Story of Patanjali and the Gift of Yoga Knowledge - Part 2

Patanjali Yoga Sutras Knowledge Sheet 2

Contd. from knowledge sheet 1

Another person became curious. “What is the Master doing behind the curtain? I want to see.” He got so curious that he lifted the curtain to see the Master. Just as he did so, all 999 disciples were burnt to ashes. Now, Patanjali became very sad. There he was ready to impart knowledge to the whole world and all of his disciples were burnt.

At this moment, that one little boy returned. Patanjali asked him where he had gone. The boy explained and asked his forgiveness. Patanjali was compassionate and felt that at least one of his disciples was saved. 

So he gave him the rest of the yoga sutras, the rest of the knowledge. But, the student had violated the law and Patanjali was not willing to forget that. He said, “Since you have violated the law, you will become a Brahmarakshasa, a ghost and hang on the tree.” And the only way he could liberate himself from the curse is to teach one student. Saying this, Patanjali disappeared. 

Now Brahmarakshasa, hanging on a tree, would ask everyone who passed by a question and when they could not give an answer, he would eat them. He had no choice. For a few thousand years, this was the story. He could not find a single person to whom he could teach the yoga sutras. So, he remained in the tree as a Brahmarakshasa. (The lesson here is that when one who has great knowledge does something wrong, the state of Brahmarakshasa will come. An intelligent person becoming a criminal is more dangerous than an innocent person becoming a criminal. If a person, who knows all knowledge and then turns a criminal, it is much more dangerous). Brahmarakshasa was hanging there and waiting for relief. 

Then out of compassion, Patanjali himself becomes a disciple and comes as a student to Brahmarakshasa who told him all the yoga sutras, which Patanjali wrote on palm leaves. The story goes that to redeem one disciple, the Master became the disciple of a disciple. 

Patanjali wrote the yoga sutras sitting on the top of the tree as that was where Brahmarakshasa sat. Brahmarakshasa worked only in the night. So, he dictated the sutras at night and Patanjali wrote them on leaves. He plucked all the leaves and made a small scratch, drew blood and wrote. This went on for seven days. At the end of it, Patanjali was tired. He put everything he had written into a piece of cloth, set it down and went to bathe. When he returned, he found that a goat had eaten most of the leaves. Patanjali then took the cloth bag and the rest of the leaves and walked away. 

In this story, there is a lot of depth. The puranas do not give an explanation. They just give a story and it is for us to unlock the meaning. So, what do we have to find out?

This is the second in a series of articles based on Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.

Read introduction to Patanjali Yoga Sutras: Patanjali Yoga Sutras : Commentary by Gurudev

  • When the veil was lifted why did everybody burn down?
  • Why was one boy forgiven?
  • What is the significance of the goat?
  • What is the significance of this story?

Think about this and share your answers here.


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(This is part of a series of knowledge sheets based on Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's commentaries on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.)