Our first article in the “Classical Yoga” series was on the basic unit of Hata Yoga – the Asana, and then, we looked at the being who introduced yoga to humankind, Adiyogi, the first yogi. This week, we examine another towering personality who is known as the Father of Modern Yoga – Patanjali.
He is often depicted as half-man and half-snake, with a hood of seven snakes. We know him to be the man who compiled the Yoga Sutras, the Sanskrit grammarian who wrote the Mahabhasya – a commentary on selected rules of Sanskrit grammar, and a work on Ayurveda as well. He is regarded as the Father of Modern Yoga… we are speaking of the unparalleled Maharishi Patanjali.
We saw in the previous instalment of this series that Shiva is the first yogi, with the highest understanding of human nature. However, Adiyogi never put anything down on paper. He chose seven people and transmitted different aspects of yoga to them – which became the seven basic forms of yoga. Over a period of time, these seven forms branched off into hundreds of systems. It came to a point where there were close to 1700 different schools of yoga. Seeing that it had gotten so complicated, Patanjali decided to assimilate the whole of yogic science into about 200 sutras. Everything that could be said about the inner mechanism of the human being was contained within these.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Sadhguru says, are just like a formula: “If you did not know the general theory of relativity, and I said E=mc2, it would just be three letters and a digit, isn’t it? Similarly, the sutras were written in such a way that they should not mean anything to a person who just reads it casually. Patanjali did not teach any practice. He made it in such a way that the sutra would mean something only for a person in a certain level of experience; otherwise it is just a bundle of words.”
Describing the opening lines of this phenomenal work, Sadhguru says, “When Patanjali wrote this great document on life, he started in a strange way. The first chapter was just half a sentence: “And now, yoga.” What he meant by this is – if you did the kind of job you wanted to, you got the kind of money you needed, you even got the kind of wife or husband you liked, but still you feel empty, the time for yoga has come. But if you still believe that everything will be okay by building a new house or getting another kind of job, it is not yet time for yoga. When you have seen everything and you know none of it will really fulfil you, once you have gotten to this point, ‘And now, yoga.’”
Patanjali is usually symbolized as half-man and half-snake because he is beyond the dualities of life. Sadhguru explains: “Patanjali is described as being half snake because he is so phenomenally sensitive to the way human energy can behave. He explored every aspect of human energy and looked at all the dimensions you can explore by transforming your energies. Because his sensitivity was so phenomenal, we said giving him two legs is not fair. He is like a snake, he could sense everything.”
There are so many aspects to Patanjali that scholars have found it difficult to believe that one man could have produced such wide-ranging works. Of his intellect, Sadhguru says: “If you look at his intellect and his mastery over a variety of subjects like mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, and music, it is almost impossible that a single human being could have had such a vast understanding of life. Today’s scholars are debating and saying, ‘It is not one man, there must have been many people. It is an accumulation of work.’ It is not so. It was one man. As an intellect, the great scientists of today would seem like kindergarteners in comparison to Patanjali. Anything that can ever be said about life, he said it. It is not fair actually because whatever you try to say, he has already said it. He did not leave anything for anybody to say.”