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Patanjali Yog Darshan - Yoga Philosophy

The essence of Yoga Sutras by Patanjali 

Yoga Darshana as represented by Yoga Sutras was given by Maharishi Patanjali. Yoga Sutras is considered the basic text of Yoga. These Sutras elaborate an Ashtanga system of 8 limbs. Yoga Sutras are divided into 4 chapters or Padas as Follows


Samadhi Pada         51 Sutras

Sadhana Pada         55 Sutras

Vibhuti Pada           55 Sutras

Kaivalya Pada         34 Sutras


Total 195 sutras . Some versions contain 196 sutras also.

Patanjali defines Yoga as 1.2 Chitta Vritti Nirodaha. He gives out the aim of Yoga at the start of the first chapter itself, the rest of the Sutras deal with practices and introduction to reaching this goal. let`s examine these 3 words briefly

Chitta and states of Chitta ( The mind Field)

 This means the mind field (consciousness) consisting of the Manas ( mind ) Buddhi ( intellect),  Samskaras ( memory impressions ) and Ahamkara (ego). Chitta is Trigunamaka which means 3 Gunas of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Depending on the domination of Chitta by these Gunas we have five states of Chitta


  1. Kshipta: In this state, Chitta is restless and roving due to the domination of Rajas Guna.

  2. Mudha: Mind that is involved in stupid things due to excess of Tamas. This is a dull forgetful, blinded Chitta with the least concentration.

  3. Vikshipta: Chitta oscillates between opposites.

  4. Ekagra: Concentrated, one-pointed Chitta. Sattvik Guna dominates and the other 2 Gunas are in a suppressed state. This state of Chitta is suitable for meditation.

  5. Niruddha: In this state of Chitta, the 3 Gunas are obstructed and most Vrittis are controlled. It's a no-mind state. This is the state of Chitta suitable for Samadhi.


1.30 व्याधिस्त्यानसंशयप्रमादालस्याविरतिभ्रान्तिदर्शनालब्धभूमिकत्वानवस्थितत्वानि  चित्तविक्षेपास्तेऽन्तरायाः

1.30 Vyādhi styana saṁsaya pramāda-alasya-avirati bhrāntidarśana-alabdha bhūmikatva-anavasthitatvāni citta-vikṣepāḥ te antarāyāḥ


Chitta Vikshepas

Chitta Vikshepas refer to distractions of mind since a distracted mind would be an obstacle to the path of Yoga. Patanjali gives the term Antarayah as an obstacle to the Chitta becoming Ekagra or Niruddha. Patanjali names 9 obstacles which are as follows :


-Vyadhi            Physical sickness

-Styan               Mental lethargy.

-Samsaya         Doubt.

-Pramada        Misplaced priorities

-Alasya             Laziness

-Avirati            Attachment to sense objects

-Bhranti           Illusion


-Alabdha          Ungrounded.


-Anvastitatva   Losing firm ground.


Patanjali prescribes Japa of Pranava or OM for getting rid of these obstacles. These obstacles are accompanied by some signs and symptoms called Vikshepa Sahabhuvas. These are as follows :

  1. Dukha                       Sorrow

  2. Daur-manasaya      Despair

  3. Angamejayatva       Shaky limbs

  4. Shvas-prashvas       Shallow breathing


In order to deal with these accompaniments, Patanjali prescribes the practice of one principle which could be understood as Ashtanga Yoga. ( Yoga Sutra 1:32 )


Vritti  or Thought patterns  


This means literally a whirlpool. We can also understand this as thought patterns that arise when the mind contacts the external world through the action of sense organs. Vritti can also have an internal source too like the thoughts generated during sleep and dreams. Vrittis are five types, painful and non-painful


1.5 वृत्तयः पञ्चतय्यः क्लिष्टाक्लिष्टाः         

1.5 vr̥ttayaḥ pañcatayyaḥ kliṣṭākliṣṭāḥ


There are five types of mental modifications,  painful or painless.


