation of Śeṣa.
In the Yoga tradition, Patañjali is a revered name and has been deified by many groups, especially in the Shaivite bhakti tradition. It is claimed that Patañjali is an incarnation of Ādi Śeṣa, who is the first ego-expansion of Viṣṇu, Sankarshana. Sankarshana is part of the so-called caturvyūha, the fourfold manifestation of Vishnu. Patañjali is considered an incarnation of God defending the yoga. He is called Maharshi.
Tamil Shaivite legend
Regarding his early years, a Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta tradition from around 10th century AD holds that Patañjali learned Yoga along with seven other disciples from the great Yogic Guru Nandhi Deva, as stated in Tirumular's Tirumandiram (Tantra 1).
Nandhi arulPetra Nadharai Naadinom
Nandhigal Nalvar Siva Yoga MaaMuni
Mandru thozhuda Patañjali Vyakramar
Endrivar Ennodu (Thirumoolar) Enmarumaame
The ancient Kali Kautuvam also describes how Patañjali and Vyagrapada gathered along with the gods in Thillai near Chidambaram to watch Shiva and Kali dance and perform the 108 mystic Karanas, which formed the foundation for the system of Natya Yoga. He has also written Charana Shrungarahita Stotram on Nataraja.
This Tamil tradition also gives his birthplace in South Kailash - Koneswaram temple, Trincomalee. Some other traditions feel that his being born in Bharatavarsha - the part of the ancient world corresponding to South Asia - is beneath his godlike status, and that he must have been born in the Jambudvipa, the mythical center of the universe.
It was why my Grandfather who said, "Climb and see."
But it was Kalangi Nathar who gave me birth.
Patañjali,Viyagiramar,and Sivayogi Muni all so rightly said,
"Look! This is the path!" - Bhogar 7000 (translation by Layne Little)
This tradition also holds that Patañjali was a master of dance.
In one popular legend, Patañjali 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 Patañjali, Dattatreya, and Durvasa.
The Jeeva Samadhi of Patanjali Maharishi is believed to be in Tirupattur Brahmapureeswarar Temple (30 km from Trichy), where Lord Brahma installed 12 Shiva Lingams and worshipped Lord Shiva to get back his Tejas.
Shankaracharya's guru had told Shankaracharya that Patanjali was reincarnated as Govinda Bhagavatpada and was meditating in a cave somewhere in the state of samadhi.
Whether the two works, the Yoga Sutras and the Mahābhāṣya, are by the same author has been the subject of considerable debate. The authorship of the two is first attributed to the same person in Bhojadeva's Rajamartanda, a relatively late (10th century) commentary on the Yoga Sutras, as well as several subsequent texts. As for the texts themselves, the Yoga Sutra iii.44 cites a sutra as that from Patanjali by name, but this line itself is not from the Mahābhāṣya. This 10th-century legend of single-authorship is doubtful. The literary styles and contents of the Yogasūtras and the Mahābhāṣya are entirely different, and the only work on medicine attributed to Patañjali is lost. Sources of doubt include the lack of cross-references between the texts, and no mutual awareness of each other, unlike other cases of multiple works by (later) Sanskrit authors. Also, some elements in the Yoga Sutras may date from as late as the 4th century AD, but such changes may be due to divergent authorship, or due to later additions which are not atypical in the oral tradition. Most scholars refer to both works as "by Patanjali", without meaning that they are by the same author.
In addition to the Mahābhāṣya and Yoga Sūtras, the 11th-century commentary on Charaka by the Bengali scholar Cakrapāṇidatta, and the 16th-century text Patanjalicarita ascribes to Patañjali a medical text called the Carakapratisaṃskṛtaḥ (now lost) which is apparently a revision (pratisaṃskṛtaḥ) of the medical treatise by Caraka. While there is a short treatise on yoga in the medical work called the Carakasaṃhitā (by Caraka), towards the end of the chapter called śārīrasthāna, it is notable for not bearing much resemblance to the Yoga Sūtras, and in fact presenting a form of eightfold yoga that is completely different from that laid out by Patañjali in the Yoga Sūtras and the commentary Yogasūtrabhāṣya.
