Patanjali, Patron Saint of Dance

“A first achievement, which is not surprising given the tales of his parentage, is his recognition as a truly great dancer. To this day dancers in India working in the classical traditions invoke him and pay him their respects. Patañjali, therefore, is effectively the patron saint of dance.” – Kofi Busia


Patanjali, half-man, half-serpent

This is a longer quote from Kofi’s writings:

Almost Everything About Patanjali is Unknown

A Biography of Patanjali written by Kofi Busia, Yoga Teacher and pupil of BKS Iyengar

“Almost everything about Patañjali is unknown. Even his most basic biographical details are disputed. And of the little that is known, much is mired in myth.

“The dates proposed for Patañjali's birth and life vary by a millennium. Some authorities suggest that he lived and flourished in the 4th century BCE, while others insist that he must have lived in the 6th century CE. A part of the reason for this wide divergence in possible dates is the tradition, common at the time (it existed also in contemporary Greek society and still causes endless problems for historians), to ascribe anything worth saying to someone already acknowledged as a great exponent. In order to make their contributions more acceptable, and to give them some cachet and an air of authority, later thinkers were frequently content to concede authorship of their contributions to one or another of their more illustrious predecessors. Those predecessors thus acquired an exaggerated longevity. In the face of the conflicting evidence the best that can now be done is to come up with a consensus for the most likely dates for Patañjali's birth and death. Given that the knowledge in Patañjali's most widely recognized work, the Yoga Sutras, is presented through a series of terse aphorisms, a date for him of somewhere between the fourth and second centuries BCE becomes highly likely. It was over that period that the aphorism style not only gained extensive acceptance, but reached probably its greatest stylistic peak. Patañjali's work is widely regarded as the finest example extant of the sutra method of presentation. Give or take a century, therefore, somewhere around 250 BCE seems the best bet.

“As portrayed in the photograph above, Lord Patañjali is reckoned to be an incarnation of the serpent Ananta, whose name means 'the endless one' -- and who is another form of Adisesa. The Lord Vishnu sits upon Adisesa before the beginning of creation. Patañjali himself is generally depicted as half human and half serpent, with the human torso emerging from the coils of the all-powerful serpent who is awakening in the moment of creation. The serpent embodies that creative energy. Patañjali's hands are in the traditional Indian greeting of 'namaste' -- sometimes called an 'añjali' or offering. Since 'pata' means fallen, 'Patañjali' can be roughly translated as 'the grace (or "the grace-full one") that falls from heaven'. The lord is generally depicted in a meditative trance. His folded hands are both blessing and greeting those who have approached him seeking yoga and its truths. His salutation eases their labours with its grace. It also assures them that those labours will eventually bear fruit. Patañjali in fact has not two, but four hands. The two immediately in front of him create the blessings of the añjali while the other two are raised. One of the uplifted hands holds sankha, the conch that embodies the energy of sound. It both calls students to practice and announces the imminent ending of the world as they have so far known it. His other uplifted hand holds the cakra or discus that embodies both the turning wheel of time and its associated law of cause and effect.

“When it comes to determining what Patañjali did, the uncertainties continue. A first achievement, which is not surprising given the tales of his parentage, is his recognition as a truly great dancer. To this day dancers in India working in the classical traditions invoke him and pay him their respects. Patañjali, therefore, is effectively the patron saint of dance.

“As to the question of originality, although Patañjali (at least, as evidenced in his Yoga Sutras) is clearly of the lineage of Hiranyagarbha and Kapila, he does differ from them in important respects. This could have been because he had genuinely had ideas of his own. But yoga was strongly associated with the shramana tradition, these being wandering forest mendicants and seekers. It therefore encouraged independence of thought. So Patañjali could just as well have been trying to bring order to a system with widely divergent methods. Some insist that 'all' he did was bring together and summarize a varied body of texts most of which have now been lost. Whatever was his inspiration, Patañjali does seem to have propounded many ideas that were not of the mainstream in either Sankhya or Yoga.”

