Archive for ‘Commentary’

February 10, 2011

Subhas Chandra Bose – Another Look Part 1: “The Seeds of Islamophile Secularism”

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Some friends were recently wondering how Subhas Chandra Bose would have responded to Jehad. No different from the other secularists, when we said, it seemed to have offended or shocked them. Shocking obviously, since such is now the image of Subhas Bose in the Hindu psyche, which is best represented on the popular calendar art where he is seen rubbing shoulders with Shivaji and Pratap, sometimes like them riding a horse and carrying a sword or performing utsarga in front of Bhawani or Bharat Mata. The BJP-minded ones go so far as to even claim Bose as an icon of Hindutva, placing him alongside Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Savarkar. A couple of years back in a political campaign, L K Advani made, to use the words of Kanchan Gupta, an “audacious attempt to co-opt Subhas Chandra Bose in the pantheon of proponents of Hindutva”. Of course if they can dress up Jinnah as a secular icon, then Bose can rather easily take their Hindutva garb, the shift seems only logical.

Subhas Bose, no doubt, had a thorough Hindu outlook in life and was a religious Hindu, as is evident in his unfinished autobiography. Not only does he speak therein of his spiritual quests, but interestingly at one place also recounts an encounter with a Jesuit priest whom he convinced of superiority of Shankara’s philosophy over Christian dogma. At another point he says that later in his life when he failed to agree with or follow the concepts of Shankara, then rather than becoming hostile to Hindu thought or considering a non-Hindu philosophy, he sought and followed the other options available within Hindu dharma. To the impact of Aurobindo on his early life also he openly admits. Towards his last days in Singapore and Burma it is said that he would often go to the temples wearing traditional Hindu attire and spend hours in meditation at night. It is also said that he used to carry a pocketbook edition of bhagavadgita in the chest of his uniform during the day and while sleeping keep it under his pillow. In support of an armed struggle opposed to unconditional Ahimsa, he used to seek sanction from Mahabharata and his argument against Gandhian non-violence was basic, “How can we possibly accept Ahimsa as an inflexible principle of action, when Sri Krishna himself exhorted Arjuna not to run away from a righteous war, a dharma-yuddha?” It is also said by some who knew him, that like Tilak he also used to worship Kali or Bhawani before launching a major political campaign to gain divine blessing and strength.

All of this seems true enough, and would widely separate Bose from the garden variety of Nehruvian Secularists and Marxists who are, by design, hostile to the Hindu dharma without many exceptions.

And still, when it came to understanding Islam and its objectives, as a thinker and as a leader, it must be said that Bose was not very different from the other Marxist-Secularists. Bose is really an uncomforting case in point, that even deeply religious Hindus, of excellent intellectual gifts, untiring patriotism and great leadership acumen, can remain utterly gullible to the Islamic propaganda and keep causing self-injury to the nation. Bose remained deluded throughout his life when it came to understanding Islam, its goals & objectives and its history, and particularly its encounter with India. Laden with deluded understanding of Islam, great men only cause greater harm.

His beliefs in secularism were no different from the Gandhi variety and can be summed up as follows: a) without Moslem approval neither can Swaraj be won, and what is more, nor was it worth winning without their support; b) the onus of Hindu-Moslem unity lied on the shoulders of the Hindus alone, and the Hindus should be willing to make unlimited and extreme sacrifices to that end; c) only by adjusting to the Moslem sensibilities and removing their ‘misgivings’ was it possible to achieve that unity; and therefore d) appeasing Moslems should be made a core and visible part of any program, which is what he conscientiously belaboured to do throughout his political career. In his hostility to Hindutva also he was quite virulent just like the other Marxist-secularists.

Imprint of the above is visible throughout his career, from the 1920s when he started as a Bengal congressman under Deshbandhu’s wings, to 1930s when he rose to the central Congress as the Leftist rallying point and was elected its President for two consecutive terms, to the 1940s’ Azad Hind Fauj campaign and the events leading to the partition.

Subhas Bose began his career in the 1920s under the wings of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, the rising star in Bengal Congress, since Gandhi’s coup d’état at the center. As Gandhi’s deputy, the first significant program of Deshbandhu was his over-enthusiastic campaign for the holy cause of Khilafat. Most of the important leaders within Congress like Pandit Malaviya, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai, and Sardar Patel were clearly and rightly opposed to making Khilafat as a Congress program. Deshbandhu Das took it upon himself to open direct personal communications with them to garner their support to Khilafat. Malaviya refused to relent till the end, but Lajpat Rai finally acquiesced on the logic that if Britain came into possession or control of larger Moslem domains, it would only mean more Moslem influence on British policies, more moslem recruitment in armed forces, and undue pressure on India and Hindus.

Visionary Bipin Chandra Pal was opposed to congress taking up Khilafat. He later recorded in his Memories of My Life and Times, how he dreaded the “virus of pan-Islamism among the Indian Moslems” which Khilafat would invariably affect. In his 1921 presidential address, which was to be his last, Bipin Chandra Pal warned Gandhi against preferring hocus-pocus emotionalism over hard reasoning with his acidic speech, “you want to do magic while I try to give you logic.” (Bipin Chandra lived for another decade, but the rise in Central politics of Gandhi, and in Bengal of Deshbandhu Das and Bose brothers, practically elbowed out this visionary Hindu and hardliner of Lal-Bal-Pal fame, out of politics. He left Congress at this time, and died in 1932 in condition of abject poverty, refusing to accept help from his wealthy comrade Lajpat Rai. A true genius, one only needs to read his works to understand the depth of his understanding of Moslem question. It was the leaders like Pal and Lajpat Rai who could have won an Akhanda Swaraj, if such a thing was ever possible. It was largely under Pal’s influential leadership that Bengali Hindus defeated the Bengal partition of 1905. And today, while Bose brothers and Chittaranjan Das share between themselves a majority of prominent landmarks, roads, and establishments of Bengal to their name, Bipin Chandra Pal seems to have been almost deleted from the Bengali memory. We shall try to dedicate a separate exploration of Pal’s thought and work later. For now, let us return to Khilafat, Deshabandhu, and his deputy Subhas Bose.)

In justification of the rationale of generally aligning with the pan-Islamists, and using Islamic sentiments in Congress policy, Subhas Bose later wrote, “…Moplah Rebellion in Malabar in South India intensified the crisis… Afghanistan had entered into a treaty with Mustafa Kamal Pasha and this was followed by a treaty between Persia and Soviet Russia. In Egypt the nationalist Wafd Party of Syed Zaghlul Pasha was strong and active. Thus it was apparent that the entire Moslem world was combining against Great Britain and this had an inevitable reaction on Moslems of India…Government would be eager to compromise with Congress.”

While Khilafat movement failed, what it did achieve for the Moslems especially in Bengal was to only prove ruinous for the Hindus and India in the coming times. Muslim League, although born in Dhaka in 1906, did not have much of an organization nor support among Moslem masses in Bengal. Through the Khilafat agitation and over-enthusiastic support to it by Congress, there emerged a wide and deep fundamentalist Moslem organization across the state, same as all across India. It also created a renewed and distinctly radicalized Islamist consciousness among the younger Mohammedans — it would be this generation of Bengali Moslems incubated in the 1920s Khilafat Movement which in a couple of decades launched the Direct Action for Pakistan.

All these pro-Khilafatist Congress leaders in their fanciful secularist confusion utterly failed to recognize that underneath the Khilafat sentiment of Indian Moslems, there was absolutely no motivation for India’s own sake, but simply the emotional pan-Islam zeal which was in reality directly opposed to the wellbeing of India and could not have reconciled with the Indian Nationalism.

Subhas Bose was not against the principle of taking up Khilafat agitation, even in hindsight he only went so far as to regret its operating format. He wrote, “The real mistake in my opinion did not lie in connecting the Khilafat issue with the other national issues, but in allowing the Khilafat Committee to be set up as an independent organisation throughout the country, quite apart from the Indian National Congress…. If no separate Khilafat Committees had been organised and all Khilafatist Moslems had been persuaded to join the ranks of the Indian National Congress, they would probably have been absorbed by the latter when the Khilafat issue became a dead one.” And again at another place, “…the introduction of the Khilafat question into Indian politics was unfortunate. As has already been pointed out, if the Khilafatist Moslems had not started a separate organisation but had joined the Indian National Congress, the consequences would not have been so undesirable.”

Bose is only trying to put the blame somewhere else, to avoid recognizing the fundamentalism and separatism that is inherent in the Moslem psyche, behaviour, and creed. Because, at least in context of Bengal, right before Bose’s eyes, the above suggested line of his is what Bengal Congress under Deshbandhu had taken, that is to induct Khilafatist Moslems within the rank and file of Congress.

In name of Khilafat recruitment, Congress brought to its leadership positions within Bengal, such Moslems as Abdullahahel Baqi of Dinajpur, Muniruzzaman Islamabadi of Chitagong, Mawlana Akram Khan of 24-Parghanas, Shamsuddin Ahmed of Kushthia, and Ashrafuddin Ahmed Chowdhury of Tippera, some of which were quite openly fanatic. Most of these men would later wreck havoc on the Hindus, although Deshbandhu Das did not live to see it and Bose would not acknowledge it. Some of these like Mawlana Akram Khan were staunch Islamists and emerged as hardliners within the reinvigorated Muslim League in Bengal; he would later be instrumental in the making of (East) Pakistan.

Deshbandhu Das and Subhas Bose cultivated and helped Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy launch himself as a prominent politician of Bengal. Suhrawardy was the Secretary of the Khilafat Committee for a long time and along with the others he joined the Swaraj party bloc of Congress, by initiative of Deshbandhu. They jointly shared power in Calcutta Municipal Corporation after winning the elections of 1924, with Deshbandhu becaming the Mayor, Suhrawardy the Deputy-Mayor, and Bose the Chief Executive Officer. Soon, within a couple of years, like most other Moslems who had joined Congress during the Khilafat, Suhrawardy ditched it to pursue an illustrious career as a distinguished Muslim Leaguer. It would be under his watch as the Prime Minister of Bengal that the Direct Action in 1946 bathed Calcutta in blood; he would later become the fifth Prime Minister of the yet undivided Pakistan. But already in 1926 he was showing his colours when he stood by and defended the Muslim rioters who were arrested during the great Calcutta riot of that year, including personally intervening to secure bail of a notorious goon named Mina Peshawari, murderer of several Hindu slum-dwellers. Even after seeing the behavior of his enlightened Moslem colleagues, Bose would never realize the hoax of the so called ‘progressive Moslems’. He continued to persevere under this confusion till the end of his INA days when he would give leadership positions within Azad Hind Fauj to many such people who would later jump at the first opportunity and show their true Islamist colours. Secularists must be either extremely poor judges of characters, or bad learners from experience, or just way too optimistic.

Deshbandhu Das around this time made with the moderate Moslem leaders like Hakim Ajmal Khan what is known as the Bengal Hindu-Muslim Pact of 1923, which besides other things, for the first time anywhere in India, committed to providing reservations in the government jobs on a communal basis. In Bengal as many as 55% to 60% public jobs were agreed to be reserved for the Moslem candidates alone. This Bengal Pact although rejected by the national body of Congress in Kakinada that year from being adopted as an India-wide program, still established a policy direction in Congress for the time to come. Subhas Bose, a part of this program as a lieutenant of Chittaranjan Das, records, “Deshabandhu had drawn up an agreement between Hindus and Moslems, covering religious as well as political questions, but it had been rejected by the Coconada Congress in December 1923, on the ground that it conceded too much to the Moslems… There was a stormy debate and the political opponents of the Deshabandhu, joined by some reactionary Hindus, put up a formidable opposition.”

