This is an unusual question, given the fact most people have never heard about the man with such a name. Patanjali is a little bit more known among those who study philosophy, especially Indian philosophy, and, of course, lovers of yoga. I said, “a little bit more” because even in these circles he is more known for what others said and commented about his work rather than for what he actually thought.
The excuse for such a general ignorance could be the fact that what Patanjali said (maybe even wrote) is so utterly simple and compendious, that it eludes hopelessly complex human mind used to deal with baroquesque constructions of the spiritual world.
In contrast to the most authority figures from colorful and unsecure universe of philosophical and gnostic thinking, Patanjali points out very clearly the existence of the basic source of everything we call our own, human or, in general, conscious.
It is simple: if we think, feel or know, then we do it from within certain field (this is a nice word borrowed from physics). If we see the wave on the ocean than this wave must be made from the ocean. The wave is the ocean moving in a certain way.
In the center of the storm fraught with waves, Patanjali saw the ocean.
And while the others are trying to explain where these waves are coming from; why are they like they are; who made them and where do they head to, Patanjali just waves his hand and proclaims this to be of secondary importance. You can spend many lives considering those questions about waves, NOT KNOWING and NOT EXPERIENCING the ocean itself.
And if you do so, for what it is worth?
At best, after you realize the futility of chasing the waves, you will eventually come back to the ocean. At worst, you will be lost in the wavy mess, trying to understand the nature of ocean spray that surrounds them.
For a few decades I have watched so-called “spiritual people” falling into the trap of unwanted destiny of eternal seekers. And with that, my appreciation for Patanjali has grown stronger.
His thoughts are not large in volume (Yoga sutras consists of two hundred verses), but they are priceless.
Practically the first from those verses (technically second, after the opening statement) points out the backbone of everything:
Transcription: yoga s’chita vrtee neeroda
Translation: yoga is unmovable consciousness
I will write more about it in the future articles, but for now, let me tell you that if you don’t know how and what about “unmovable consciousness”; if you don’t see it, feel it and did not experience it, then everything you allegedly know about spirituality, and about yourself, is just an ocean spray on the tip of the wave.