1.6 प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतयः           

1.6 pramāṇa viparyaya vikalpa nidrā smr̥tayaḥ


Right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fancy, sleep, and memory


  1. Pramana ( Right Knowledge )

1.7 प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि                 

1.7 pratyakṣa-anumāna-āgamāḥ pramāṇāni


Perception, Inference, and Testimony Constitute the Pramanas.

    2. Viparyaya ( Wrong Knowledge )

1.8 विपर्ययो मिथ्याज्ञानमतद्रूपप्रतिष्ठम्         

1.8 viparyayo mithyā-jñānam-atadrūpa pratiṣṭham 


Indiscrimination is false knowledge not established in real nature


   3. Vikalpa ( Fancy or Imagination )

1.9 शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः        

1.9 śabda-jñāna-anupātī vastu-śūnyo vikalpaḥ


An image conjured up by words without any substance behind it is fancy


   4. Nidra (Sleep )

1.10 अभावप्रत्ययालम्बना वृत्तिर्निद्रा             

1.10 abhāva pratyayālambanā vr̥ttirnidrā


Modification supported by cognition of nothingness is sleep.


   5. Smriti ( Memory )

1.11 अनुभूतविषयासंप्रमोषः स्मृतिः             

1.11 anu-bhūta-viṣaya-asaṁpramoṣaḥ smr̥tiḥ


Memory is not allowing an object which has been experienced to escape.

1.12 अभ्यासवैराग्याभ्यां तन्निरोधः                          

1.12 abhyāsa vairāgyābhyām tannirōdhaḥ


Their control is by practice and non – attachment.


Further, Patanjali describes what is Abhyasa and vairagya and the effect of their practice.



  1.13   Practice (Abhyasa) is the effort to maintain the state of Chitta Vritti  Nirodaha.


  1.14   Practice becomes firmly grounded with constant effort and devotion


  1.15    Non - attachment ( Vairagyam) is the sign of mastery over the craving for sensuous objects


  1.16    The higher vairagya is no craving even to Gunas of Prakriti due to the realization of  Purusha.

Samprajnat & Asamprajnat Samadhi

  1.17     Samprajnat Samadhi is achieved by the help of vitarka (opinion),vichara  (reflection), Ananda (bliss), and realization of the oneness of self (I am-ness) and Purusha.


  1.18     The other Samadhi is attained by the constant practice of cessation of all mental support activity, in which the Chitta retains only the latent impressions. (Asamprajnat Samadhi)


Panch Kleshas

(5 Painful mental afflictions)

These moods or Vrittis are Klishta or  Aklishta. Krishna Vrittis cause suffering and pain and generate Karma Samskaras, they keep man bound in a cycle of birth & death. These Kleshas which cause the Klishta Vrittis are five in numbers and they are :


2.3 अविद्यास्मितारागद्वेषाभिनिवेशाः क्लेशाः

2.3  avidyā-asmitā-rāga-dveṣa-abhiniveśaḥ kleśāḥ


Ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and clinging to bodily life are the five obstacles.



2.4 अविद्याक्षेत्रमुत्तरेषां प्रसुप्ततनुविच्छिन्नोदाराणाम्

2.4 Avidya kṣetram-uttareṣam prasupta-tanu-vicchinn-odaraṇam


Ignorance is the productive field of all these that follow, whether they are dormant, attenuated, overpowered, or expanded.


1. Avidya (Ignorance )  :       


2.5 अनित्याशुचिदुःखानात्मसु नित्यशुचिसुखात्मख्यातिरविद्या

2.5 anitya-ashuci-duḥkha-anatmasu nitya-shuci-sukha- atmakhyatir-avidya


Taking as eternal, pure, happiness and self, that is non-eternal, impure, unhappiness and non-self respectively.