Patanjali Wiki:

Patañjali (Devanāgarī पतञ्जलि) is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, a major work containing aphorisms on the philosophical aspects of mind and consciousness, and also the author of a major commentary on Panini's Ashtadhyayi, although many scholars do not consider these two texts to have been written by the same individual. In recent decades the Yoga Sutra has become quite popular worldwide for the precepts regarding practice of Raja Yoga and its philosophical basis. "Yoga" in traditional Hinduism involves inner contemplation, a rigorous system of meditation practice, ethics, metaphysics, and devotion to the one common soul, God, or Brahman.Desiring to teach yoga to the world, he is said to have fallen (pat-) from heaven into the open palms (-añjali) of a woman, hence the name Patañjali.[edit]Patañjali as an incarnationIt is claimed that Patañjali is known to be an incarnation of Ādi S'esha who is the first ego-expansion of Vishnu, Sankarshana. Sankarshana, the manifestation of Vishnu His primeval energies and opulences, is part of the so-called catur vyūha, the fourfold manifestation of Vishnu. Thus may Patañjali be considered as the one incarnation of God defending the ego of yoga.[edit]His lifeThere are very many disputes about the background of Patanjali Maharishi but the works of his contemporary Thirumoolar are ample proof of the following detail. The ancient Kali Kautuvam describes how Patanjali and Vyagrapada gathered along with the gods in Thillai near Chidambaram to watch Shiva and Kali dance and perform the 108 mystic Karanas, which formed the foundation for the system of Natya Yoga.Patanjali was born to Atri (First of the Saptha Rishis) and his wife Anusuya in South Kailash, now called as Thirumoorthy hills which is located 100km away from Coimbatore, India. He was one of the very important of the 18 siddhas.Their very essence was they were masters of Ashtanga Yoga which is in ways related to Raja Yoga or Kundalini Yoga or Tantra yoga.Anasuya had to go through a stern test of her chastity when the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Siva) themselves came as Bhikshuks and asked her for a Nirvana Bhiksha. She passed their test by accepting themselves as her children and fed them in naked. She got the boon where all the 3 Murtis will be born to them. They were:SomaSkandan or PatanjaliDattatreyaDurvasaThey also had a daughter called Arundhati. She was married to Vasistha, one of the saptarishis.

Interesting article from Yoga Journal:

Who was Patanjali?

By Richard Rosen
Take enough yoga classes and you'll eventually hear one of your teachers quote from the Yoga Sutra, which is the guidebook of classical, or raja (royal), yoga. Written at least 1,700 years ago, it's made up of 195 aphorisms (sutras), or words of wisdom. But do you know anything about Patanjali, the person who supposedly compiled these verses?

The truth is that nobody really knows much—not even exactly when the sage lived. Some practitioners believe he lived around the second century BCE and also wrote significant works on Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of medicine) and Sanskrit grammar, making him something of a Renaissance man. But based on their analyses of the language and the teaching of the sutras, modern scholars place Patanjali in the second or third century CE and ascribe the medical essays and grammar to various other Patanjalis.

Like many tales about the world's spiritual heroes, the story of Patanjali's birth has assumed mythic dimensions. One version relates that in order to teach yoga on earth, he fell from heaven in the form of a little snake, into the upturned plans (a gesture known as anjali) of his virgin mother, Gonika, herself a powerful yogini. Here he's regarded as an incarnation of the thousand-headed serpent-king named Remainder (Shesha) or Endless (Ananta), whose coils are said to support the god Vishnu.

It seems odd to us, in this time of superstar teachers with their eponymous schools of So-and-So Yoga, that so little is known about Patanjali. But anonymity is typical of the great sages of ancient India. They recognized that their teaching was the outcome of a cooperative group effort that spanned several generations, and they refused to take credit for themselves, often attributing their work to some other, older teacher.
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