Patanjali – The yoga sutras
Over the generations, the science of Yoga took on a life of its own and branched off into hundreds of systems. When Patanjali came, he saw that it had become too complex and diversified for anyone to grasp in a meaningful way. So, he codified all aspects of Yoga into a certain format known as ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. This is a collection of 196 sutras on yoga. And so, Patanjali is known as the father of modern Yoga.
“Sutra” literally means “a thread”. Or, in modern language, we can say it is like a formula. Anyone who knows the English alphabet can say “E=mc²”. But, there is an enormous amount of science behind that little formula which most people cannot understand. The sutras are like this. Out of ignorance, people have interpreted these sutras in very superficial ways and have tried to implement them in their lives accordingly. The thread is vital for a necklace or a garland, but it is not a goal by itself. No one ever wears a garland for the sake of the thread. It was for each spiritual master to put his own kind of flowers, beads, pearls, diamonds, or whatever else in the garland.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the most tremendous documents about life in the world, and also the most uninteresting. It is the driest and dullest book you could possibly read. Patanjali did this intentionally; though his mastery of language and composition was matchless, he wrote it in a way that no scholar would find it appealing. If people appreciate the literary, poetic aspects of the work, then all kinds of people would naturally read and misinterpret it. They would miss the fundamental purpose of the sutra – a formula to open up life. The sutra means something only to a person who is in a certain level of experience, and who wants to explore his consciousness. Each sutra is a method. You do not have to read all of them. If just one sutra becomes a reality within you, it will take you into a completely new dimension of experience.
There are eight ‘limbs’ to the Yoga Sutras, each describing a different aspect of the path of Yoga, and a different step on the ladder to realisation. These are commonly known as the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’: