Who Was Patanjali and Why Is He Important to Yoga?
If you have taken enough yoga classes and you’ll eventually hear one of your teachers quote from the book named Yoga Sutra, which is the guidebook of classical, or raja (royal), yoga.
Written at least 1,700 years ago, it’s made up of 195 aphorisms (sutras, formulas) or words of wisdom. But if you are new to Yoga and a question arises to your mind that do, we know anything about Patanjali, the man who supposedly compiled these verses?
Who Was Patanjali, the Sage Behind the Yoga Sutra?
The truth is that nobody really knows much about Patanjali. We don’t even know exactly when the sage lived. Some practitioners believe he lived around the second century BCE and also wrote significant works on Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of medicine) and Sanskrit grammar, making him some sort of a Renaissance man, a genius per excellence till today.
But on the basis of analyses of the language and the teaching of the yoga sutra, modern scholars place Patanjali in the second or third century CE.”
You Might Have Heard a Myth or Two About Patanjali’s Birth
Like many tales about the world’s spiritual heroes, the story of Patanjali’s birth has assumed mythic dimensions. One version relates that in order to teach yoga on earth, he fell from heaven in the form of a little snake, into the upturned palms (a hand gesture known as anjali) of his virgin mother, Gonika, herself a powerful yogini. He’s regarded as an incarnation of the thousand-headed serpent-king named Remainder (Shesha) or Endless (Ananta), whose coils are said to support the god Vishnu.
Patanjali Might Have Been Several People
It seems odd to us, in this time of superstar teachers with their eponymous schools of So-and-So Yoga, that so little is known about Patanjali.
But anonymity is typical of the great sages of ancient India. They recognized that their teaching was the outcome of a cooperative group effort that spanned several generations, and they refused to take credit for themselves, often attributing their work to some other, older teacher.
If you want to learn more about Patanjali: Vedamrita’s Founder Guruji Neeraj Ji, PhD, and its co-founder Guruji Shubham Barwala ji are creating a 10 week interactive online course on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. If you are interested in such a course feel free to comment below.
Through the study of this fundamental text with more than 10+ years of combined yoga teaching experience of our both guruji’s, this course will support you in deepening your practice and broadening your understanding of yoga.
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