Lala Lajpat Rai was totally opposed to such a line. Having studied Islam in detail, he was convinced of the futility, and really the danger, of such policies being pursued by Bengal Congress. Around these days, in a secret letter to Deshbandhu Das, Lalaji wrote categorically, “I have devoted most of my time during the last six months to the study of Muslim history and Muslim Law and I am inclined to think that Hindu-Muslim unity is neither possible nor practicable… Assuming and admitting the sincerity of the Mohammedan leaders in the Non-Co-operation Movement, I think their religion provides an effective bar to anything of the kind. There is no finer Mohammedan than Hakim [Ajmal Khan] Sahab, but can any Muslim leader override the Koran? I can only hope that my reading of the Islamic Law is incorrect and nothing would relieve me more than to be convinced that it is so… I do honestly and sincerely believe in the necessity and desirability of Hindu-Muslim unity. I am also fully prepared to trust the Muslim leaders, but what about the injunctions of the Koran and the Hadis? The leaders cannot override them!” (A. Ghosh, Making of the Muslim Psyche, 1986)

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the literary genius and arguably the Father of the modern Indian Novel, also tried to talk sense to C R Das, his close friend. Like Lajpat Rai, Sarat Chandra was an astute student of the Moslem situation. He had recently toured the rural Bengal especially in the East where Hindus were a minority, and seen the pattern of behavior of the Moslems there. He rightly felt that far from bringing about any Hindu-Moslem unity, such placatory gestures of “sacrifice” were a slippery slope and would only make Moslem bullies see “success” of their hardened attitude and demand more and more until there was nothing left. Anxious that these policies would only bring disaster upon the Hindus in Bengal and for whole of India, he took up the issue with C R Das, who himself being an accomplished Bengali poet shared a cordial friendship of long standing with him. But Sarat Chandra’s discussions with C R Das proved futile. In a discussion Deshbandhu Das simply told Sarat Chandra that since Moslems were soon going to replace Hindus from power anyway by their demographics, it was a fait accompli, better would be for the Hindus to accept the fate and let it happen peacefully! (We shall return to Sarat Chandra again in a while)

Like Subhas Bose, Deshbandhu Das was a very religious Hindu in his personal life; his mansion in Calcutta always resounding with Kirtans of vaishnava mandali in which he used to actively participate. As a spiritual retreat, in the June of 1923, C R Das travelled to Pondicherry to briefly stay with Shri Aurobindo whom as his attorney he had eloquently and successfully defended in the Alipore Bombing case about fifteen years back. Aurobindo also tried to enlighten Deshbandhu Das about futility of his policy of making the so called Hindu Moslem unity as a prerequisite for the national movement. Das held on to his opinion and went on to say so much that unless the so called communal questions were settled, in his view he would not even like the British to leave! (So records a letter of Shri Aurobindo to Mother that month.)

But such ideology within Bengal Congress only got amplified with Subhas Bose and his elder brother Sarat Bose after the death of C R Das in 1925.

As the CEO of Calcutta Corporation, Subhas Bose outdid C R Das, who had only proposed 55% communal reservation that too in Moslem-majority districts which Calcutta was not. Subhas Bose appointed in Calcutta Corporation, 25 Mohammedans out of 33 vacant posts, not on the grounds of any merit, but for their creed. He said, “In (the) past Hindus have enjoyed what maybe regarded monopoly in matters of appointments. The claims of Mohammedans, Christains and Depressed Classes have to be favourably considered, though it is sure to give rise to a certain amount of heart-burning among the Hindu candidates.” So he left 8 seats for these Hindus of both “depressed class” and otherwise, and the Anglo-Indians.

There is another less known episode that begs recalling from these same years when Subhas Bose was the CEO of Calcutta Corporation and Deshbandhu Das the Mayor, and Bengal Congress comfortably in their control. There is a shrine of Tarakeshwar Mahadev at Serampur, not far from Calcutta, which is one of the most popular temples in Bengal. The shrine had enjoyed patronage and endowments from the local Hindu Jamindars and Rajas for at least the last three or four hundred years, and was headed by the traditional Giris, one of the ten dashanamis. Sometime around these days allegations were made of financial impropriety against Satis Chandra Giri, the reigning Mahant of the shrine. Deshbandhu C R Das got involved and launched a movement of agitation what Congressmen called as Tarakeshwar Satyagraha. Under his leadership, hundreds of Congress volunteers from Calcutta dawned upon the shrine and started doing blockade, dharna and arrests. In face of such ugly protests that went on for many weeks, Satis Giri retired, giving charge to his disciple Prabhat Giri. Deshbandhu also got the shrine to agree to come under a management board which would abide to Congress decisions, would disclose to them its financials, and agree to spend parts of its endowment and donations to secular causes of “various nation-building activities.”

Subhas Bose, who was an observer and a participant of these activities, wrote: “As in the case of other holy shrines, there was considerable property attached to the temple… there were allegations against the Mohunt of Tarakeswar with regard to his personal character and to his administration of the endowed property.… pressure was brought to bear on the Bengal Congress Committee…. Deshbandhu launched a movement for taking peaceful possession of the temple and the attached property, with a view to placing them under the administration of a public committee.…”

The temple remained in physical control of these Congress-satyagrahis until a third party of Hindus in Bengal, particularly the managers of the other temples under a body they formed called Bangal Brahman Sabha, filed a litigation against them in the Calcutta court. After a year of the heated legal battle, the Court finally decided in Sabha’s favour, asking congress workers to vacate the temple possession and hand it over to the Sabha and the new Mahant. But even now the Satyagrahis were in the attitude to defy the court order and continue their “satyagraha”. Gandhi had since beginning not liked this program and had even brought it up in a meeting with C R Das in Darjeeling that year. Finally he had to intervene and publish a signed appeal in Amrit Bazar Patrika on July 9, 1925 to call off the agitation and hand over the temple control. The then Bengal Governer wrote about this Tarakeshwar Satyagraha as ‘Hoax of a Movement’.

Bengal Congress gave it up but not without passing a resolution condemning the court order and the Bengal Brahman Sabha. Some years later, Congress minister Taraknath Mukherjee of Fazlul Haque government got a legislation passed in Bengal Assembly called the ‘Tarakeswar Temple Bill of 1941’, which explicitly set aside the earlier court verdict, and placed the temple management and its property under a public committee with government oversight, along with the provision to spend the excess temple funds for miscellaneous “social purposes”. The whole episode tells us something about the eagerness of those who call themselves secular to meddle in the temple management and its funds, then just like now.

All through, while the Bengal Congress was busy making the Muslim appeasement policies, the Bengal and especially the eastern Moslem-dominated rural parts continued to be rocked by riots. Many stories of atrocities, pillage, rape and temple-desecrations used to reach Calcutta. Major riots broke out in Calcutta itself in 1926, with prminent Moslems like Suhrawardy openly supporting the rioters as mentioned before, and it was in its wake that the 1926 session of Congress took place.

Krishnanagar Session of Bengal Congress in 1926 must have been a historic moment in a unique sense. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay attended it as an observer, and presented a paper in Bangla on the Hindu-Moslem communal issue entitled ‘Bortoman Hindu-Musalman Somosya’. Backing up by sound arguments he made a strong pitch to Congress leaders that the unity of Hindus and Moslems was impractical in the ways they were trying, and the history of Islam in India does not support it. He argued that instead of pursuing the mirage of Hindu-Muslim unity, what was pertinent and more desired at the time, was unity within the Hindu community by putting to end the curse of treating a section of the Hindus as low castes. Said Sarat Chandra, “If we go by the lessons of history we have to accept that the goal of Hindu-Muslim unity is a mirage. When Muslims first entered India, they looted the country, destroyed the temples, broke the idols, raped the women and heaped innumerable indignities on the people of this country. Today it appears that such noxious behaviour has entered the bone-marrow of Muslims. Unity can be achieved among equals. In view of the big gap between the cultural level of Hindus and Muslims which can hardly be bridged, I am of the view that Hindu-Muslim unity which could not be achieved during the last thousand years will not materialise during the ensuing thousand years. If we are to drive away the English from India depending upon this elusive capital of Hindu-Muslim unity, I would rather advise its postponement.”

But Sarat Chandra would not have impressed Subhas Bose, who was at this time imprisoned in Burma, and his lessons in history were very different. Subhas Bose wrote, “…the distinction between Hindu and Muslim of which we hear so much nowadays is largely an artificial creation, a kind of Catholic-Protestant controversy in Ireland, in which our present-day rulers have had a hand. History will bear me out when I say that it is a misnomer to talk of Muslim rule when describing the political order in India prior to the advent of the British. Whether we talk of the Moghul Emperors at Delhi, or of the Muslim Kings of Bengal, we shall find that in either case the administration was run by Hindus and Muslims together, many of the prominent Cabinet Ministers and Generals being Hindus. Further, the consolidation of the Moghul Empire in India was effected with the help of Hindu commanders-in-chief.”

So, blame the British, blame the Hindu, blame everyone but the Moslems and the fundamental separatism that is inherent in Islam. At least Moslems had no such fancy ideas about the pre-British era being a Hindu-Moslem joint rule, and were clear that it was a Dar-ul-Islam-i-Hind which British and before them Marathas had subjugated, and which must be restored back by either driving away or supporting the British. As to the Hindu Generals in the Moghal Army, obviousely we dont expect Bose to have come across the Moslem historians like Badayuni and Mulla Shirin who gleefully explain the concept of how “Hindus (were made to) bear the sword of Islam”. One only wishes Bose had taken the benefit of consulting Jadunath Sarkar’s volumes on Awrangzib, Mughal era, and Shivaji, which were published only a few years back and might have given him better insights in Hindu-Muslim History.

Continued in the next post…

January 21, 2011

“हिन्दू मुस्लिम समस्या का हल” – धर्मवीर, सितम्बर 1933 सुधा

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Cleaning the attic of our ancestral place last dIpAvalI, we came upon a chest of very interesting old magazines.

Posting below the scanned pages of an article that appeared in September 1933 issue of Sudha magazine.  It is written by Shri Dharmaveer, the renowned journalist and Editor of Akashvani, about the so called Hindu-Moslem communal problem. 

Alas, these voices are lost in the secular cacophony; they were not heard then (see editorial byline at the bottom), and are not heard even now.

January 2, 2011

Yoga Asana, the Ancient Hindu Legacy

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

आलोक्यसर्वशास्त्राणि विचार्यच पुनः पुन:

इदमेकं सुनिष्पन्नं योगशास्त्रं परम्मतं

We have seen in the previous part how the identity of pata~njali, about which Hindus have never had doubts, is maliciously obliterated by the western commentators of yoga.

Having obfuscated yoga-sUtra and having reduced its author to obscurity, next our western scholars say the following to reject the ancientness (and indigenousness) of yogAsana, an important pillar in the edifice of yoga:

“…The text usually cited as the definitive source for Yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, but the familiar poses that are part of Hatha Yoga are generally traced to Shiva cults, the god Shiva being its founder. The problem that is being swept aside is that exact dates cannot be assigned to any of these texts…” – Deepak Chopra

“…But these texts say nothing about the physical “positions” or “postures” that distinguish contemporary yoga. The postures developed much later, some from medieval Hatha Yoga and Tantra, but more from nineteenth-century European traditions such as Swedish gymnastics, British body-building, Christian Science, and the YMCA, and still others devised by twentieth-century Hindus such as T. Krishnamacharya and B. K. S. Iyengar, reacting against those non-Indian influences.” – Wendy Doniger

We are reminded of the remark of Prof. Surendranatha Dasgupta on such western yoga scholars in one of his lectures on Yoga to the students of Calcutta Univerity several decades back: “(These) unsympathetic and shallow-minded scholars lack the imagination and the will to understand the Indian thought and culture of its past.”