2. Asmita ( Sense of I or ego )  

2.6 दृग्दर्शन शक्त्योरेकात्मतेवास्मिता

2.6 dr̥g-darshana-shaktyor-ekatmata-iva-asmita.


Asmita Is The Identification Of Purusa Or seerWith Buddhi or mind-body complex.

3. Raga  ( Attachment )            

2.7 सुखानुशयी रागः         

2.7 sukha-anuśayī rāgaḥ


Attachment is that which dwells on pleasure.


4. Dvesha  ( Aversion )             

2.8 दुःखानुशयी द्वेषः       

2.8 duḥkha-anuśayī dveṣaḥ


Aversion to that which is painful or aversion is that which dwells on pain.


5. Abhinivesha (clinging to life)     


2.9 स्वरसवाही विदुषोऽपि तथारूढो भिनिवेशः

2.9 Svarasvahi viduṣo-‘pi samaruḍho-‘bhinivesaḥ


Clinging to life, flowing by its own potency [due to past experience], exists even in the wise.


When the root of Kleshas is present, the storehouse of our karmas fructifies into future lives. Due to the presence of these Kleshas, Karma Samskaras give rise to birth in specific life forms, life spans and our bundle of joys and pains in that life. These Kleshas manifest in human beings in four degrees :


4 Stages of Kleshas

  1. Prasupta         (dormant)

  2. Tanu                 (weak)

  3. Vichhina         (oscillating)

  4. Udara               (abundant).


2.1 तपःस्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि क्रियायोगः

2.1 Tapaḥ Swadhyay-eshvarapraṇidhanani kriya-yogaḥ

Austerity, self-study, and surrender to Isvara is kriya Yoga.

2.2 समाधिभावनार्थः क्लेशतनूकरणार्थश्च

2.2  samādhi-bhāvana-arthaḥ kleśa tanū-karaṇa-arthaś-ca

For Bringing About Samadhi And Minimising The Kleshas.

Patanjali prescribes the practice of Kriya Yoga, which is   Tapa (austerities) Swadhyaya (self-study) and Ishvar pranidhana ( surrender to God ) for making Kleshas Tanu from an Udara or Vichhina state.



 Vrittis are our mental response to external/internal stimuli. Mental responses are in the form of waves. The stimuli come via contact of senses with the external world in the form of attraction distraction joy sorrow etc. The ego-sense identifies with these thought waves and thinks - I am happy -  when happy thoughts arise or - I am sad - when painful thoughts arise. This wrong identification of the ego-sense with the I or indweller or Purusha is the cause of all miseries. Purusha cannot be affected by thought waves as it is eternal, pure, enlightened and free.




Simply means stopping, cessation, eliminating or dissolution ~  of thought patterns or Vrittis in Chitta We already know the 5 Vrittis. Of these 5 Vrittis, a question may arise about the right knowledge and sleep. These two are also Vrittis and generate Samskaras which generate more Vrittis and these Vrittis generate more samskaras, keeping man bound in a seemingly infinite cycle. All Vrittis must be stopped eventually including good Vrittis. Only when Vrittis arise does Chitta come into existence and because of that, there is the false identification of Chitta with the Purusha or the real self, leading to miseries and sufferings. With Nirodaha of all Vrittis, the Purusha (seer) is established in its own nature.

Yog Darshan

The 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga 



2.28 योगाङ्गाऽनुष्ठानादशुद्धिक्षये ज्ञानदीप्तिराविवेकख्यातेः

2.28  yoga-anga-anusthanad-ashuddhi-kshaye Gyana-deeptir-aviveka-khyateḥ


From the practice of the component exercises of Yoga, on the destruction of impurity, arises spiritual illumination which develops into awareness of Reality.


2.29 यमनियमासनप्राणायामप्रत्याहारधारणाध्यानसमाधयोऽष्टावङ्गानि

2.29 yama niyama-asana praṇayama pratyahara dharana dhyana samadhayo -     ashṭavangani 


1. Yama 2. Niyama 3. Asana 4. Pranayama 5. Pratyahara 6. Dharana 7. Dhyana  8. Samadhi   

are 8 limbs.




