The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written almost 2,500 years ago, is the earliest treatise on yoga, and an Indian classic. In this work, Sage Patanjali elucidates, in a scientific manner, on how to control one's thoughts — it's a process that makes the mind so powerful that when it focuses on any subject, the result is complete knowledge.
The book consists of 195 sutras and is divided into four sections. The first two sections give instructions on how to practice yoga for control of thought waves; the third section is on the physical powers that a yogi obtains due to his or her practice; and the last section is on how to get liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
All great thoughts originate from the same knowledge space, irrespective of the place and time of their discovery.
In the section known as Vibhuti Pada (Divine Powers), Patanjali talks about how by concentrating on various subjects such akaash (space) or various parts of the body a yogi understands the laws of the universe and the human body. At the end of Vibhuti Pada (it has 56 sutras), Patanjali also discusses the concept of space and time — and what he says is uncannily similar to what Einstein talked almost more than two millennia later.
Patanjali says, "By making sanyam (combination of concentration, meditation and samadhi) on a single moment and on the sequence of moments, a yogi gets vivek (exalted knowledge) so that he/she can comprehend all objects in universe simultaneously irrespective of their location and sequence of change." Or in other words, the mind of God!
To paraphrase John A Wheeler — one of the world's foremost experts on relativity — Einstein's theory of gravitation refers simply to how events and the interval between events build space-time. The geometric nature of space-time gives rise to gravity, tells the mass how to move, and is the basis of universe and the movement of all heavenly bodies.
Similarly, there are other sutras whose knowledge is mirrored by modern science. I think a whole book can be written about this, but some illustrations will suffice here.
For example, Patanjali describes God (Section I) as a special entity beyond time and space and says it is known by the original word or sound (Pranav). According to existing scientific theories about the origin of universe, the first thing that came out was sound, even before light and matter. Later commentaries on yoga sutras talk about this sound as "aum", but Patanjali only mentioned an original word or sound.
Again in Vibhuti Pada, he says that by doing sanyam on the hollow of the throat, one conquers hunger and thirst. Recently scientists have discovered that by stimulation of the vagus nerve, hunger pangs can be suppressed. The vagus nerve is concentrated near the oesophagus — close to the hollow of throat. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved a device that can electrically stimulate the vagus nerve so that the brain gets the signal that the stomach is full, thus helping obese people to eat less.
The comparison of Patanjali sutras with modern science is neither to belittle the latter nor to glorify our ancient tradition, but to show that all great thoughts originate from the same knowledge space, irrespective of the place and time of their discovery.
I have always considered the Patanjali Yoga Sutras to be a source of almost limitless knowledge and feel that the more we delve into them and try to understand their meaning, the more hidden truths we will discover.
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