A Rare invocation to Sage Patañjali

Series 1 – Post 1

It is tradition or convention to chant a verse as invocation to sage Patañjali before any theoretical or practical session on Yoga. It is well known that Sage Patañjali is considered the father of Yoga, for having contributed the foundational work on Yoga – Yogasūtra. Generally a verse that glorifies Sage Patañjali as a sage who contributed texts in the field of Medicine, Grammar and Yoga to cleanse our body, speech and mind is chanted. But the verse that is given below is a different one that presents a entirely new approach to salute Sage Patañjali .

This is a rare verse, which is chanted in the Krishnamacharya Tradition – is an invocation to Sage Patañjali  found in the beginning of certain manuscripts of Vyāsa’s commentary. One finds a brief explaination to this verse in Vijñānabhikṣu’s (16th Century CE) sub commentary (to vyasa’s commentary). Whereas older sub-commetator Vācaspatimiśra (10th Century) does not mention this verse. The verse is as follows –

यस्त्यक्त्वा रूपमाद्यं प्रभवति जगतोsनेकधाsनुग्रहाय
प्रक्षीणक्लेशराशिः विषमविषधरोsनेकवक्त्रः सुभोगी।
सर्वज्ञानप्रसूतिः भुजगपरिकरः प्रीतये यस्य नित्यं
देवोsहीशः स वोsव्यात् सितविमलतनुर्योगदो योगयुक्तः ॥


yastyaktvā rūpamādyaṁ prabhavati jagato’nekadhā’nugrahāya
 viṣamaviṣadharo’nekavaktraḥ subhogī।
 bhujagaparikaraḥ  prītaye yasya nityaṁ
devo’hīśaḥ sa vo’vyāt
sitavimalatanuryogado yogayuktaḥ ॥

The verse is in the Sragdharā meter ( species of the Prakriti metre, a stanza of four lines of 21 syllables, and each line divided into three portions of seven syllables each). Sragdharā – means that which wears a garland ( Srag – garland dhara – wears). In this meter as one chants one might feel words being beautifully stringed as a garland.

Such a garland of words is offered as a salutation to Sage Patañjali.

The meaning of the Verse

The meaning of the verse presented below is based on Vijñānabhikṣu’s (16th Century CE) explanation –

Before the explanation of the verse – the purpose of the Verse is clarified by Vijñānabhikṣu. He states –

nirvighna-grantha-samāptaye yoga-pravarttakam anantam īśvaraṁ smaran śiṣyāṇāṁ śāstra-grahaṇā-(a)nuṣṭhānādāvapy-apratibandhaṁ tata eva prārthayate

For the obstruction-less completion of the text (on Yoga) intended to commenced, and also obstruction-free grasping and understanding (of Yoga tenets) by the students remembering the initiator of Yoga – ananta – īśvara, the following prayer is uttered.

saḥ vaḥ avyāt – Let him protect you – the students.

(Who is he ? )

yas-tyaktvā rūpam ādyaṁ anekadhā prabhavati – the one who incarnates in various forms (in the form of Patañjali , Balarāma <elder brother of śrī kṛṣṇa>) from his previous (divine) form (of śeṣa) as an aspect

jagataḥ anugrahāya – to bless the world

prakṣīṇa-kleśa-rāśiḥ – He is the one in whom the afflictions have dwindled 
viṣama-viṣa-dharaḥ – He has very powerful poison (to remove the evil)

aneka-vaktraḥ  – He is endowed with many heads/faces (to teach many students)
subhogī – He has beautiful hoods
sarva-jñāna-prasūtiḥ – He is the one, from who all knowledge emerge
bhujaga-parikaraḥ – He is the one who has a retinue of serpentine servitors prītaye yasya nityaṁ – to please him always

devaḥ ahīśaḥ – He is the divine Serpant God – Sage Patañjali 

sita-vimala-tanuḥ – His physical form is white and blemishless
Yogadaḥ He is the one who grants (the state of ) Yoga

yogayuktaḥ – while he himself is established in the state of Yoga

In essence

Let the divine serpent God (Sage Patañjali )

– who incarnates in various forms from his previous (divine) primal (as that of śeṣa) as an aspect , to bless the world,

– who is bereft of afflictions, who has very powerful poison (to remove the evil) , endowed with many heads/faces

– who has a retinue of serpentine servitors , to please him always

– whose physical form is white and blemishless

– who abides in Yogic states and grants Yogic state

Protect you all (the students). <This is assumed to have been stated by Sage Vyāsa.>

This verse, by its vivid description of Sage Patañjali helps meditate the physical form and also the purpose of his incarnation thereby helping the student and the teacher of Yoga meditatively align themselves in reverence before commencement of teaching and learning Yoga.