The tradition that holds that all three works are by the same author is summed up in this verse from the beginning of Bhoja's Rājamārttanda commentary on the Yoga Sūtras:
yogena cittasya, padena vācāṃ, malaṃ śarīrasya ca vaidyakena ।
yo'pākarot taṃ pravaraṃ munīnāṃ patañjaliṃ prāñjalir ānato'smi ॥
पतञ्जलिप्रार्थनं॥ योगेन चित्तस्य पदेन वाचां मलं शरीरस्य च वैदिकेन । योपाकरोत्तं प्रवरं मुनीनां पतञ्जलिं प्राञ्जलिरानतोस्मि॥
English translation: I bow with my hands together to the eminent sage Patañjali, who removed the impurities of the mind through yoga, of speech through grammar, and of the body through medicine.
|Pada (Chapter)||English meaning||Sutras|
|Samadhi Pada||On being absorbed in spirit||
|Sadhana Pada||On being immersed in spirit||
|Vibhuti Pada||On supernatural abilities and gifts||
|Kaivalya Pada||On absolute freedom||
The Yoga tradition is much older, there are references in the Mahābhārata, and the Gitā identifies three kinds of yoga. The Yoga Sūtras codifies the royal or best (rāja) yoga practices, presenting these as an eight-limbed system (ashtānga). The philosophic tradition is related to the Sankhya school. The focus is on the mind; the second sutra defines Yoga - it is the cessation of all mental fluctuations, all wandering thoughts cease and the mind is focused on a single thought
In contrast to the focus on the mind in the Yoga sutras, later traditions of Yoga such as the Hatha yoga focus on more complex asanas or body postures.
Relevance of his contribution to the science of yoga
Patañjali defended in his yoga-treatise several ideas that are not mainstream of either Sankhya or Yoga. He, according to the Iyengar adept, biographer and scholar Kofi Busia, acknowledges the ego not as a separate entity. The subtle body linga sarira he would not regard as permanent and he would deny it a direct control over external matters. This is not in accord with classical Sankhya and Yoga.
Although much of the aphorisms in the Yoga Sutra possibly pre-dates Patanjali, it is clear that much is original and it is more than a mere compilation. The clarity and unity he brought to divergent views prevalent till then has inspired a long line of teachers and practitioners up to the present day in which B.K.S. Iyengar is a known defender. With some translators he seems to be a dry and technical propounder of the philosophy, but with others he is an empathic and humorous witty friend and spiritual guide.
The Mahābhāṣya ("great commentary") of Patañjali on the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini is a major early exposition on Pāṇini, along with the somewhat earlier Varttika by Katyayana. Here he raises the issue of whether meaning ascribes to a specific instance or to a category:
- kim punar AkritiH padArthaH, Ahosvid dravyam.
- Now what is 'meaning' (artha) [of a word]? Is it a particular instance (dravya) or a general shape (Akriti)?
This discussion arises in Patanjali in connection with a sutra (Pāṇini 1.2.58) that states that a plural form may be used in the sense of the singular when designating a species (jAti).
Another aspect dealt with by Patanjali relates to how words and meanings are associated - Patanjali claims shabdapramâNaH - that the evidentiary value of words is inherent in them, and not derived externally - the word-meaning association is natural. The argument he gives is that people do not make an effort to manufacture words. When we need a pot, we ask the potter to make a pot for us. The same is not true of words - we do not usually approach grammarians and ask them to manufacture words for our use.  This is similar to the argument in the early part of Plato's Cratylus, where morphemes are described as natural, e.g. the sound 'l' is associated with softness.