But even a very sympathetic scholar and a Hinduphile Dr. Koenraad Elst colludes with the general view of the above scholars when he says:

“…the description of these specific techniques is found in the Hatha Yoga classics which do not predate the 13th century: the Gheranda Samhita, the Shiva Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika… There too, a number of asana-s or postures is described, though important ones now popular in the Western (and westernized-Indian) yoga circuit, particularly standing ones, are still not in evidence even in these more recent texts. In the Yoga Sutra, they are totally absent. Patanjali merely defines Asana, ‘seat’, as ‘comfortable but stable’… I don’t think any other asana postures except those for simply sitting up straight have been recorded before the late-medieval Gheranda Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and such.” – Dr. Koenraad Elst

Let us examine.
Having commented upon the Yama and Niyama, pata~njali describes Asana, the third great limb of yoga, in the following three yoga-sUtra-s:

sthira sukhamAsanam (2.46), prayatnashaithilyAnantyasamApattibhyAm (2.47), and tato dvandvAnabhighAt (2.48).

The view of Dr. Elst, that “pata~njali merely defines Asana as ‘seat’, ‘comfortable but stable’”, seems very simplistic reduction of the first sUtra sthirasukhamAsanam. Had Asana just meant so little as to merely mean a “comfortable but stable seat”, was it really worth enumerating as one of the limbs of the aShTA~Nga yoga? Would it not be pretty obvious to a rAjayoga student to anyway naturally take a “comfortable but stable seat” for practicing yoga? Why formulize upon Asana at all?

Indeed, the word “Asana” in simple saMskR^ita, in itself means to sit comfortably, according to its vyutpatti: “Asyate Asate anena iti Asanam” (deriving from the same dhAtu from which English ‘sit’ and ‘seat’ also came). That a sUtra-kAra of pata~njali’s fame, who scrupulously economizes on even half of the short vowels (as he says in the mahAbhAShya), should spend not one but three precious sUtra-s to Asana, when all he meant by it merely was a “comfortable but stable seat”, is hard to fathom. pata~njali must have a deeper meaning when he says sthirasukhamAsanam. What does he signify by the specific indication of ‘sthira-sukha’ in the sUtra, when ‘Asana’ itself would be sufficient had his intention been such a basic meaning as suggested?

The traditional Hindu wisdom says that deciphering the sUtras without help of an authoritative commentary, and better still under the guidance of a siddha preceptor, is fraught with the danger of gross errors for laymen. We refer therefore to the authorities of how they decipher what pata~njali implies in this first sUtra?

vyAsa explains the meaning of pata~njali here by considering the joint of “sthirasukha” and “Asana” to be the karmadhAraya samAsa, making the sUtra mean, “That Asana is here called Asana which yields sthira-sukha i.e. unwavering delight”.

AchArya shaMkara in his own TIkA explains this sUtra as, “yasmin Asane sthitasya manogAtrANAmupajAyate sthiratvam, duHkham cha yena nAbhavati tadabhyaset.” [Practice is recommended of that Asana which leads the practitioner’s mind to immovableness and constancy, and does not cause any discomfort.]

vAchaspati mishra in the eighth century explains this sUtra in his tattva vaiShAradi as, “sthiram nishchalam yatsukham sukhAvaham tadAsana”: Asana is that which yields a comfort that is lasting, stable, and unwavering. (Although vAchaspati also treats the samAsa between sthira and sukha as bahubrIhi: “sthiram sukham yena tat”).

But the clearest explanation of the sUtra comes from our favourite scholar, bhojadeva the learned rAjan: “Asana, the posture. Posture without motion. One that leads the practitioner to the not-flickering and lasting comfort. Only that type of Asana is Asana-proper, counted as one of the eight limbs of yoga.”

So, all these eminent authors on yoga understand pata~njali’s instruction to not mean just any “comfortable but stable seat”, which by definition ‘Asana’ anyway is, but specifically an Asana that gives the sthira sukha to the yogAbhyAsI helping him reach a concentrated mind; such an Asana alone is called yogAsana. Like ‘chitta’, pata~njali is not defining ‘Asana’, as he considers Asana to have been already understood earlier, he is only adding these further qualifications to it.

But is Wendy Doniger right when she says that the old texts including YS “say nothing about the physical “positions” or “postures” that distinguish contemporary yoga”, a view which Dr. Elst and Deepak Chopra seem to share? What about Chopra’s opinion when he says that the “the familiar poses are generally traced to Shiva cults”?

Let us explore this next.

Contrary to the above assertions, we find that ancient authorities mention the yogAsana-s, referring to them by name. Even the fairly antiquated commentaries of the pata~njali’s yoga sUtra itself, preceding the haThayoga dIpikA and gheraNya saMhita etc. by several centuries, already explain that Master pata~njali particularly implied these same standard “postures” when he instructed upon Asana in the yoga-sUtra.

Consider the oldest available commentary on yoga sUtra by vyAsa. The author ends his explanation of pata~njali’s ‘sthira-sukham-Asanam’ with a list of the names of Asana-s, “…tadyathA padmAsanam bhadrAsanam vIrAsanam daNDAsanaM sopAshrayaM parya~Nkam krau~nchaniShadanam, hastiniShadanam, uShTRa niShadanam, samasaMsthAnaM sthirasukham yathAsukham cha ityevamAdIni”, that is, “Asana like the padmAsana or the bhadrAsana, vIrAsana, daNDAsana, or (squatting ) postures like parya~Nka or sopAshraya, or postures named after krau~ncha bird, or the Camel posture or the Elephant posture, or samAsana, or any other comfortable (instructed) posture which provide sthira sukha”.  This elaborate list, though not exhaustive as the author says these are examples, is from at least as old as the 6th century if not older.

Explaining the same sUtra of ‘sthirasukhamAsanam’, AchArya shaMkara also concludes his explanation of pata~njali’s instruction with, “…tadyathA shAstrAntara prasiddhAni nAmAni padmAsanAdIni pradarshyante”, meaning “…that is, for example, those well known postures explained in the other shAstras, like the padmAsana etcetera.”] He even desribes, out of these, padmAsana, bhadrAsana and daNDAsana in instructive details.

An astute reader cannot fail to notice the casualness shown here in mentioning the representative names of the postures, when both the above authors refer to a few names of the Asana-s, followed by ‘Adi’, etcetera, meaning that the reader is anyway easily familiar with them.

Also observe the words AchArya shaMkara uses above, “prasiddhAni nAmAni”, explicitly signifying that many Asanas were already famous by specific names and were not worth repeating there.

Besides the above, further note the important word he uses, ‘shAstrAntara’. It is significant that shaMkara not only refers to these postures as famous, but also says those are ‘shAstrAntara’, or explained elsewhere beyond the yogasUtra or by the “other shAstra-s”. Of course we have no means at present to say which other shAstra he was referring here, but probably some older material no more extant.

In an entirely different book, that is the celebrated bramha-sUtra-bhAShya, AchArya shaMkara further refers to the Asana postures in a similar vein when he says, “ata eva padmakAdInAmAsana visheShANAmupadesho yogashAstre”: “…This is why yoga-shAstra particularly prescribes the postures like padmAsana etcetera…” (See BSB 4.1.10 under ‘smaranti cha’)

Still elsewhere, and very significantly, AchArya shaMkara alludes to the yoga darshana and its development from the vaidika roots. In the same bhAShya talking about yoga system what strikes his mind as uniquely characteristic of yoga, is its elaborate system of Asana! AchArya remarks: “AsanAdi-kalpanA-purassaram bahu-prapa~ncham yoga-vidhAnam shvetAshvataropaniShAdi dR^ishyate” [“Such emphasis on postures and related amplified prapa~ncha, one can already sense in the (old) upaniShada-s such as that of shvetAshvatAra etcetera”]

This is a very important testimony we get from the AchArya that even as far back as in his time, he understood the importance of the elaborate system of Asana postures to have gone back to the ancient upaniShada times, and their development being of a very obscure antiquity.

We return again to the genius bhoja rAjan, who, still a few centuries before the haThayoga classics that are available to us, enumerates some specific yoga postures. Having explained the meaning of sthirasukhamAsanam, he ends his statement by saying, “padmAsana-daNDAsana-svastikAsanAdi | tadyadA sthiraM niShkampaM sukhaM anudvejanIyaM bhavati tadA tadyogA~NgatAM bhajate”, meaning,”…such as padmAsana, daNDAsana, svAstikAsana etcetera. When the (practice of) a posture (advances, it) becomes (a vehicle) yielding of a stable unwavering sukha and is not uncomfortable (anymore). That is when it becomes, that much-praised limb of the (eight) yoga a~Nga-s, the blessed Asana.]

Here rAjA bhoja also interprets pata~njali to have really meant the specific yoga postures, giving here the names of postures such as padma, daNDa, and svAstika Asana-s. And he also adds an “Adi”, etcetera, to mean that already there must be a long list of very famous and commonly known Asana-s which he felt no need to elaborate upon beyond ‘etcetera’. The above shows, we think, that in light of these ancient authorities, we can take it that pata~njali did imply specific postures that are understood as standard yoga Asana-s, and not just any comfortable seat.

But already, even much before pata~njali himself, the Asana-s were already quite well known and practiced, as AchArya shaMkara said. We find an attestation from the Great bhArata of his observation, that the concept of Asana, that is the specific yoga postures, in the technical sense of it, was already an integral part of spiritual practice of ascetics. From the araNyakaparvan the 3rd book of mahAbhArata:

bhR^igor maharSheH putro ‘bhUch chyavano nAma bhArgavaH
samIpe sarasaH so ‘sya ta
ANubhUto mahAtejA vIrasthAnena pANDava
SThat subahUn kAlAn ekade
gt;a valmIko ‘bhavad R^iShir
kAlena mahatA

was born to the great
igu, chyavana by name. And he, of an exceedingly resplendent body, began to perform austerities by the side of a lake. And, O Son of pANDu, O Protector of men! He of mighty energy assumed the Posture known as the Vira, in it being quiet and still like an inanimate post, and for a long period remained immobile at the same spot in the same posture. And as a long time elapsed he was swarmed by the ants turned into an anthill covered with the creepers growing upon it.”]

In the anushAsana parvan, the thirteenth book:

vIrAsanaM vIrashayyAM vIrasthAnam upAsataH akSayAs tasya vai lokAH sarvakAmagamAs tathA MBh 13.7.13

[“He who performs tapscharya-s sitting in the vIrAsana posture, by going to the secluded dense forest (where only the braves dare tread) and sleeping on the (hard rock,) the bed worthy for the braves, he attains to those eternal regions where all the objects of desire are fulfilled (or desires are nullified)”]

(In above, we differ in translating the verse from how the learned paNDita shrI K M Ganguly translated it. He takes the first line in sense of gaining martyrdom on the battlefield assuming the posture of vIrAsana.)

At yet another place in the same anushAsana parvan, mahAdeva is describing to umAdevI the routine of tapasyA that the ascetic siddha yogi-s perform:

yogacharyAkR^itaiH siddhaiH kAmakrodhavivarjanam
vIrashayyAm upAsadbhir vI
uktair yogavahaiH sadbhir grIShme pa~ncatap


of the
ellent ord
elating to Yoga, hav
alleviated the passions of lust and violence, seated in the posture called vIrAsana in the midst of four fires on four sides with the sun overhead in summer months, duly practising what is called mANDUkya yoga, and sleeping on bare rocks or on the earth, these men, with hearts set upon dharma, expose themselves to the extremes of cold and warm (and are unaffected by the duality).”]

