Patanjali (पतञ्जलि, Patañjali)
Patanjali or Phanindra (1) (फणीन्द्र, Phaṇīndra) (2nd c. BCE (2)) is considered as the father of Yoga (योग, Yoga). As a great Philosopher and the propounder of the philosophy of Yoga or the Yoga-darshana (3) (योगदर्शन, Yoga-darśana ), Patanjali compiled an ancient text of Yoga called the Yogasutra (योगसूत्र, Yogasūtra) which is considered as the definitive reference on Yoga. The Yogasutra constitutes the basis and reference for the six schools of Indian Philosophy which are derived from the Veda-s (4).
In the legendary tradition, Patanjali is believed to be an incarnation of Ananta (Ananta, अनन्त) also known as sesha (शेष, śeṣa), the thousand-headed ruler of the serpent race and an incarnation of all wisdom or Jnana (ज्ञान, Jñāna), who guards the hidden treasures of the earth. Many Yogi-s (योगिन्, Yogin) bow to Ananta before they begin their daily yogic practice.
History is replete with many persons with the name Patanjali. One of them had written the Mahabashya (महाभाष्य, Mahābāṣya, meaning a commentary) on the Ashtadyayi (अष्टाध्यायी, Aṣṭādhyāyī), the epitome of Sanskrit Grammar authored by the famous grammarian Panini (पाणिनि, Pāṇini). It is not quite concretely known if the same person was the author of Yogasutra as well.
Yogacharya Krishnamacharya, in one of his sloka-s (श्लोक, sloka) describes Patanjali as sesha and also the author of Mahabashya (5):
स्वस्वामिसेवाकरणे अपवर्णनिवारकम् | ततान यो महाभाष्यं तस्मै शेषाय ओ३म् नमः ||
svasvāmisevākaraṇe apavarṇanivārakam | tatāna yo mahābhāṣyaṁ tasmai śeṣāya o३m namaḥ ||
"Salutations to Śeṣa! who composed the mahābhaṣya to help remove errors in words used for the service of the Lord" (6).
The basic premise of Patanjali’s teaching in his philosophy of Yoga is that our human mind is both the source of and solution to our problems. If the mind is agitated, then it leads us to trouble. When the mind is calm and focused, we are equipped to solve our problems (7). Infact he relates Yoga and mind in the very first Sutra (सूत्र, Sūtra) of his Yogasutra (8):
योगः चित्त वृत्ति निरोधः |
Yogaḥ citta vritti nirodhaḥ | (Yogasutra 1.1)
“Yoga is to direct the mind on a chosen focus and maintain that focus without distraction”.
References & Footnotes:
(1) Yogasudhakara, a commentary to Yogasutras by Sadasivendra; the final mangala sloka or the invocatory verse.
(2) S. Radhakrishnan, and C.A. Moore, (1957). A Source Book in Indian Philosophy, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University, ch. XIII, Yoga, p.453.
(3) See heading "Yoga as a school of Philosophy" in http://www.wiki.khyf.net/Yoga.ashx.
(4) Reflections on Yoga Sūtra-s of Patanjali by TKV Desikachar, page 5 (Introduction).
(5) Pātañjalayogadarśanam, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Ādiśeṣāṣṭakam, sloka 3, page 8.
(6) Pātañjalayogadarśanam, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Ādiśeṣāṣṭakam, meaning of sloka 3, page 12.
(7) The Yoga of the Yogi, by Dr.Kauthub Desikachar, page 21.
(8) Pātañjalayogadarśanam, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, page 14.