“Yoga is the cessation of the movements in the consciousness.” ~ Patanjali
The yogic sage Patanjali lived around 2,000 years ago. He is revered for his Yoga Sutras, 196 concise aphorisms that set forth the principles of yoga.
There is little definitive information on the life of Patanjali (pronounced “pat-TAN-ja-lee” with the “pa” as in “but”). It is known he was a teacher of yogic philosophy who resided in India sometime between 200 BC and 200 AD. Most researchers see the earlier date as the most likely. Patanjali was a Hindu with a background in Samkhya philosophy which was predominant at the time.
The Yoga Sutras were written for aspirants seeking knowledge in yoga, and Patanjali is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Yoga”.
The following legend associated with Patanjali:
One day the old woman Gonikft, who was barren, desired a son of her own. She fervently prayed to the God Vishnu, who was greatly moved by her devotion. With his permission the cosmic serpent Ananta, who serves Vishnu as an eternal couch and who had been meaning to incarnate on Earth, resolved to become Gonikft’s son.
As Gonikft was stretching her hands with upturned palms in prayer toward Heaven, a minute fragment of Ananta’s infinite body dropped straight into her palms. She immediately knew her prayers had been answered and she lovingly nursed the heavenly seed until it had grown into a young man. Because her hands had been in the prayerful gesture called anjali and because her son had fallen (pat) from Heaven, she called him Patanjali.
Invocation to Patanjali
Yogena chittasya padena vacham
Malam sharirasya cha vaidyakena
Yopakarottam pravaram muninam
Patanjalim pranjalir anato’smi
Shankha charkrasi dharinam
Sahasra shirasam svetam
To the noblest of sages Patanjali
Who gave us Yoga for serenity of mind
Grammar for purity of speech
An medicine for perfection of the boy, I bow
I prostrate before Patanjali
Whose upper body has a human form
Whose arms hold a conch and a disc
Who is crowned by a thousand headed cobra
O incarnation of Adisesa,
My salutations to Thee
Recommended reading: “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” by BKS Iyengar.