Not only do we find evidence in mahAbhArata therefore, of the importance given to the postures, specific postures, we should also observe that much before pata~njali, mahAbhArata already describes the yoga praxis in great detail. In the anushAsana parvan, it even describes the aShTA~Nga-s of yoga and even lists the famous teachers of sAMkhya and yoga, in which list pata~njali does not figure. This also means that the yoga text in the bhArata was pre-pata~njali and that by the time of pata~njali, yoga was quite a very well founded practice, its Asanas included.

In the early classical saMskR^ita literature also, we find the Asana-s mentioned. The Emperor of saMskR^ita poetry, mahAkavi kAlidAsa, already names the yaugika postures. He mentions vIrAsana in his raghuvaMsham by name (13.52) and also beautifully describes the siddhAsana through a verse. Ancient drama mR^ichcHakaTikA, going back to the BCE age, also describes yoga posture (see the opening chapter).

Dr. Elst has wondered why only sitting postures characterize or at least dominate the yogAsana-s, speculating that this is to do with the climatic conditions: that the Chinese postures being in standing position because it is wet and cold out there, whereas Hindu ones being in sitting position because of the warm climate here.

But the observation is inaccurate. Indeed we have enough textual and non-textual records of Hindu Asana-s also in standing, half-standing and leaning postures too from fairly old periods. mahAbhArata itself attests to this at multiple places, too numerous to recount, that standing postures were common for tapashcharyA. We find many ancient frescoes, murals, and bas-relief from old temples displaying the yoga postures in the standing position, see for instance the pallava temple carvings at mahAbalIpuram, dated to the 600s, depicting arjuna, bhagIratha and other characters (including a charlatan cat), to be performing the ascetics standing in the classical postures like the tADAsana and vR^ikShAsana. There are many other sources that attest to the postures in standing position, particularly for performing the tapascharyA, more specifically recorded by the early nAstika grantha-s, and both the bauddha and jaina texts record the standing postures.

vR^ikShAsana mahAbalIpuram

mahAvIra’s austerities in pristine tADAsana is all too famous. Also important to note is that the jaina-s carefully record that bhagavat mahAvIra acquired his siddhi while he was in a specific yoga posture known as the godohanAsana (see image), so called because it resembles how one milches the cow.  godohanAsana remains a classical standard yoga posture.

mahAvIra in godohanAsana

We further find traces of standard yoga postures in standing, half-standing, or leaning positions in other extra-yaugika special interest groups such as those in nATya and the practitioners of the Hindu martial arts, both of which are concerned with and utilize the standard yoga postures. The dhanurveda texts, variously titled and differently dated, tell us about specific Asana-s to be employed for specific purposes. The most complete, last redacted in the present form by around the 13th century but obviously containing much older material, the dhanurveda of vyAsa, tells the archers to assume one of the Eight Asana-s while shooting the arrow, each of which except the last, is in standing and half-standing posture. It describes each Asana and even mentions them by well known names such as the Asana-s of vishAkha, padma, and garuDa. Other and older Hindu martial art texts such as those contained within the purANa-s or bauddha pAlI sUtra-s inform us about the specific standing postures useful for practicing malla and other yuddha vidhA-s.

Coming to the climate part, yoga authors specifically mention that the Asana, by one of its very purposes, takes the body of the practitioner beyond the effects of climate and other such dualities. Explaining the last yoga sUtra on Asana, “dvandvAnabhighAt”, rAjan bhoja explicitly gives the example of climate, saying when the practitioner has perfected the yogAsana, the very effect of it is that Asana makes his body transcend and withstand the effects of extreme climate, both warm and cold.

To summarize, what the foregoing discussion aimed to show is that Asana had already acquired a technical sense during mahAbhArata, and even before, from upaniShadic times. That pata~njali does not need to define Asana itself, but simply add more specific qualifiers to it, also shows that the concept of specific Asanas was already a common knowledge. Such names of Asanas as padmAsana, daNDAsana, bhadrAsana, svAstikAsana, and vIrAsana, vajrAsana etc. were so very common and well known among the Hindus already from very early days. By as early as the 6th century we find the yoga authors not only mentioning them by name, but in a sense that it was such a common knowledge that simply indicating a few names appended by ‘etcetera’ is sufficient to indicate them all.  We also see that even these ancient Hindus were conscious about much further antiquity of the system of postures for yoga, as even AchArya shaMkara remarks about its obscurely ancient origins and wide popularity and recognition already by the time of the old layer of the upaniShada-s.  We also noted that the Asana-s, the postures, is what he takes as being a general identifying characteristic trait of the yoga system.  There are old records of not only sitting but standing, half-standing and leaning postures being practiced, and that the yoga authors were particular about Asana being for the very purpose to make the body of practitioner withstand the worldly dualities like the hot and cold climate.

The hindU-dviTa vultures delegitimizing the Hindu legacy of yogAsana remind us of how the legacies of our glorious cousins the Hellenes of Greece were also robbed away, how the fanatic pretamata first undermined, then outlawed, and finally secularized as its own, the ancient spiritual gymnast-athletics and its kumbha-like deeply spiritual festival of Olympic that was celebrated to honour the dyauspitR^i. Lamentably the perished Hellenic civilization would be unable to reclaim the Olympic from what it has now been vulgarized and secularized into. But the Hindu civilization is still alive, so far at least, to call yogAsana its asset, happy to share with the world, but as its very own ancestral civilizational and spiritual legacy.

December 19, 2010

On pata~njali And His Works

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

॥नम: भगवते पतञ्जलये॥

“…we know little about the yoga author Patanjali. We know of Patanjali the grammarian and have good reason to date him to the 2nd century BC. Apart from the name, we have no solid reason for assuming that he was the author of the famous Yoga Sûtra as well. Possibly an anonymous author tried to give his own book a wider readership by attributing it to an ancient authority”,

So writes Dr. Koenraad Elst.

We feel much indebted to Dr. Elst for his monumental intellectual services in the causes of Hindu survival and revival; we are something like a fan of his.  But then what he says is quite disturbing, besides dissidence being our second nature, so here goes:

While what he says above has long remained the majority Indologist view in contrast to the Hindu tradition of identifying a single author to the famous mahAbhAShya and yogasUtra-s, but so far even those who opposed the traditional position had only thought of it as a simple case of eponymy of two authors having confused the later commentators to conflate them into a single personage. Therefore with his suggestion, Dr. Elst is breaking new grounds, that the real author of the yogasUtra simply stuck the famous name of the renowned mahAbhAShyakAra to his own petty product for marketing considerations.

Those familiar with the yoga-sUtra-s (YS) would be easily shocked by the flippant conjecture which not only borders on slander towards the yoga-sUtra author, but also trivializes the essential worth of the work which is considered one of the cornerstones of the Hindu philosophy.

yoga-sUtra (YS), although tiny in size, can be seated next only to the bhagavad-gItA on the copious shelf of all the Hindu philosophicals ever composed. In fact, to the popularity of the yoga-sUtra Dr. Elst himself indirectly alludes, in a separate earlier note, where he writes, “While numerous Asian philosophical texts remain untranslated, a few suffer from a surplus of translations: the Bhagavad-Gītā, the Yijing, the Daodejing, and also Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra.”

The popularity, and even more, the practical worth of the YS, account for and fully justify not only its numerous translations but also the width and diversity of various commentaries produced on it throughout the ages from old to modern. Indeed like the numerous translations, in the matter of commentaries too, yoga-sUtra can be comfortably placed next only to the bhagavad-gItA, since excepting probably the latter no other book of philosophy has been commented upon so many times in so many ways and by so many people as diverse as vyAsa to AchArya rajanIsha and shaMkara to svAmI vivekAnanda, and rAjA bhoja deva to Aurobindo, so that there is not a single class of commentary known in the saMskR^ita universe, from TIkA to vyAkhyA, vArtika to vR^itti, bhAShya to bodhinI, and vivaraNa to dIpikA, that has remained not utilized in the study of the pAta~njala yoga-sUtra-s.

But we are asked to believe that the author of this yoga-sUtra, who is counted by the Hindu philosophical traditions in the same class of the dArshanika-s as kapila, gautama, kaNAd, jaiminI and bAdarAyaNa, was simply ignorant or unsure about the worth of the work he was composing, so that he had to resort to such a gimmick as to fake it as having come from another person!

Now, first off, if the “real author” of the yoga-sUtra-s had to use another’s name, wouldn’t it be natural for him to pick up the name of an “authority” from the same subject matter to which his own work belongs? Why would a yoga author pick up a grammarian’s name?

There are of course surer known situations where authors applied another’s name to make their work popular, but at least the name thus used belongs to a recognized authority of that field. The best example would be some collections of nIti that come with the name of chANakya, although the author of artha-shAstra had nothing to do with these books. His name is chosen by the real authors/editors of these books, as chANakya is an established authority of nIti. We can see this phenomenon more clearly in the medieval Hindi literature, where we find a certain spurious poetries bearing the names of “tulasIdAsa” and “bhUShaNa” are clearly written by others and given the renowned name of these poets. However, even in these cases, such works at least belong to their respective subject matters and genre. If an author of yoga had to, at all, utilize someone else’s name for propagating his own petty work, he had better choices available than that of a “grammarian’s” name. Wouldn’t have the name of an earlier established authority on yoga (or sAMkhya) been more practical to pick for him for the YS, say, “kApilya-yoga-sUtra” or even better the “hairaNyagarbha-yoga-sUtra” or “vArShagaNya-yoga-sUtra”? (The hiraNyagarbha being the known original teacher on yoga whose redacted treatise was apparently long lost by the time of YS-author, and who is mentioned by name as the original yoga-teacher in the mahAbhArata. vArShagaNya being another ancient authority, named in yoga texts like the vyAsa-bhAShya.)

There is another possible issue in accepting the view that yoga-sUtra author deliberately picked the grammarian’s name for his own work. It is known to the students of the saMskR^ita vyAkaraNa that after the initial century of popularity, mahAbhAShya had gradually lost its readership and went largely out of circulation, until later when it made a comeback. kalhaNa records in rAjataraMgiNI as well as bhartR^ihari in vAkpadIya, this rise and fall of pata~njali-the-grammarian’s popularity, where he says that unlike their own times when mahAbhAShya was widely popular, in the “old days” the circulation of pata~njali’s bhAShya was limited to the households only of South India, where too it was like just another book shorn of all its glory, and it was hardly ever heard of, until being reintroduced by the efforts of a certain scholar and a king whom they mention by name. This receded popularity of pata~njali’s grammar makes it very unlikely for the “yoga-sUtra author” to have been in that era and having used the pata~njali’s name. Being after that period is also unlikely, as bhartR^ihari is already familiar with YS, and even before, the jaina scholar umAsvAti has already quoted from it. And if it is before that period, then we go too close to the compilation of mahAbhAShya itself, dated with certainty to the mid second century BCE, which makes most objections of Indologists against accepting the traditional view of identifying both the works to have come from the same author fall flat in themselves.

We have to thus abandon the baseless conjecture that the author of yoga sUtra is not pata~njali but some imposter who assumed this name only to deliberately attribute his work to pata~njali the grammarian.

Now whether these books are written by one person named pata~njali, or two different eponymous persons, is next for us to examine.

