The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a foundational text of
Yoga. It forms part of the corpus of Sutra literature.
In Indian philosophy, Yoga (also Raja Yoga to
distinguish it from later schools) is the name of one of
the six orthodox philosophical schools. Though brief,
the Yoga Sutras are an enormously influential work on
yoga philosophy and practice, held by principal
proponents of yoga.
Pata˝jali fills each sutra with his experiential
intelligence, stretching it like a thread (sūtra), and
weaving it into a garland of pearls of wisdom to flavor
and savor by those who love and live in yoga.
Philosophical roots and influences
The Sutras are built on a foundation of Samkhya
philosophy and also exhibit the influence of Upanishadic,
Buddhist and Jain thought. Karel Werner writes that "Patanjali's
system is unthinkable without Buddhism. As far as its
terminology goes there is much in the Yoga Sutras that
reminds us of Buddhist formulations from the Pāli Canon
and even more so from the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma and
from Sautrāntika." Robert Thurman writes that
Patanjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist
monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the
version of thought he considered orthodox. The five
yamas or the constraints of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
bear an uncanny resemblance to the five major vows of
Jainism, indicating influence of Jainism. This
mutual influence between the Yoga philosophy and Jainism
is admitted by the author Vivian Worthington who writes:
"Yoga fully acknowledges its debt to Jainism, and
Jainism reciprocates by making the practice of yoga part
and parcel of life." Christopher Chappel also
notes that three teachings closely associated with
Jainism appear in Yoga: the doctrine of karma described
as colourful in both traditions; the telos of isolation
(kevala in Jainism and Kaivalyam in Yoga); and the
practice of non-violence (ahimsa). He also notes that
the entire list of five yamas (II:30) is identical with
the ethical precepts (Mahavratas) taught by Mahavira.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali prescribes adherence to
eight "limbs" or steps (the sum of which constitute "Ashtanga
Yoga", the title of the second chapter) to quiet one's
mind and achieve kaivalya. The Yoga Sutras form the
theoretical and philosophical basis of Raja Yoga, and
are considered to be the most organized and complete
definition of that discipline. The division into the
Eight Limbs (Sanskrit Ashtanga) of Yoga is reminiscent
of Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path; inclusion of
Brahmaviharas (Yoga Sutra 1:33) also shows Buddhism's
influence on parts of the Sutras.
The Sutras not only provide yoga with a thorough and
consistent philosophical basis, they also clarify many
important esoteric concepts which are common to all
traditions of Indian thought, such as karma.
Although Patanjali's work does not cover the many types
of Yogic practices that have become prevalent, its
succinct form and availability caused it to be pressed
into service by a variety of schools of Yogic thought.
The Sutras, with commentaries, have been published by a
number of successful teachers of Yoga, as well as by
academicians seeking to clarify issues of textual
variation. There are also other versions from a variety
of sources available on the Internet. The many versions
display a wide variation, particularly in translation.
The text has not been submitted in its entirety to any
rigorous textual analysis, and the contextual meaning of
many of the Sanskrit words and phrases remains a matter
of some dispute.
Patanjali divided his Yoga Sutras into 4 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. The author describes yoga and
then the nature and the means to attaining samādhi. This
chapter contains the famous definitional verse: "Yogaś
citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ" ("Yoga is the restraint of mental
* 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, sometimes called Karma Yoga, 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 Raja 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. The temptation of
these powers should be avoided and the attention should
be fixed only on liberation.
* 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 nature of
liberation and the reality of the transcendental self.
The eight limbs (ashtanga) of Raja Yoga
The eight "limbs" or steps prescribed in the second pada
of the Yoga Sutras are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama,
Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Ashtanga yoga consists of the following steps: The first
five are called external aids to Yoga (bahiranga sadhana)
* Yama: refers to the five abstentions. These are
the same as the five vows of Jainism.
* Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or
harm to others or even to one's ownself, it goes as far
as nonviolence in thought, word and deed.
* Satya: truth in word & thought.
* Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that
one should not even desire something that is not his
* Brahmacharya: abstain from sexual intercourse;
celibacy in case of unmarried people and monogamy in
case of married people. Even this to the extent that one
should not possess any sexual thoughts towards any other
man or woman except one's own spouse. It's common to
associate Brahmacharya with celibacy.
* Aparigraha: non-possessiveness
* Niyama refers to the five observances
* Shaucha: cleanliness of body & mind.
* Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one
* Tapas: austerity and associated observances for
body discipline & thereby mental control.
* Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to
know about God and the soul, which leads to
introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God
* Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of)
* Asana: Discipline of the body: rules and
postures to keep it disease-free and for preserving
vital energy. Correct postures are a physical aid to
meditation, for they control the limbs and nervous
system and prevent them from producing disturbances.
* Pranayama: control of breath. Beneficial to
health, steadies the body and is highly conducive to the
concentration of the mind.
* Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses from their
The last three levels are called internal aids to Yoga (antaranga
* Dharana: concentration of the citta upon a
physical object, such as a flame of a lamp, the mid
point of the eyebrows, or the image of a deity.
* Dhyana: steadfast meditation. Undisturbed flow of
thought around the object of meditation (pratyayaikatanata).
The act of meditation and the object of meditation
remain distinct and separate.
* Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation.
There is no distinction between act of meditation and
the object of meditation. Samadhi is of two kinds:
o Samprajnata Samadhi conscious samadhi. The mind
remains concentrated (ekagra) on the object of
meditation, therefore the consciousness of the object of
meditation persists. Mental modifications arise only in
respect of this object of meditation.
This state is of four kinds:
+ Savitarka: the Citta is concentrated upon a
gross object of meditation such as a flame of a lamp,
the tip of the nose, or the image of a deity.
+ Savichara: the Citta is concentrated upon a
subtle object of meditation , such as the tanmatras
+ Sananda: the Citta is concentrated upon a still
subtler object of meditation, like the senses.
+ Sasmita: the Citta is concentrated upon the
ego-substance with which the self is generally
o Asamprajnata Samadhi supraconscious. The citta
and the object of meditation are fused together. The
consciousness of the object of meditation is
transcended. All mental modifications are checked (niruddha),
although latent impressions may continue.
Combined simultaneous practice of Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna &
Samādhi is referred to as Samyama and is considered a
tool of achieving various perfections, or Siddhis.