These refer to our observances and restraints that regulate our interactions with others. These are part of our social discipline.                       


The five Yamas are :



2.30 अहिंसासत्यास्तेयब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहा यमाः 

2.30 Ahimsa-Satya-Asteya Brahmacharya-aparigraha Yamaha


  • Ahimsa: 

Non-violence in thought, words, and deeds.

2.35 अहिंसाप्रतिष्ठायां तत्सन्निधौ वैरत्यागः

2.35 Ahiṁsa-pratisthayam tat-sannidhau vairatyaghah


In presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease.    


  •  Satya: 

Truth & truthfulness


2.36 सत्यप्रतिष्ठायां क्रियाफलाश्रयत्वम्

2.36 Satya-pratiṣthayaṁ kriya-Phala-asrayatvam

Established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.

  • Asteya: 

Non-stealing of material or non-material things.


2.37 अस्तेयप्रतिष्ठायां सर्वरत्नोपस्थानम्   

2.37 Asteya pratiṣṭhayam sarvaratn opasthanam


When Non-Stealing Is Established All Jewels Present Themselves.

  • Brahmacharya: 

Moderation in sensual and sexual pleasures. Etymologically it refers to walking the path of Braham or true path.


2.38 ब्रह्मचर्यप्रतिष्ठायां वीर्यलाभः

2.38 Brahmacharya pratiṣṭhayam virya-labhah


By the establishment of continence, energy is gained.


  •  Aprigraha :   

Non-possessiveness or non-hoarding or Non-covetousness


2.39 अपरिग्रहस्थैर्ये जन्मकथंतासंबो

2.39 Aparigraha-sthairye janma-kathanta sambodhah


Non-covetousness established, knowledge of past & future births Arises.      

2.31 जातिदेशकालसमयानवच्छिन्नाः सार्वभौमा महाव्रतम्

2.31 Jati-Desha-Kala-Samaya-anavacchinnaḥ sarvabhauma-mahavratam 


These Great Vows are universal, not limited by class, place, time or circumstance.


Patanjali declares these as the Grand Universal Oath to be followed by all irrespective of caste, country, time and circumstances. About controlling the mind he says :


2.33 वितर्कबाधने प्रतिपक्षभावनम्.            

2.33 Vitarka-badhane pratipraksha-bhavanam

When the mind is disturbed by improper thoughts constant pondering over the opposites is the remedy.


2.34 वितर्का हिंसादयः कृतकारितानुमोदिता लोभक्रोधमोहपूर्वका मृदुमध्याधिमात्रा दुःखाज्ञानानन्तफला     इति प्रतिपक्षभावनम्

2.34 Vitarka hinsadayah kr̥ta-karita-anumodita lobha-krodha-moha- apurvaka mr̥du-madhya adhimātrā duḥkha-agyana-ananta-phala iti pratipakṣa-bhavanam.


Thought actions like violence etc, done by self, abetted or approved, done due to anger greed or delusion, whether mild, moderate or Intense, result in pain misery & Ignorance. Pondering over, this is the Contrary Thought.




This refers to observances and restraints that govern an individual`s life. These form the personal discipline for the Sadhak.

These five Niyamas are as follows :


2.32  शौचसंतोषतपःस्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि नियमाः

2.32  Sauca saṁtoṣa tapaḥ svādhyāy-eśvarapraṇidhānāni niyamāḥ


Purity, contentment, austerity, self-study, and self-surrender are Niyamas.



  1. Saucha: 


Physical and mental purity/hygiene.


2.33 शौचात् स्वाङ्गजुगुप्सा परैरसंसर्गः

2.33 Shauchat svanga-jugupsa paraira-sansargah


Practice Of Purification brings indifference towards own body and aversion to contact with other bodies.


