Why Patanjali is the teacher who I never saw

To me Patanjali has been a true scientist who gave the first knowledge about the control of mind.

Anil K. Rajvanshi Sep 14, 2022
Sage Patanjali

September 5 was Teachers’ Day. On this occasion I bow down to my teacher Sage Patanjali and thank him for whatever little I have learnt in yoga. I never met or knew Patanjali but know him through his Yoga Sutras. Just like Eklavya who learnt his archery by practicing in front of the statue of Dronacharya, I have learnt about yoga by imagining that the spirit of Patanjali is guiding me. 

A great teacher is one who allows his disciple to go through the rough and tumble of the learning process, but his guiding hand is always available to show the correct path. So many times when I have been in doubt, I have again and again gone to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and discovered the hidden gems and felt his spirit guide me.                

I came to know Patanjali at the age of 14 when I read his Yoga Sutras in a public library in Lucknow. Yoga Sutras is a very difficult book to read and more so since most of the commentators have explained the great science of thought and mind control in an extremely confusing way. Yoga Sutras is a very scientific book and most of the commentators had no knowledge of science or mind control and hence their explanations were all clothed in mythology.  

Virtues of a great teacher         

A great teacher sometimes has the maximum impact when the student is very sharp. A disciple elicits information from the teacher depending upon the capacity of his/her intelligence.  

A great teacher therefore is like an ocean of knowledge. Depending upon the size of your container (brain power) you can only take that amount of knowledge. 

At the time when I was first introduced to my teacher, I could hardly understand what he meant but understood that by following his teachings one could get superhuman powers like flying, omniscience, mind reading and energy of thunderbolt for one’s body, among others.   Which 14-year-old does not want such powers? 

I then got sidetracked by my technology education, but his teachings must have remained at the back of my mind, and they exerted an invisible pull so when the time was ripe I again went back to him for knowledge.

New gems in Yoga Sutras 

Since then every time I have doubts about some aspects of science of mind I have gone to Patanjali’s Sutras and have discovered new gems. Thus my container seems to have become bigger with time and I can collect more of his knowledge! 

To me Patanjali has been a true scientist who gave the first knowledge about the control of mind. 

We do not know who Patanjali was or when he wrote the Sutras or even if what we have today as his Sutras are really his; but reading between the lines or extracting knowledge from them shows the great understanding and sparkling wisdom of his science.  

Thus whether it is the definition of time; how thought could be controlled; or how a powerful mind can be used to discover the secrets of nature; all can be gleamed from his writings and by reading between the lines.   

Too often we only remember our teachers on teacher’s day. I feel our teachers should be remembered every day because getting knowledge is a continuous process and the teacher should always be available whenever you want him/her. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are like that.       

(The writer, an IIT and US-educated Indian engineer,  a 2022 Padma Shri award winner, is Director, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute, Phaltan, Maharashtra. Views are personal. He can be reached at anilrajvanshi@gmail.com) 

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