There are not just these two, but at least four major works that carry the name of pata~njali as their author:

1. mahAbhAShya (MB), the most authoritative work on the grammar of saMskR^ita that perfected the pANini’s system, and considered one of the most important milestones in the intellectual development of the Hindus. By virtue of producing this work, pata~njali gains place in the traditional muni-trayI, the Sage Triad, of saMskR^ita language, alongside pANinI and kAtyAyana. In size, MB’s canvas nearly approaches the width of mahAbhArata, while it likewise retains a perfectly lucid and systematic flow and content as a work of instruction. Notably MB is the only commentary on any subject-matter ever written, to have been given the prefix of ‘mahat’, The Great. So, even as all the other commentaries, esteemed as those are and written by such luminaries as the AchArya-s shaMkara, vyAsa and sAyaNa, those are still entitled as mere bhAShya-s, while the title of mahA-bhAShya is reserved for the product of pata~njali alone. For many centuries the education of a man in India was not considered complete without its study. Although being only a commentary in itself, MB came to exert such tremendous influence over generations of Hindu linguists and grammarians that several commentaries, glosses, expositions and critiques were written on it. Notable among these being the oldest TikA of bhartR^ihari now only extant in parts, besides vAkpadIya of his which is entirely based on MB, pradIpa written by kaiyaTa upAdhyAya of kAshmIra, three works siddhAnta-ma~njUShA, shabdendu-shekhara and pradIpodyota written on MB by nAgojIbhaTTa, shabda-kaustubha by bhaTTojI, and vaiyAkaraNa-bhUShaNa of koNDA-bhaTTa. All of these produced over centuries, and varying in scope and purpose, are entirely devoted to the analysis and study of pata~njali’s mahAbhAShya.

2. yoga-sUtra (YS), a short compilation, all of 195 terse crisp and memorable formulae, providing a complete synopsis of yoga not only as a philosophy but more as a systematic practical process. The significance of YS is not in bringing forth new techniques or methods – indeed it uses the material which existed before it and makes some quotations in verbatim – but its true significance is in being the first work to impersonally lay down the overarching foundational superstructure of yoga as a precise well-defined system. YS has been unanimously considered an authority by the yogis of all lineages, indeed by the proponents of all major spiritual traditions within the Hindu society, and it has remained extremely popular throughout all the periods, much commented upon and quoted from. There are several famous commentaries available, which include the most popular exposition being the yoga-bhAShya by vyAsa in the 7th century, tattva-vaiShAradI by vAchaspati mishra in the 8th century, yoga-sUtra-vAkya-vivaraNa of a similar date ascribed to AchArya shaMkara, and rAja-mArttaNDa-vR^itti by rAjan bhoja-deva the pramAra in first half of the 11th century. Besides these, there are dozens of many other important commentaries from varying view-points and in numerous styles, like maNiprabhA of rAmAnanda yati, yoga-siddhAnta-chandrikA and sUtrArtha-bodhinI both by nArAyaNa tIrtha, vR^itti by nAgojI bhaTTa, yoga-dIpikA of bhAvA gaNesha, and a very important yoga-vArttikA of vij~nAna bhikShu from the 16th century, not to mention a complete explosion in the translations, expositions and commentaries on the yoga-sUtra witnessed in the last two centuries, which works can easily number in the hundreds.

Besides the above two, pata~njali is also attributed with the authorship/codification of the following important branches of the Hindu knowledge.

3. charaka saMhitA (CS), the oldest available systematic and organized presentation of medicine and therapeutics as a holistic philosophy. The work is counted as the first of the three pillar of Ayurvedic literature, the next two being the saMhitA-s respectively of suShruta and vAgbhaTa to complete the brihat-trayI, the Grand Trilogy, of the Hindu medicine system. As is well known and declared by the work itself, most of the ideas that CS presents were pre-existing, having came down to its author from a variety of sources and very ancient times through various teachers whom it enumerates. The novel contribution of CS is in systematizing, organizing, and expanding those ideas into a holistic philosophy. Like YS and MB, CS is also an authoritative work on its subject matter, much commented upon and translated throughout the ages. The first recorded commentary, although now available only in some fragments, is the 6th century charaka-nyAsa by bhaTTAra harichandra, a 9th century nirantara-pAda by jejjaTa from kAshmIra, followed by the most authoritative commentary on it charaka-tAttparya-dIpikA by chakrapANi datta of 11th century, and charaka-tattva-pradIpikA by shivadAsa sena in the 15th century. From very old times, CS was also well known to the Greco-Latin practitioners of medicine, referred as the Sharaka Indianus, recorded from at least the 7th century. Al-Biruni also mentions the work to have been an old authority on therapeutics and that it was already widely translated and available in the Arabic by his time.

4. nidAna sUtra (NS), one of the ten authoritative and established shrauta-sUtra-s on sAma-veda belonging to the kauthumi shAkhA. The references from such sources as the bR^ihad-devatA and R^igvedAnukramaNI indicate the existence of two independent recensions of the nidAna sUtra-s: the one attributed to bhAllavI is no more extant, and the other which reaches us is authored by pata~njali. Divided in ten prapAThaka-s of thirteen khaNDa-s each, the specific purpose of the nidAna-sUtra is to provide concise, short and memorable instructions to the performers of the sAmaveda rituals about the accurate specifications of the rituals. A small portion of the NS, the opening seven khaNDa-s in the first prapAThaka, also forms an independently circulated work in itself, known as the pAta~njala cHandovichati, which deals with the specifications of the meters of the sAmavedic mantra-s. Since accuracy in observing the meters makes for one of the very crucial points, cHandovichati is an important work of instruction. The significance of nidAna sUtra is reflected by the attention given to it by several commentators on the vaidika performances like sAyaNa, varadarAja, dhanvI, deva-yAj~nika, rudra-skanda and agni-svAmI, who have all freely quoted from the NS, some also mentioning pata~njali with great reverence as its author. In addition, entire commentaries have also been written on the cHandavichati portion independently, notable being tattva-subodhinI by tAta-prasAda of an unknown date, and a late but complete TikA by hR^iShikesha sharman.

Besides these works there are some more not so well known works that indirectly imply pata~njali as their author. This includes a notable paramArtha-sAra (PS), a very short work of all but 85 verses in AryA meter, hence also called AryA-pa~nchAshIti, and which explains the sAMkhya principles in a vaiShNava-vedAntika framework. There are some more obscure works like metallurgical loha-shAstra and a medicinal handbook vAtaskanda-vaidyaka, whose author is also indirectly named as pata~njali. All of these however carry no allusion to the author of the earlier mentioned books, nor do any commentators or traditions recount these under the authorship of the famous yoga-sUtra-kAra or the mahAbhAShya-kAra. About the author of the earlier mentioned ones however, traditions and the commentators do speak about the identity of their author as a single sage named pata~njali.

The oldest reference about these books having been authored by one single pata~njali comes from bhartR^ihari’s vAkpadIya, dating at least from the 600s of the C.E. This celebrated bhartR^ihari was very closely connected with the studies on pata~njali, especially from the grammar stand point. In fact, he credits his own teacher to have re-introduced the studies of pAta~njala mahAbhAShya throughout India which had otherwise become by his time, as noted before, obscure and found only in the households of south, reduced there too to just being “another book”. bhartR^ihari had also written a TIkA on MB, which is now not available except for some fragments as noted earlier. In vAkpadIya, he expresses his gratitude towards the sage like this:

kAya-vAg-buddhi-viShayA ye malAH samupasthitAH / chikitsA-lakShaNAdyAtma-shAstraiteShAM vishuddhayaH (vAkpadIya, bramha-kANDa 1.147/8)

[“All that was unclean in the Body, Speech, and in Mind; has been cleansed away by (your) treatises respectively on the Medicine, Grammar, and Spirituality.”]

Now Indologists like J H Wood of Harvard and others following him are not satisfied that the above refers to pata~njali at all or that it really means what is written above. But, considering the overwhelming symmetry in the references that would now follow, the above could not have but referred to pata~njali alone and to his contribution in the different fields.

Chronologically next reference comes from the TIkA on charaka-saMhitA by chakrapANi-datta in the 11th century, who prays to pata~njali, the sage who prepared all these shAstra-s:

pAta~njala mahAbhAShya charaka pratisaMskR^itaiH
manovAkkAya doShANAM hartre-hi-pataye namaH (charaka-tAttparya-dIpikA, ma~NgalAcharaNa)

[To Him, who by preparing the pAta~njala-(yoga-sUtra-s), the mahAbhAShya, and the refinements over the charaka-saMhitA has wiped out all the afflictions that affect respectively the Mind, the Speech, and the Body; to that Master, we pray.]

Here chakrapANi is very explicit in saying that the CS was only refined/redacted by pata~njali, and thereby is noted as last in the sequence. Interesting to note is that the title pAta~njala, i.e. “Of pata~njali”, is reserved not for MB, but for the work dealing with spirituality. Some Indologists have felt a little room for doubt here, whether this book, simply called pAta~njala here, refers to YS or some other work dealing with spirituality. Notably, in the same century as chakrapANi, Al-Biruni also alludes in his India, to a work called pAta~njal, earlier translated in Arabic as Qitab Patanjal by himself. Some scholars had speculated, going by the synthesis of Al-Baruni, whether he was not referring to some other book that was attributed to pata~njali albeit indirectly, such as the paramArtha-sAra, which would meet the Al-Biruni’s description to large extent. However, a single manuscript of Qitab Patanjal of Al-Biruni has been discovered and published later in translation, which confirms that pAta~njal really meant pata~njali’s YS and no other work (See Shlomo Pines and Tuvia Gelblum).

However, there is an even better and more direct proof that pAta~njal i.e. “Of Patanjali” is the epithet used for YS alone, and not even for the MB. A near-contemporary of both chakrapANi-datta and Al-Biruni, the illustrious rAjan bhoja-deva the pramAra provides a remark which makes it clear that not only it is yoga-sUtra-s alone that went by the name of pAta~njala but also reinforces the contemporary Hindu belief of a single pata~njali being the author of YS alongside the mahAbhAShya and charaka-saMhitA. bhojadeva, multifaceted as his talents were, seems to have much idolized the sage-author of such diverse interests. In the opening of his commentary on the pata~njali’s yoga-sUtra, the learned rAjan thusly places himself with the sage pata~njali:

shabdAnAmanushAsanam vidadhatA pAta~njale kurvatA \ vR^ittiM rAja-mR^igA~Nka saMg~nakAmapi vyAtanvatA vaidyake \ vAkchetovapuShAM malaH ShaNabhUtAM bhatreva yenodadhR^itastasya shrI-raNa-ra~Nga-malla-nR^ipate vAcho jayantujjvalauH ||

[Victorious be the radiant utterances of that Sovereign, The Wrestler on the Arena of Battlefields (this being the name of another work by bhoja deva as well as one of his regal titles), who has by preparing a work on grammar, by writing this commentary on pata~njali’s work, and by composing rAja-mR^igA~Nka, a work on medicine, has wiped out all the defilements respectively afflicting the Speech, the Mind, and the Body, just like as was done by the Sovereign of all the Serpents (alluding to Adi-sheSha personified in pata~njali )]

So here, “pAta~njala” comes to unambiguously mean the famous yoga-sUtra-s and no other work. bhoja seems to be not only aware of several commentaries done on this work before his time, but says he has referred to all those that were present. Indeed he tries to even remain critical about the text: one sUtra in the fourth book he considers being a later interpolation, and refuses to comment upon it.