Patanjali also defines an early notion of sphota, which would be elaborated considerably by later Sanskrit linguists like Bhartrihari. In Patanjali, a sphoTa (from sphuT, burst) is the invariant quality of speech. The noisy element (dhvani, audible part) can be long or short, but the sphoTa remains unaffected by individual speaker differences. Thus, a single letter or 'sound' (varNa) such as k, p or a is an abstraction, distinct from variants produced in actual enunciation. This concept has been linked to the modern notion of phoneme, the minimum distinction that defines semantically distinct sounds. Thus a phoneme is an abstraction for a range of sounds. However, in later writings, especially in Bhartrihari (6th century AD), the notion of sphoTa changes to become more of a mental state, preceding the actual utterance, akin to the lemma.
Patañjali's writings also elaborate some principles of morphology (prakriyā). In the context of elaborating on Pāṇini's aphorisms, he also discusses Kātyāyana's commentary, which are also aphoristic and sūtra-like; in the later tradition, these were transmitted as embedded in Patañjali's discussion. In general, he defends many positions of Pāṇini which were interpreted somewhat differently in Katyayana.
Metaphysics as grammatical motivation
Unlike Pāṇini's objectives in the Ashtyadhyayi which is to distinguish correct forms and meanings from incorrect ones (shabdaunushasana), Patanjali's objectives are more metaphysical. These include the correct recitations of the scriptures (Agama), maintaining the purity of texts (raksha), clarifying ambiguity (asamdeha), and also the pedagogic goal of providing an easier learning mechanism (laghu). This stronger metaphysical bent has also been indicated by some as one of the unifying themes between the Yoga Sutras and the Mahābhāṣya.
The text of the Mahābhāṣya had diversified somewhat in the late Sanskritic tradition, and the 19th-century orientalist Franz Kielhorn produced the first critical edition and developed philological criteria for distinguishing Kātyāyana's "voice" from Patañjali's. Subsequently a number of other texts have come out, the 1968 text by S.D. Joshi and J.H.F. Roodbergen often being considered definitive.
Patanjali also writes with a light touch. For example, his comment on the conflicts between the orthodox Brahminic (Astika) groups, versus the heterodox, nAstika groups (Buddhism, Jainism, and atheists) seems relevant for religious conflict even today: the hostility between these groups was like that between a mongoose and a snake. He also sheds light on contemporary events, commenting on the recent Greek incursion, and also on several tribes that lived in the Northwest regions of the subcontinent.
Transcendental Meditation program and Patanjali
Scholar of New Religious Movements George D. Chryssides, says that the TM-Sidhi Program taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is derived from Patañjali's Yoga and also that the TM-Sidhi Program is based directly on the theory and practice of the Yoga sutras using a technique of Sanyama.
- Jonardon Ganeri, Artha: Meaning, Oxford University Press 2006, 1.2, p. 12
- S. Radhakrishnan, and C.A. Moore, (1957). A Source Book in Indian Philosophy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University, ch. XIII, Yoga, p. 453
- Gavin A. Flood, 1996
- Mishra, Giridhar (1981). "प्रस्तावना [Introduction]" (in Sanskrit). अध्यात्मरामायणेऽपाणिनीयप्रयोगानां विमर्शः [Deliberation on non-Paninian usages in the Adhyatma Ramayana] (Ph.D.). Varanasi, India: Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. http://jagadgururambhadracharya.org/works/arapv/prastavana.php. Retrieved May 21 2013.
- Srimad Bhagavatam: Glossary of Sanskrit Terms
- P.8 Shankaracharya by Prem Lata
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, ed. James Haughton Woods, 1914, p. xv
- Patañjali; James Haughton Woods (transl.) (1914). The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali. Published for Harvard University by Ginn & Co. p. 434
- Stiles 2001, p. x.
- Mahābhāṣya, Joshi/Roodbergen: 1968, p. 68
- The word and the world: India's contribution to the study of language (1990). Bimal Krishna Matilal. Oxford. ISBN 0-19-562515-3.
- Romila Thapar, Interpreting Early India. Oxford University Press, 1992, p.63
- Chryssides, George D. (1999-12-01). Exploring new religions. London: Cassell. pp. 293–301. ISBN 978-0-8264-5959-6.
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