Knowing Patanjali, The 'Utmost Guru' Of Yoga

  • 30 Apr 2020

Nizha Periaswamy

Just like the Veda to the Hindus, Bible to Christians, Quran to Muslims, the yoga community has its own "holy guidance", in the form of Yoga Sutras, authored by Sage Patanjali. 

This sage is considered the utmost yoga guru, after Lord Shiva, the creator of yoga. 

Yoga Sutra is the first ever yoga scripture, which serves as the basis of the yoga system known as Raja Yoga - one of the six schools or darshanas of Hindu philosophy. It emphasizes the accomplishment of wisdom which falls beyond intellect, through meditation. 

It was also the most translated ancient Indian text in the medieval area, having been translated into about 40 Indian languages, and two non-Indian languages, namely Old Javanese and Arabic. Albeit falling into relative obscurity between the 12th and 17th century, the text was "revived" by Swami Vivekananda, among others, and gained prominence again in the 20th century.

Not much can be found about Sage Patanjali, but according to available records, he is believed to have lived in the 2nd century BC, while some scholars believe he lived in the 5th or 6th century BC.

According to the most version, Sage Patanjali is the reincarnation of Adi Sesha, Lord Vishnu's serpent. 

Legend says that Lord Vishnu, while seated on Adisesha, was captivated by the dancing of Lord Shiva, and the serpent also wanted to learn from Lord Shiva. 

Adisesha then sought a birth mother so that when Lord Shiva blesses him for his devotion, he could fulfill his own desire to master dance. 

A virtuous woman named Gonika, who was totally devoted to yoga, was then praying for a son to inherit her yoga knowledge. 

It was said that Adisesha was born to Gonika in the form of Patanjali. 

Sage Patanjali is said to have undergone a miraculous childhood, where he could fully connect and discuss many topics with high intelligence. His Yoga Sutra is also believed to have the ability to interpret itself differently according to the needs of the reader. 

Patanjali and Yoga Sutra gained prominence in the 20th century as the practice of Raja Yoga was popularised by modern yoga gurus, around the world. 

Raja Yoga is about improving physical health to complement the mind and body. In traditional Hinduism, yoga involves inner observation, hardcore meditation practice, ethics, metaphysics, and devotion to the one common soul - God, or Brahman. 

Perhaps it could by summarised by Sage Patanjali's definition of yoga - 'Chitta Vritti Nirodha', which means removing the fluctuations of the mind until it rests in a state of total and utter tranquility, so that one can experience life as it is: as reality.

Thus, it is fitting that Sage Patanjali is worshipped and celebrated by not only the Hindus, but yoga practitioners the world over. 

Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.

Photo source: Wikipedia

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