In the next century, circa 1187 CE as per Max Muller, saDgurushiShya the vaidika commentator on kAtyAyana’s sarvAnukramaNI, refers to sage pata~njali, who is the author of all these books, mahAbhAShya, nidAna sUtra and of course the yoga-sUtra-s. In praise of kAtyAyana he says:

yatpraNItAni vAkyAni bhagavAnstu pata~njaliH / vyAkhyachcHAntaviyena mahAbhAShyena harShitaH / yogAchAryaH svayaM kartA yogashAstra nidAnayoH

[Being greatly pleased by this vArttikA written by the descendant of shAntanu (alluding to kAtyAyana), bhagavAn pata~njali, himself being a great teacher of yoga and the celebrated author of yoga-sUtra-s as well as of the nidAna-sUtra-s, decided to further elucidate on these grammatical rules in his mahAbhAShya.] (See Prof. Kailash Nath Bhatnagar, Introduction in the Nidana Sutra of Patanjali, Lahore, 1939)

Writing from kAshmIra in the same century, grammarian kaiyaTa upAdhyAya holds a similar view, and expresses it with a beautiful opening verse of his bhAShya-pradIpa, a commentary on the MB:

yogena chittasya padena vAchAM malaM sharIrasya cha vaidyakena
yo.pAkarottaM pravaraM munInAM pata~njaliM prA~njalirAnatosmi (bhAshya-pradIpa, opening)

[The impurities of chitta by yoga, of speech by the (MB’s) pada-s, and those of the body by the treatise on medicine; That First of all the muni-s, sage pata~njali, who has removed all these impurities, to Him I bow with joined palms]

We find the same view continuing down to the later centuries among the grammarians. nAgojIbhaTTa writing in the late 16th century speaks thus in his vaiyAkaraNa-siddhAnta-ma~njUShA: Apto nAma anubhavena vastutattvasya kArtsyena nishchayavAn / rAgAdivishAdapi nAnyathAvAdI yaH sa iti charake pata~njaliH. The same scholar says in his paspaSha adhikaraNa of MB, “yoga-sUtre-pata~njalokte” as well as elsewhere “taduktaM charake pata~njalinA sendriyaM dravyaM nirindriyamachetanam”, implying throughout, that the three works, YS, MB, and CS were authored by the same pata~njali.

In the 18th century, rAmabhadra dIkShita dedicated a whole work in compiling a biographical sketch of pata~njali, entitled pata~njalicharitam, where he holds the author of all these works to have been one single pata~njali, and remarks:

sUtrANi yogashAstre vaidyakashAstre cha vArttikAni tataH / kR^itvA pata~njalamuniH prachArayAmAsa jagadidaM trAtuM

[yoga-sUtra-s, followed by the treatise on medicine, and then the grammatical rules, Sage pata~njali created and propagated all these three in the world]

So we can easily see that for a long time, starting at the least with bhartR^ihari in the sixth century, all the way down to rAmabhadra dIkShita in the Eighteenth, pata~njali was considered to have been a single author of all the diverse books, and this has remained a firm tradition and a widely held view among the Hindus for over a millennia.

It is not until the 19th century british colonial era that we come across such views being inserted in the saMskR^ita dictionaries like vAchaspatyam and Shabda-kalpa-druma that the two pata~njali’s are different:

vAchaspatyam: “ayaM cha yogashAstrakArAt bhinna iti saralAyAmasmAbhissamarthitam| anayorabheda iti pAshchAtya vaiyAkaraNAH ” [And this pata~njali is different from the author of the yogashAstra, this is the simple view we hold. Conversely that they are the same was a view held the later grammarians.] Also, shabda-kalpa-druma: “keShAnchinmate yogasUtrakAra pata~njalerbhAShyakR^it pata~njalirbhinna eva| anayorabhedatAm tu nirdishanti pAshchAtyAH” [Some consider the yoga-sUtra author pata~njali to have been different from the mahAbhAShya author pata~njali. That they are the same is a view developed by the later people.] It seems strange that these colonial-period dictionaries should say that the “later people” considered the one-pata~njali theory, whereas indeed it is they, the still “later people” who thought otherwise!

But what does an examination of all these texts directly reveals internally from the texts of the four works? Are there some grounds from within the works to support the traditional view that they have come from the same author?

First, let us look at the structure and arrangement of the respective works.

1. Each of the four books is concerned with systematizing and perfecting a particular pre-existing body of knowledge. YS that of sAMkhya-yoga, CS that of Ayurveda, MB that of pANini grammar, and NS that of sAmaveda ritual specifications. Each is concerned in not bringing forth some striking new techniques, but indeed presenting that which existed from the old with robust structures and system of instruction.

2. The foundational concepts of all the works are fascinatingly octal! Yoga-sUtra lays down the famous Eight-fold process of yoga, the aShTA~Nga-yoga, comprising the Eight essential limbs of yama, niyama, Asana, prANAyAma, pratyAhAra, dhAraNA, dhyAna and samAdhi, and presented under four pAda-s.

The mahAbhAShya is anyways based on pANini’s legendary “Eight-Chapters”, the aShTAdhyAyI, and follows exactly the same structure and sequence of those Eight chapters, dividing each into four pAda-s (like the four-pAda-s of yoga-sUtra).

Ayurveda deals with the same number of parts, it’s own aShTA~Nga including the kAyA (general medicine), shalya (surgery), shAlakya (supraclavical, ENT and Ophthalmology), Agad-tantra (toxicology), kaumAra (pediatrics and obstetrics), bhUta (psychiatry and demonology), rasAyana (rejuvenation and healing), and bAjIkaraNa (infertility treatment and virilification).

While the charaka saMhitA deals with only some of these aspects, even then CS is also divided exactly into Eight books or sthAna-s: sUtra (fundamental concepts), nidAna (diagnosis, pathogenesis and general patho-physiology), vimAna (chemical & physiological processes, clinical procedures, infections and epidemics), sharIra (anatomy and embryology), indriya (symptomatology and prognosis), chikitsA (prescriptions and some drug formulations), kalpa (pharmacy proper), and finally the siddhi (evacuation and cleansing procedures). Very interestingly, three of these eight sthAna-s, the books of nidAna, vimAna and sharIra, are further sub-divided into exactly eight adhyAya-s or chapters.

Now, on this point, nidAna-sUtra may appear to be an outlier at the outset, as it does not have eight but ten pra-pAThaka-s. Interestingly however, an annotated, reorganized and supplemented work heavily drawing from and following nidAna-sUtra, called upanidAna-sUtra or the Little nidAna-sUtra, of an unknown date but being quite ancient and authoritative, brings the body of knowledge back to an Eight-chaptered organization!

3. sUtra-s: each of the books is tightly connected with the genre of the sUtra-s in one way or the other. In the MB, which is the only of the four works that is written not in an impersonal tenor, pata~njali shows his extreme mastery over as well as the liking for the sUtra genre, when he mentions and quotes the sUtra-s from various subjects besides the sUtra-s of pANini such as the vArttika sUtra-s, saMgraha-sUtra-s, kalApaka sUtra-s, as well as the various kalpa-sUtra-s and gR^ihya-sUtra-s for vaidika performances. In MB he expresses his liking for the concise short sentances of sUtra-s when he says that, “an author as much rejoices in the economizing of half a short vowel, as much as he does in the birth of a son!”

Pata~njali’s profound mastery over sUtra-s or his extreme liking for them actually shows up in all the four works we are looking at!

The yoga-sUtra is of course one of the most pristine samples of the sUtra genre, NS is also written in the sUtra-s. mahAbhAShya, though written in prose and verse, is tightly linked with the sUtra-s anyways, being a discussion on the sUtra-s of pANini and kAtyAyana besides quoting other sUtra-s as we have mentioned above. charaka saMhitA while in verse, names its opening section as the “sUtra-sthAna”, which is the largest of all the sections, spanning almost one-fourth of the whole book in laying out the fundamentals of Ayurveda.

[Note: Here, it would be interesting to cross-read the Max Muller’s amazement at the sUtra genre, which holds absolutely valid for all these four pata~njalian works: “It is difficult to explain the peculiarities of the style of sUtra literature to anyone who has not worked his way through the sUtra-s themselves… impossible to give anything like a literal translation… the most artificial, elaborate, and enigmatical form… one uninterrupted string of short sentences twisted together into the most concise form …; not only express their fundamental doctrines in this concise form of language, if language it can be called, by which they succeed in reducing the whole system of their tenets to mere algebraic formulas… to understand these is quite impossible without having key to the whole system… generally given in separate sUtra-s called paribhAShA-s…” ]

4. As is true of the sUtra-s of any subject-matter, each of these four works attributed to pata~njali is intended to be a practical companion and aid to the practitioner of the respective field, while presented in a way that need for learning the respective subject from a Master is only more emphasized. For instance, only by reading yoga-sUtra-s without any commentary and previous knowledge of its technical terminology, one cannot even decipher what it says, leave aside practically following it without a siddha yoga Master. The same can be said of charaka saMhitA, mahAbhAShya, and nidAna sUtra – that they yield instruction only to an already trained pupil not without a preceptor.

5. The opening: Prof. Surendranath Dasgupta of Calcutta Univ. had shown many decades back the striking similarity in the opening statements of both YS and MB. We can take that observation even further. All the four works begin without any elaborate ma~NgalAcharaNa or traditional invoking, rather simply with “atha”. YS: “atha yogAnushAsanam”, MB: “atha shabdAnushAsanam”, NS: “atha nidAna sUtram”, and CS: “athAto dIrgha-jIvitIyam-adhyAyam vyAkhyAsyAmaH”. This wonderful inaugural word “atha” literally means, “Now Then, Therefore…”, and signifies the ultimate authority that the author has on the respective subject matter. Commentators add that this also means both a ma~NgalAcharaNa, the auspicious beginning, as well as a pre-qualification for the reader or student: that only someone who has done the needed preparatory groundwork can be initiated with a “Now Then, Therefore…”

6. Proximity to the veda-s: Each of the work is closely connected with the ArSha subjects and have affinity to the veda-s. MB fits in the vyAkaraNa a vedA~Nga, even consdiered an Agama; CS, the first pillar of the Ayurveda represents an upa-veda; NS is anyways one of the shrauta-sUtra of sAmaveda; and although YS does not speak of or refers directly to the veda-s at all but that the yoga is the very “vidyA” spoken of in the veda-s, is the claim of the yogi-s (see for instance the preface of haThayoga-pradIpikA or the taittarIya brAhmaNa) and sAMkya yoga teachers like pata~njali are tightly connected with sAmaveda (such as vArShagaNya who is pre-pata~njala, pre-mahAbhArata teacher of yoga, and a sAmavedika teacher).

7. What about the language of the texts? Could a comparison of the language used in the texts yield some conclusions? Some people have indeed tried to analyze the language of MB and of YS from difference standpoints, such as done briefly by Jacobi long time back, and more systematically by Adolph Janacek in 1958. In his “Two Texts of Patanjali and a statistical correspondence of their Vocabularies”, Janacek built a comparative statistical model by using words used in MB and YS to see if they could have come from the same author. He remained inconclusive, either to support or to reject the tradition. And it is not surprising, since the very difference in size of the two (YS is just 195 short statements and MB is like an epic) as well as the stark differences in the subject matter, makes the statistical comparison less sound.

And still, if we look up the shabdAnukramaNI (word index) of MB prepared by paNDita-s shrIdhara shAstrI and siddheshvara shAstrI, to search for the terms used in the YS, almost all of these are used here. “yoga” appears over a hundred times, not counting the variants like yogya, yogatva etc., nor the sandhi-samAsau derived from “yoga” like “yogavibhAga”, “yogArambha” etc. “yogA~Nga”, the limbs of yoga, although the term is used here in a different sense, occurs 7 times in MB. Names of almost all the yogA~Nga-s appear in MB at different places. “dhya” with its various forms like “dhyAyati”, “dhyAnavat” etc. occurs so does “dhAraNa” and “dhAraNakriyA” more than once and so also “Asana” and “Asana-kriyA”. “pratyAhAra” occurs over a dozen times besides its derived words like “pratyAhArArtha” and “pratyAhAragrahaNa”. Drilldowns likewise of the types of yama-niyamau are most present here besides many pAribhAShika terms of YS. MB is also full of the terminology that is encountered both in the nidAna-sUtra and charaka-saMhitA, to which we shall return in the next point. We must mention though that the available MSS of the nidAna sUtra make many grammatical mistakes of various kinds, which makes it hard to believe to have been so written if its author was a great grammarian of pata~njali’s fame. What seems likely, since the mistakes vary from one MSS to the other, is that these mistakes were introduced by the scribes and remained in texts in absence of critical editing.

