Patanjali is said, by the Occultists, to have lived "nearer to 700 than 600 B.C. At any rate he was a contemporary of Panini," the celebrated Sanskrit grammarian. (The Theosophical Glossary)
One of the six Darshanas or systems of Indian philosophy is called "Yoga,"
a school of philosophy founded by Patanjali, though the real Yoga doctrine, the one that is said to have helped to prepare the world for the preaching of Buddha, is attributed with good reasons to the more ancient sage Yajnavalkya, the writer of the Shatapatha Brahmana, of Yajur Veda, the Brihad Aranyaka, and other famous works. (The Theosophical Glossary)
Yoga is defined by H.P.B. in the same place as
the practice of meditation as a means of leading to spiritual liberation. Psycho-spiritual powers are attained thereby, and induced ecstatic states lead to the clear and correct perception of the eternal truths, in both the visible and invisible universe.
The true Yogi-state, H.P.B. says, is that which, when reached,
makes the practitioner thereof absolute master of his six "principles," he now being merged in the seventh. It gives him full control, owing to his knowledge of SELF and Self, over his bodily, intellectual and mental states, which, unable any longer to interfere with, or act upon, his Higher Ego, leave it free to exist in its original, pure, and divine state.
Patanjali's instructions to each lanoo-shravaka-pupil are to develop Self-reliant thought and action through SELF-dependent efforts in View of the interdependence of all beings that have emanated from the One Central Source. A study of his Yoga Aphorisms shows them to be statements of facts within our experience, or imprinted on our consciousness as memories which can be recalled. Right knowledge of the real and the unreal as a basis for the practice of all virtue—on the physical plane, on the psycho-moral plane and on the plane of thought—is set forth.
A persevering devotion to the supreme SELF, the Master-Soul, Alaya, "Nature's Soul-Thought," directs our attention to the fact that our minds must be in fact "one with the Over-Soul." Our return to Purushottama, the Supreme Soul of the Universe, as intelligent, self-conscious agents, can only take place after all the knowledge gained in the man-stage of self-consciousness has been thoroughly assimilated and applied with dispassionate compassion.
Patanjali has much to say about the plane and faculties of the Mind above the reign of mere intellect; also about the plane of the Soul, below that of pure Spirit. He employs as illustrations facts in true psychology to define his methods of purifying Kama (passions and desires) and the lower mind (passionate cunning).
Only those determined, using their Spiritual Will, can really tread the path recommended by Patanjali and learn true wisdom of a spiritual kind, through the practice of moderation, inner silent mortification and true asceticism. This makes for a clean wholesomeness and a serene friendliness for all beings; each is seen in its proper relationship to the rest. A reliance on the Oneness of all Life becomes pivotal. As our path is seen to be linked with the "within" and the "without," many problems that baffle modern psychologists—the duality of mind and ethic, the difficult and strange feeling-mind principle in man—can be resolved.
Patanjali defines for the inner seeker (1) the body and its capacity-limiting skandhas (carried over from the habits and practices of past, on this or in prior lives); (2) the desires and their tendency or inclinations, their lower, selfish, egocentric sensitivities and attractions; (3) the lower mind, ever-shifting, devising, fanciful; and the reflective, anticipatory, recollective states of intelligence; (4) the Soul, or Higher Mind—one-pointed, universally perceptive of planes and experiences, discerning, impartial and impersonal; and (5) the One Spirit—the supreme, eternal background, unchanged and unknowable, the source of all—in its universality and eternity the One Life, the Causeless Cause.
Patanjali shows us that which links the lower desire-mind to our own higher, impersonal mind, and, further, describes the path of self-control that purifies us as we live, transforming man into a Super-Man. This, he says, is the Soul's aim, and the whole Universe exists for that alone. An aspect of our lower mind aspires to communicate with and live in terms of the guidance of its Father, the higher Manas. It reflects the potentialities of that higher already. It needs to free itself from selfish and terrestrial desires which bind it. How is this purification of the lower mind and of the passions and desires to be accomplished? By altruism in work on this plane of material forms. By steadying and controlling our inclinations. By remaining cool, collected and calm, whatever comes our way. By applying universal principles of action. By self-discipline and honest introspection. Concentration, meditation and dispassion bring us to devotion, discrimination and compassion.
The bondage of the Soul, the Higher Mind, the Perceiver, the Seer, the Thinker, the Real "I" within, to matter, Patanjali shows us, is due to absence of discriminative knowledge. The state of the Soul when it is free of this bondage is known as the "Isolation of the Soul."
Patanjali's ethics are based on the doctrine of the One Source. Brotherhood epitomizes them. Friendliness and love build; hate and suspicion destroy. These basic positive and negative opposites are found throughout manifestation, including man, of course. The bright single line of Brotherhood, based on Truth, cuts through all differences. It pierces through and links all planes, all states and conditions, all beings and forms of matter and of consciousness. Persevering devotion to the Supreme Spirit within, apprehension of our true duties and responsibilities, correct livelihood—these lead to wakefulness, to mind-control, or meditation, and to the most valuable capacity of shutting out from our disciplined lower mind all "questionable things," by the most efficacious process that Patanjali recommends: "the calling up of those things that are opposite." This purifies.
The peculiar work of the voluntary ascetic, Patanjali says, "is neither pure nor dark," but spiritual. It permits him to face the rapid fructification of his past Karma and to pass through the necessary experiences and tests with that equanimity which comes only from knowledge and understanding. Because he is not desirous of results, he acts always using his comprehensive knowledge of his own complex nature, harmlessly, in harmony with the great laws and purposes of Nature and with a gradually developing prevision of the effects they will produce on others and on himself. Further personal Karma is thus avoided as he turns himself into an impersonal force for good. He becomes the focus for the Karma resulting from all works, good or bad.
He has the great vision of Universal Nature, living, conscious, vibrant, intelligent one vast Whole; also the vision of his own position: one of many struggling brothers surrounded by beings, some behind, some his equals; and the vision of Those ahead, the Buddhas, the Masters of the human race, Ascetics of Sacrifice, Compassionaters and Guardians of Humankind. Such a vision ought to lead aspirants, chelas, disciples, ascetics, more quickly to the path of compassion-renunciation that in the end all must tread.
Clear thinking would lead us to the conclusion that six steps, taken in time, can save us from the impending peril.