2.41 सत्त्वशुद्धिसौमनस्यैकाग्र्येन्द्रियजयात्मदर्शनयोग्यत्वानि च 

2.41 Sattva-śuddhiḥ saumanasya-ikāgry-endriyajaya-ātmadarśana yogyatvāni ca

The purity of sattva, cheerfulness of mind, one-pointedness, mastery over the senses, and fitness for Self-realization.


  2. Santosha: 

Contentment ~ an ever-present contented state of mind

2.42 संतोषादनुत्तमसुखलाभः 

2.42 Santoshat-anuttamas-sukhalabhah


Contentment brings a gain of superlative happiness.


  3. Tapa: 

Austerities, penance, etc. Using what is necessary for existence.

2.43 कायेन्द्रियसिद्धिरशुद्धिक्षयात्तपसः॥४३॥ 

2.43 Kayendriya-siddhir-ashuddhi-kshayat tapasaḥ


The perfection of sense-organs & body upon the destruction of impurity by tapa.


  4. Swadhyay :               


2.44 स्वाध्यायादिष्टदेवतासंप्रयोगः॥४४॥ 

2.44 Svadhyayad-ishṭa-devata samprayogaḥ

By self-study union with the desired deity.


  5.  Ishwar Pranidhana

Complete surrender to Ishwara

2.45 समाधिसिद्धिरीश्वरप्रणिधानात्

2.45 samadhi siddhir-ishvarapraṇidhanat


From Devotion To God, Samadhi Is Attained





Patanjali devotes only 3 sutras to asanas out of 195. he defines asana as

2.46 स्थिरसुखमासनम्

2.46 . Sthira sukham asanam"  


Asana is a posture that is stable and comfortable.


As regards the methodology of asana he says


2.47 यत्नशैथिल्यानन्त्यसमापत्तिभ्याम्                                 

2.47. Prayatna shaitilya ananta samapattibhyam


It has to become effortless and mind is absorbed in infinity.


About the effect of asana practice he says :


2.48 ततो द्वन्द्वानभिघातः

2.48. Tataha dvandva anabhighata     


From that, there is victory over assailment of conflicts and dualities of life like heat/cold, joys/ sorrows, attachments/aversions, etc.                         


The effect of Asanas is thus mental in nature as freedom from conflicts.





2.49 तस्मिन् सति श्वासप्रश्वास्योर्गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः

2.49 Tasmin sati svasa prasvasyor gati vicchedah pranayamah


On this being established, stopping the movement of inhalation & exhalation is Pranayama.

2.50 बाह्याअभ्यन्तरस्थम्भ वृत्तिः देशकालसन्ख्याभिः परिदृष्टो दीर्घसूक्ष्मः

2.50 Bahya-abhyantara-sthambha vr̥ttir Desha-Kala-sankhyābhih paridr̥sto dīrgha-sūkṣmaḥ

Exhalation inhalation retention is regulated gradually by place, time & number to become long and  subtle

2.51 बाह्याभ्यन्तरविषयाक्षेपी चतुर्थः

2.52 Bahya-abhyantara viṣaya-akṣepi caturthaḥ

The fourth is restraining the Prana by directing it either to the external or internal objects.

2.52 ततः क्षीयते प्रकाशावरणम्

2.52 tataḥ kṣhiyate prakāsha-avaraṇam.

Then the cover over the light of truth dissolves

2.53 धारणासु च योग्यता मनसः

2.53 dharaṇasu ca yogyata manasaḥ.

The mind becomes fit for Dharana.


1.34 प्रच्छर्दनविधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य॥३४॥ 

1.34 Pracchardana-vidhāraṇa-ābhyāṁ vā prāṇasya


By retaining breath after exhalation also the mind is calmed. (about Chitta prasadanam, after removal of Antarayas, 

from 1.32 &1.33)


The orientation of Pranayama is more towards retention rather than inhalation/exhalation as in Hatha Yoga. He talks about 4 types of Pranayama. Modification of inhalation, exhalation, retention and fourth which transcends the subject matter of inhalation and exhalation also called Kevala Kumbhaka.