Now, we don’t have the wherewithal and resources to carry out the full scope lexical analysis of the four texts; we can only recommend and appeal to the professionals to take up such a study; at present, we can only say that there is nothing in the at a glance lexical comparison to contradict the traditional view of one-pata~njali.

8. It is not impossible for the author of mahAbhAShya to have also written the nidAna sUtra, as from the internal evidence of the MB he does certainly appear to have been not only a practitioner of vaidika sacrifices but also a remarkable vaidika scholar of all the four veda-s.

Like any smArta he expresses his belief that the veda-s existed from eternity and are un-created (nahi cHandAnsi kR^iyante nityAni cHandAnsi). He not only refers to each veda and quotes from them, but actually goes on to enumerate each shAkhA of each veda. His mastery over all the four veda-s is also evident from his profuse quotations from them: right in the first AhnikA he quotes five R^igvedic passages. There are several instances where he quotes the fragments of vedic verses; in the beginning of shabdAnushAsana he reproduces the opening lines of the first verses of each veda.

Not only is pata~njali an erudite scholar of the veda-s, he was also a learned performer of rites. In fact one of the important arguments of Dr. R G Bhandarkar in how he dated him precisely and conclusively to the middle of the 2nd century BCE is because at one place he explains the peculiarity of a tense when the activity has begun but not yet finished and will continue personally by the kartA, exemplifying by a sentence that “we perform a certain rite on behalf of rAjan puShyamitra”, this puShyamitra being the famous shu~Nga emperor. He mentions the five great classes of sacrifices, the deva, pitR^i, bhUta, nR^I, and bramha, besides naming the specific rituals. He names rAjasUya, vAjapeya and ashvamedha ya~jna-s, the last of which he mentions having been performed by the king puShyamitra, besides talking of the lesser ones like the nava, pAka, agniShToma, chAturmAsya, and the pa~ncha-mahA-ya~jna-s remarking that the last one is done by every householder. Several objects and tools which only a vaidika ritualist would be concerned with are mentioned by him such as yUpa, chaShAla and sruk etc. as well as the concepts like the svastivAchana, puNyAhavAchana, and shAntivAchanas. mahAbhAShya quotes from many brAhmaNa-grantha-s as well as from their auxiliary texts to mention the specific mantra-s to be employed in the specific rites. He even goes to the limit of giving the instructions about how the case endings of vaidika mantra-s should be suitably modified by the yA~gyanika-s for the performances of rituals. He also shows close familiarity, indeed mastery, over the concepts of sAmaveda rituals. He mentions clearly the “uktha” of sAmaveda (4.2.60) and clearly refers to the musical recitations (kaliyaM sAma gIyate), besides mentioning by name the meters of jagatI, triShTubha and anuShTubha.

Could this eminent vaidika scholar not be the same person who also wrote the nidAna-sUtra-s for compiling the specifications of the sAmaveda rituals? Indeed it seems quite extremely possible.
There is yet another little known tradition that makes a single pata~njali’s association with both sAmkya-yoga and sAmaveda at the same time, more likely. That is that sAmavedins are considered closely connected with the sAMkhya and yoga. This includes the less known pre-pata~njali Teacher of yoga vArShagaNya, who is named by mahAbhArata as a sAMkhya-yoga master on one hand, and on the other recalled as a great sAmaveda ritualist by the gR^ihya sUtra of jaiminI. The similarity in the case of pata~njali about dealing with both sAmaveda and sAMkhya-yoga, like his predecessor, makes the traditional view point even more credible.

9. As becoming of a great vaidika scholar, pata~njali is also quite familiar with the atharvan veda. In MB, he explains the term “AtharvaNika” as someone who is a thorough scholar of the fourth veda. He also explicitly mentions that certain concepts must exclusively belong to the atharvan veda and not the first three. Reading this, one should recall the statement in the charaka saMhitA which says that a physician, when asked as to which saMhitA he belongs, should only declare that he is affiliated with the atharvan-saMhitA.

10. That brings us to look at the works from the angle of medicine. Although tradition only attributes pata~njali as an organizer of charaka-saMhita and not an original author, it presupposes his mastery over medical knowledge. Does the author of mahAbhAShya show enough familiarity with medicine and therapeutics?

The many references to medical concepts in the mahAbhAShya make it obvious that its author had fair knowledge of medicine. Not only does pata~njali refer in MB to the Ayurvaidika idea that a disease is caused by the misbalance in the three doSha-s of the body, namely vAta, kapha and pitta (MB 5.1.38), and mentions the diagnostic term to be used when one of them is found dominating the body – vAtika, slaiShmika etc., but also mentions some prescriptions for curing their prakopa (MB6.1.12): Clarified butter destroys excess bile (pittaghnam ghR^itam) and honey the cough and phlegm (shleShmaghnam madhu). He mentions by name certain diseases like pAman, a type of chronic itching (MB1.1.23); gaDu, a type of goiter, bronchocele or scrofula (MB4.3.39); gaDushiras, a condition of excrescence on the head (MB2.3.35); dadru, a type of leprosy (MB5.2.97); atisAra, diarrhea (MB3.3.17), sannipAtika, the fevers of typhoid, and utkandaka (?), besdies jvara, the common fever; and pAdarogaH – certain skin ailment of feet (MB1.1.58/6.1.32). At one instance, pata~njali provides in MB a passage, by way of a grammatical example, containing a dialogue about increasing and decreasing of fever: “’How is the devadatta’s ailment?’ asks someone, to which ‘increasing’ answers one or ‘it is decreasing’ says the other.”
pata~njali also mentions remedies at many places in mahAbhAShya: for curing urinary tract he mentions administering rice-gruel and for force-clearing the bowels barley juice (MB2.3.13), and also names i~Ngadatailam, a certain medicinal oil (MB 5.2.29). For pAdarogaH he observes the domestic drain-water (na~Ngalodaka) helps, and also mentions some herbal remedies in bringing down the fever (MB1.1.58/6.1.32). At many places pata~njali mentions in MB varieties of herbs, grasses and so on. He also demonstrates knowledge in toxicology, such as when he says the curd mixed with lead causes fever.

To the conception, pregnancy and obstetrics, MB provides much attention. First, at one place MB refers to the essential physiology difference between the male and female according to which the outer signs of distinguishing features (such as lack on hair on female and masculinity in male) occur. At another place MB refers that the distinction between genders is essentially for reproduction, and that which forms the basis of embryo is ovum (strI), and the agent of conception is sperm (pumAn). MB further alludes to the mode of growth of embryo, saying that when embryo grows it develops the organs of body progressively (MB8.2.106). pata~njali also notices the obstetric troubles associated with the process of labour, noting that sometimes these may even lead to the death of the mother, especially during the first child-birth (MB1.1.21). pata~njali also mentions at another place about the process of miscarriage (MB1.3.1).

All of the above suggest that pata~njali the author of MB had sufficient knowledge about medicine and was inclined towards that science. It is not at all impossible that he might have systematized the charaka saMhitA as the Hindu tradition holds.

By the way, yoga-sUtra 4.1 mentions OShadhi, medicine, as one of the ways to attain the yaugika siddhi. And “nidAna” in nidAna-sUtra literally means diagnosis and pathology.

11. sAMkhya: charaka-saMhitA and mahAbhAShya both show tremendous influence of the classical sAMkhya philosophy. Yoga-sUtra is anyways consdiered the practical part of the sAMkhya, referred as sAMkhya-yoga; vyAsa-bhAShya even called YS by the name of sAMkhya-pravachana. Regarding nidAna-sUtra of sAmaveda, we have already noted the affinity of sAmavaidika-s and sAMkhya.

12. Observational and Experimental temperament: mahAbhAShya reveals its author to have been inclined towards keen observation of the natural phenomenon. He also hypothesizes their explanation on natural principles rather than seeing anything supernatural it those.

At one place we find him observe the phenomenon of gravity: a stone when thrown skywards returns back to earth, explaining that it is because the stone is also but a modification of earth itself to which it is attracted. In fact, elsewhere, although he does not connect it to the phenomenon of gravity, he wonders by which force the celestial bodies are held and bound together in their orbit rather than falling astray. Elsewhere he observes how the magnetic iron attracts iron, and that earth’s atmosphere also contains water in vaporous form. He also observes that the fire is really a modification of Sun, and flame like its rays and energy. He also says that not only the earth but the Sun must be also moving around some celestial bodies. He wonders why the sky appears blue, but does not give an explanation.

pata~njali also comments about the concept of density, noting that a piece of cloth and iron, both of equal dimensions, weigh differently because of their different dravyatA (~density). Elsewhere he wonders how it may be possible to figure out the amount of water mixed in an amount of milk. His explanation of sphOTa principle of sound is quite accurate. He explains how the sound is formed, how it travels through the ether, (noting correctly that without ether sound cannot travel), then how it is received by the listener’s hearing organ which is a continuum of the ether, transformed then into the sensory signal, and finally interpreted by the mind leading to there to cognition of what was uttered.

So we see that pata~njali displays in MB a very keen temperament of observations and rational reasoning; of seeking natural rather than supernatural explanations. Not that he rejects the existence of supernatural, but he only approaches the natural principles for the solutions.

The same temperament is displayed in the yoga-sUtra-s where the yoga process depends upon no beliefs or supernatural, but on direct practice, experimentation and observation.

In charaka saMhitA also, the text shows a profound reliance on direct observation and pure analysis for the diagnosis and cure of ailments. Indeed, CS although claiming affiliation to the atharva veda as noted before, flatly departs from the latter’s reliance on magical therapeutics and diagnosis as the work of the supernatural forces. In CS, the overwhelming stress is laid instead on direct clinical observation for diagnosis and for treatment on the diet, drugs, nursing and prognosis. It explicitly refers the yukti-vyapAshraya or Rational Therapeutics as its basis. It says that a successful cure depends upon the Rational Therapeutics and that is based on proper diet and administration of drugs. (CS does allow the use of magico-religious therapies only in curing the cases of mental disorders, which is understandable.)

The critical and purely rational character of CS makes first arriving at the accurate judgment about the ailment and its causes most important, and asks the doctor to answer these questions: What are the immediate and long-term causes of the overall ill health of the patient? How to infer the patterns of disease from the observed and reported symptoms? How to approach the remedy? In all of its approach, CS emphasizes and re-emphasizes on the direct physical observation of the patient’s symptoms, like, does the hair of patient stand before the occurrence of high fever, or also during the fever, or as well after the fever subsides? How does the patient react to the changes in different environment variables and alternative drugs, and the combination of variables?

We may note another point here that is about prohibiting the use of beef in both MB and CS. MB treats cows as venerable and says that the sale and eating of their meat is prohibited. CS also prohibits beef on account of its disadvantages as a dietary input, explaining it being heavy, hot, adverse for appetite and not agreeable for health in general, except in curing certain diseases when beef can be prescribed as medicine. CS also presents one tale speaking against beef eating.

There are many other points which can be made by comparing the four texts, such as complete conformity to and reliance on the classical nyAya to present the arguments. But after seeing the texts so far the conclusion we can draw is that there is hardly anything in the texts themselves that militates against the traditional Hindu belief of these texts having come from the same author, that is the brilliant sage pata~njali, who because of his diverse talents is called the manifestation of Adi-sheSha with his thousand fangs. We can safely go with the tradition.

