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Patanjali is considered the patron saint of Yoga as a philosophical school, and partial or complete authorship of the Yoga Sutras, the first identifiable codification of Yoga as a spiritual practice, is ascribed to him. Patanjali, also referred to as Phanin or Sesha, which means ‘divine serpent’, likely lived in the 3rd or 2nd centuries BCE. Patanjali, as a title, rather than a proper name, generally means ‘Hindu scholar,’ and there are other writers of the same name, notably a grammarian and a physician, who may have been the same man.

Pantanjali's teachings positioned Yoga as one of the six "orthodox" (Veda-affirming) darsanas. It is often paired with another of the six, the Sankhya school, whose teachings it closely resembles. Sankhya is known for its dualistic metaphysics, in which prakriti ("matter") and purusa ("consciousness") are separate entities.

The Yoga Sutras, drawn from several existing sources, were compiled over many years, and some historians claim that the final chapter was added after the collection attributed to Patanjali. The anonymity of the individuals who worked on the Yoga Sutras is perhaps not so surprising, considering that they were more engaged in exploring spiritual and metaphysical truths than in promoting themselves.


  • Dasgupta, S.N. Hindu Mysticism. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd., 1977.
  • Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shree. Yoga: The Science of the Soul, Volume 1. Rajneeshpuram, Oregon: Rajneesh Foundation International, 1976.
  • Dvivedi, M. N. The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1980.