 Pranayama practices make the mind fit for Dharana




2.54 स्वविषयासंप्रयोगे चित्तस्य स्वरूपानुकार इवेन्द्रियाणां प्रत्याहारः

2.54 Svaviṣaya-asaṁprayoge cittasya svarūpānukāra-iv-endriyāṇāṁ pratyāhāraḥ.


The drawing in of the sense organs is by their giving up their own objects and taking the form of the mind-stuff.


Withdrawal of senses from their objects is Pratyahara like a tortoise withdraws limbs into the shell. This limb is a bridge between the first four limbs which are called Bahiranga (external) and last three limbs which are called Antarang (internal) Yoga. Pratyahara marks the transition of mind from being extroverted to being introverted. Pratyahara is a process of retracting the sensory experience from external objects. Pratyahara is not consciously closing one's eyes to the sensory world, it is consciously closing one's mind processes to the sensory world. Pratyahara empowers one to stop being controlled by the external world, fetch one's attention to seek self-knowledge and experience the freedom innate in one's inner world.



3.1 देशबन्धश्चित्तस्य धारणा॥१॥ 

3.1 Deśa-bandhash cittasya dhāraṇā


Dharana is holding the mind to one place, object or idea.


Patanjali defines Dharana as ~Desh bandha chittasya dharana~ Confining Chitta to one place or object of one's choice is Dharana. He says one can do Dharana on any object. This is the first stage of meditation where one learns to keep wandering mind on one object. One moves from Dharana on gross objects to Dharana on subtler objects. Patanjali has given a long list of objects and their effects or results of meditation on these objects.



3.2 तत्र प्रत्ययैकतानता ध्यानम्

3.2  Tatra pratyaya-ika-tānatā dhyānam


Dhyana is the continuous flow of thoughts toward that object.


Patanjali defines Dhyana as (tattra pratyaya ektanta dhyanam) in concentration when there is stretching of only one experience it is Dhyana. In Dharana, all efforts are made to keep distractions away. When these efforts succeed and there are no distractions and mind is absorbed in the object of meditation then that state is Dhyana.



3.3 तदेवार्थमात्रनिर्भासं स्वरूपशून्यमिव समाधिः॥३॥ 

3.3 Tadeva-artha-mātra-nirbhāsaṁ svarūpa-śūnyam-iva-samādhiḥ


Samadhi is when only the object shines forth devoid of all sense of the subject (seers).


Patanjali defines Samadhi as ~ tat Eva Artha matra nirbhasam swaroopa shoonyam iva samadhihi ~  That itself is Samadhi when the self-nature is as if not there and the object shines forth or reveals itself. In Sanyama (Dharana Dhyana samadhi ) there are 3 elements ~ the Meditator, the object meditated upon and the process of meditation. In the state of Samadhi, the Meditator and process of meditation as if disappear and only the object of meditation shines forth. Patanjali explicitly mentions many types of Samadhi. Sabeeja Samadhi, Nirbeeja Samadhi, and Dharma Megha Samadhi are few of them and Nirbeeja Samadhi is the ultimate aim of a true Yogi. 



3.4 त्रयमेकत्र संयमः॥४॥ 

3.4 Trayam-ekatra saṁyamaḥ


Holding the three (Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) together on one Object is samyama.


Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi together are termed as Samyama. They are stages in the process of Samyama which leads to various Siddhis ( supernatural accomplishments). The practice of  Ashtanga Yoga when done with fervor and determination, leads to the disappearance of impurities, Gunas and samskaras, the illumination of knowledge, which develops to the point of Viveka Khyati (Enlightened discrimination between Purusha and Prakriti).

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