Indologists objections revolve around the usual suspects: that there are interpolations, the non-homogeneity of texts, some philosophical concepts are allegedly imported from or influenced by the nAstika doctrines and therefore the resulting dating issues, some concepts that allegedly contradict and therefore could not have come from one person, dissecting the texts to such absurd level that the whole loses the meaning and then at that level showing the minor differences, and so on. But having seen those arguments we are convinced that none of them really stand the test of scrutiny and we shall take a raincheck without getting into discussing those. We shall only say that the real issue here is the hankering to somehow give these texts absurdly late dates, besides of course trivializing their authorship, devaluing their worth and integrity, as well as obfuscating their origins and genesis.

That reminds us of some other questions raised by Dr. Elst (and by Deepak Chopra) related with the “true” origins of the haTha-yoga (maybe from chInAtya-s it seems, no less), to which we shall return some other time.

For now, namaH bhagavate pata~njalaye…

August 13, 2010

Hindu Amnesia

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

It seems Hindus are suffering from a settled and severe case of Amnesia, and thanks to the condition, not able to experience the natural pangs that they must have experienced from the tormenting memories of past, had they been healthy; but to Hindus these memories seem to be inaccessible! They are displaying artificial comfort in the way things are, not even knowing that the same forces that have kept wounding them for centuries continue to do so to this day! Only a civilization that suffers serious intellectual damage and derangement of its memory management can be so casual about the pursuit of its exploration in history.

We examined the case through a crude statistical model. We collected the admission data from the Delhi University graduate courses in the latest curriculum year for 8 different courses, mostly related with humanities and excluded in it the more popular technology and science fields. We then arranged the cut off mark required for a candidate to get admitted to these different graduate courses in 30 best known colleges that offered these courses.

After plotting the admission cut off data against the subject and college, the result that came out confirmed our assertion:

The only two subjects that are clear winners and can compete truly with the disciplines of science and technology for being in demand by the brightest are, predictably, Commerce & Economics. All across the colleges, there is no other course that even touched these two.

The next cluster of choice comprises of English and Political Science, in that order, and is the clear second group which no other subject touches almost in any college, with only one or two outliers.

It is in the last cluster group that Hindi, History and Philosophy find any takers; History being the last option after all other choices are exhausted, and the line representing Philosophy appears like a pitiable scratch mark upon the graph!

But the worst was in store for the devabhAShA, bringing which on plot required truly stretching the scale to bottom!

It seems saMskR^ita is studied only by those students who can hope to get admission to nothing else, and are compelled to study the language of the deva-s! Even Urdu, Arabic and Persian, in colleges where they are offered, fared better than the language in which all the collective Hindu experience is recorded!!! The dead language indeed!

Such is the state of Hindu intellectual affairs and tilted such is our civilizational preferences of pursuits of directions. What wonder then that while Hindus may be looking to become economically very powerful, their intellectual returns shall continue to become poorer and inferior in more significant civilizational ventures and in attainment of soft power!

September 15, 2009

The veil in the classroom

by sbasu09

Saurav Basu

A few months back, Justice Katju, an outspoken Supreme Court judge rejected the appeal by a Muslim student to sport a beard in a Catholic school out of religious reasons. But he was also apprehensive that succumbing to this mindset could propel Talibanisation since, “We don’t want to have Taliban in the country. Tomorrow a girl student may come and say that she wants to wear a burqa, can we allow it? I am a secularist. We should strike a balance between rights and personal beliefs. We cannot overstretch secularism”

Unfortunately, the pressure generated by Muslim fundamentalists through ‘secular’ media effectively compelled Katju to publicly backtrack from his progressive position.

Recently, a college in Mangalore directed a Muslim female student not to enter the classroom with a headscarf. The girl insists that she is obliged to wear the scarf in deference to her faith and refused to comply. Previously, she had been debarred from wearing the burqah. She further alleged that the college was acting under pressure from right wing student organizations who threatened to wear “saffron shawls” in protest. Secularists have predictably howled at the growing ‘culture of intolerance’ and conveniently harped on the Hindutva connection while ignoring the threats posed by Islamic separatism. They were in the queer company of the extreme pan Islamic fundamentalist Jamat-e-Islami Hind and the Students Islamic organisation, which threatened Indians that they would ‘seek the support of the Gulf Islamic Community if required,’ (sic) [link] Ultimately, the college withdrew its headscarf ban but remained steadfast on its decision to ban the burqah from their campus.

The debate over religious symbols in secularized classrooms has been hugely problematic for the secular state of India. Authorities have feigned helplessness in their inability to strictly enforce secular ethos in a highly religious society. Such argumentation is actually a smokescreen for hiding the intimidating instincts of semitic faiths who unlike Hinduism theoretically and otherwise do not differentiate between public and private spaces. Islamists including India’s first education minister, Maulana Azad used to gloat on how their presumably totalitarian religion controls not only every aspect of life but also politics. No wonder, the sense of ‘denial’ of their religious freedom in secularized spaces emerges most vociferously from Muslim quarters. ‘Secularists’ and ‘liberals’ reinforce such regressive attitudes by politics of appeasement. In contrast, majority Hindus whose children of all ages routinely face hostility, abuse and even corporal punishment for wearing anything from bindis to kumkum in certain Christian institutions have not shown any willingness for organized protest. Neither have any liberals spoken for them.

Issues of equality, cultural freedom and secularism are the cornerstone of this debate. Muslims claim that democracy and secularism gives them right to practice their religion in any way they want. Ironically, both these values are otherwise considered un-Islamic by Islamic fundamentalists. (link) Perhaps, that explains the state sponsored persecution of minorities in some Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia which includes forced veiling of all women, including non Muslim women.

Journalists like Burkha Dutt champion the rights of Muslims to pursue their religious obligations as Hindu religious symbols are not entirely absent in secular classrooms; they being most conspicuous in morning prayers. This is a sophistical argument since Hindu prayers are essentially non sectarian, abstract and universal. A Hindu prayer does not pour opprobrium on worshiper of ‘false gods’ nor do they have any business in denying those false gods. Instead, Hindu prayers promote cosmic harmony, peace, ahimsa, expansion of the self and universal growth and fraternity. Swami Vivekananda in his inaugural address to the World Parliament of religions had expressed hope that salvation from bigotry and fanaticism would come through universal Hinduism exemplified by the Rig Vedic mantra which considers all paths whether crooked or straight to lead to the same divine. This is what makes Hindu prayers compatible in multi-religious classrooms.

Similarly, kumkum and bindis are not religious but innocuous cultural symbols of an overwhelming majority which should be respected. Unfortunately, the confronting attitudes adopted by Catholic schools in this regard stemming out of their religious bias is unwarranted and a subversion of pluralism.

In contrast, veils and headscarfs carry controversial connotations. Popular Western impression as evident in the French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s outburst condemns the veil as a symbol of women oppression. The veil of course, has a far more complex history than the simple sexed up opinions which prevails in the West and which has been exploited to sell everything from cigarettes to designer clothes. (The veil unveiled: Hijab in modern culture, Faeghey Shirazi, Florida, 2002)

Fatwa El Guindi has shown that the veil was prevalent in pre-Islamic Mesopotamian and Mediterranean societies. (Veil modesty, privacy, resistance, London, 1999) But that does not deter us from the well entrenched position that the veil is very congenial to Islam. An occasional pre-Islamic custom, it was institutionalized by Islam and imposed on all those societies which were subject to Islamic conquest. That veiling is enjoined by the Quran is certified by authors like Katherine Bullock, a white Canadian scholar who converted into Islam. (Rethinking Muslim women and the veil, 2002)

In Islam the veiling practices is the product of a religious code and considered necessary to protect the vulnerable female body from lustful men. Not surprisingly, the veil was enthusiastically adopted by the conquered populace whose women often found it to their sole protection against their new Muslim masters.

But in non Islamic societies especially in Assyria and parts of pre Islamic India, the veil was a marker of exclusivity, status, privilege and privacy. However, the absence of the veil, in classical Indian art, architecture and literature gives credence to the position that extensive veiling practices were contrary to the Hindu way of life. Although, Sheela Shah informs us that 11th century text Samayantrika by the Brahmin Ksemendra considers only prostitutes fit to wander without the veil. But it was an isolated opinion. Overall, the adoption of the Muslim rhetoric of ‘protection’ must have been paramount for what else explains the coincidence of the epidemic of Hindu veiling with Islamic invasions. Unfortunately, for some rural Hindu women, the custom of the veil persists as an instrument of subordination to their in-laws.

So does denial of the right to wear a veil in public institutions in non Muslim countries qualify as religious discrimination? Hardly! The question which liberals evade is that whether Muslim women subject to an ultra patriarchal dominant ideology have the necessary agency to make an informed decision to wear a symbol of seclusion which is intrinsically incompatible with modern workspace ethos which requires intersex participation and group bonding. An allopathic doctor in Peshawar confessed to this author on how painful it was for women like her in a hijab to treat male patients.

Moreover, one cannot overlook the violence which Muslim women have been subjected to for not conforming to Islamic ideology. In Kashmir, agents of Asiya Andrabi’s Dukhran-e-Millat threw acid and paint on Muslim women who refused to submit to the veil. [link] Those wearing jeans were shot in the legs by similar fanatics. The Taliban finished off the last semblance of the independent unveiled woman who once served as doctors, engineers and lawyers in Kabul. In Iran, ever since the Islamic revolution, women face acute suppression through sex segregation mediated by the veil.

That the contemporary re-veiling movement in the ‘Muslim World’ is out of socio, economic, religious and political reasons is undeniable. Yet, Islam revivalism subsumes all. For Islamic fundamentalists, the veil serves as the collective expression of Pan-Islamic hostility against non Muslim cultures.

Despite these obvious realities, leftists feminists have been reluctant in their criticism of the veil. Jamie Glazov in his “United in Hate: The Left’s romance with tyranny and terror” indignantly questions that ”Why do radical feminists, who supposedly value women’s rights, ignore the suffering of millions of women living under Islamic gender apartheid?” Phyllis Chesler, a radical feminist who was once married to a Muslim and lived in Afghanistan under the veil has consistently charged fellow feminists of betraying their cause by maintaining a deafening silence against exploitative Islamic practices. (link)

The pretension that minorities can do anything they want in a secular country is mischievous and actually is a poignant reminder of how alienated is the concept of secularism from these semitic faiths. The fact remains that it is precisely the minority status of Muslims and Christians in India coupled with a secular constitution which effectively denies them the right to practice those elements of their religion which are unfortunately, wholly incompatible with liberal, democratic and progressive values.

Liberal Democracy on the other hand is not about “doing what you want”, it means state commitment to ensuing protection of a system of ethical values which includes defending secular institutions from ultra religious encroachment. Also, it means resistance to religious ideologies which undermine women’s independence. All in all archaic religious sentiments of an orthodox minority cannot become reason for the secular state to succumb to their pressure. If the secular state could intervene in a small matter of a once in a decade rare presumably voluntary Sati in Rajasthan in the Roop Kanwar case and issue a stringent legislation against the same, then why cannot it act against the infinitesimally ubiquitous veil. The partisan Sachar Committee Report has conceded that Muslim women participation in the workforce amongst all socio-religious communities is the least. This trend is observed unanimously across several Islamic nations. But in India where Muslims are a relative minority, the problem is even more acute. Many middle class Muslim families do not allow their girls access to higher education and work outside their mohalla. It is considered inappropriate to the community’s ‘izzat’ (Sameena Khan, Exclusion, identity and Muslim women in Mumbai, New Age Weekly, Jan 20-26, 2008) That religious strictures mediated by the veil actively contribute to this malaise is an incontrovertible position.

On the other hand, Hindu activists need to refrain from tactless intimidating tactics. Wearing saffron shawls to counter the burqah is tasteless and perversion of the sacred colour which has for millennia epitomized renunciation, inner strength and valour.

A common sense intellectual engagement sans hatred is the need of the hour.

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