Main CategoriesHinduism and VedantaVedas, Sutras and Gitas How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

Product no.: 978-0-87481-041-7
A major work on the practice of yoga and meditation. Learn how you can control your mind and achieve inner freedom and peace through methods taught for over 2,000 years.

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Publisher's Synopsis

This book is widely used in yoga classes as an important introduction to Raja Yoga. The 2008 edition has been reset and now has an extensive index for reference.

"A rendering at once lively and profoundly instructive of a world classic which... remains as vividly topical, as realistically to the point, as when it first saw the light."    ~Aldous Huxley

"Patanjali's rules compel the student not only to acquire a right knowledge of what is and what is not real, but also to practice all virtues, and while results in the way of psychic development are not so immediately seen as in the case of the successful practitioner of Hatha Yoga, it is infinitely safer and is certainly spiritual, which Hatha Yoga is not.

In Patanjali's Aphorisms there is some slight allusion to the practices of Hatha Yoga, such as 'postures,' each of which is more difficult than those preceding, and 'retention of the breath,' but he distinctly says that mortification and other practices are either for the purpose of extenuating certain mental afflictions or for the more easy attainment of concentration of mind. In Hatha Yoga practice, on the contrary, the result is psychic development at the delay or expense of the spiritual nature. These last named practices and results may allure the Western student, but from our knowledge of inherent racial difficulties there is not much fear that many will persist in them.

This book is meant for sincere students, and especially for those who have some glimmering of what Krishna meant, when in Bhagavad-Gita he said, that after a while spiritual knowledge grows up within and illuminates with its rays all subjects and objects. Students of the mere forms of Sanskrit who look for new renderings or laborious attempts at altering the meaning of words and sentences will find nothing between these covers."     ~William Q. Judge, 1889


43. By making samyama on the relation between the body and the ether, or by acquiring through meditation the lightness of cotton fibre, the yogi can fly through the air.

44. By making samyama on the thought-waves of the mind when it is separated from the body—the state known as the Great Disincarnation—all coverings can be removed from the light of knowledge.

45. By making samyama on the gross and subtle forms of the elements, on their essential characteristics and the inherence of the gunas in them, and on the experiences they provide for the individual, one gains mastery of the elements.

46. Hence one gains the power of becoming as tiny as an atom and all similar powers: also perfection of the body, which is no longer subject to the obstruction of the elements.

47. Perfection of the body includes beauty, grace, strength and the hardness of a thunderbolt.

48. By making samyama on the transformation that the sense-organs undergo when they contact objects, on the power of illumination of the sense-organs, on the ego-sense, on the gunas which constitute the organs, and on the experiences they provide for the individual, one gains mastery of the organs.

49. Hence the body gains the power of movement as rapid as that of the mind, the power of using the sense-organs outside the confines of the body, and the mastery of Prakriti.

50. By making samyama on the discrimination between the sattwa guna and the Atman, one gains omnipotence and omniscience.

51. By giving up even these powers, the seed of evil is destroyed and liberation follows.

The "seed of evil" is ignorance. Because of ignorance, man forgets that he is the Atman and creates for himself the illusion of a private, separate ego-personality. This ego-personality is intent upon satisfying its desires, and acquiring possessions and powers over external nature. Of all powers, the psychic powers are, from the standpoint of the ego, the most desirable; and, of the psychic powers, omnipotence and omniscience (to which Patanjali has referred in the previous aphorism) are obviously the greatest. The yogi who has held even these powers within his grasp and nevertheless renounced them, has rejected the ultimate temptation of the ego. Henceforth, he is freed from bondage. (For example, Christ rejected the psychic powers offered to him by Satan in the wilderness.)


28. He who remains undistracted even when he is in possession of all the psychic powers, achieves, as the result of perfect discrimination, that samadhi which is called the "cloud of virtue".

29. Thence come cessation of ignorance, the cause of suffering, and freedom from the power of karma.

30. Then the whole universe, with all its objects of senseknowledge, becomes as nothing in comparison to that infinite knowledge which is free from all obstructions and impurities.

31. Then the sequence of mutations of the gunas comes to an end, for they have fulfilled their purpose.

32. This is the sequence of the mutations which take place at every moment, but which are only perceived at the end of a series.

33. Since the gunas no longer have any purpose to serve for the Atman, they resolve themselves into Prakriti. This is liberation. The Atman shines forth in its own pristine nature, as pure consciousness.

With his guru Swami Prabhavananda, Isherwood translated from the Sanskrit The Bhagavad-Gita and The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Later he wrote a biography of Ramakrishna and his disciples (1965). In My Guru And His Disciple (1980) Isherwood broke from the strictly chronological format to create a spiritual autobiography wherein the values of Vedanta Hinduism counter his life as a Hollywood scriptwriter.

Author Patanjali
Translator Prabhavananda, Swami
Cotranslator Isherwood, Christopher
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 256 pp.
Publisher Vedanta Press 2008
Gold Medal

Gold Medal


  Gold Medal Essential Reading

Browse these categories as well: Vedas, Sutras and Gitas, Hinduism: Gurus and Advaita Vedanta, The Four Yogas and Forbidden Tantra, Hindu Transcendental Meditation, Yoga and Pranayama, Noteworthy Releases 2008, Gold Medal Essential Reading

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