A Woman Authored the Original Yoga Sutra. ~ Scott Smith Miller

Via elephant journal
on Oct 13, 2012
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Everything we know about the Yoga Sutra’s authorship comes from a single story.

No other evidence exists, but a new understanding of the so-called “Patanjali myth” can correct a two thousand year-old misconception and reveal who really authored the original version of the most important yoga text in history.

The process begins when we look at how certain influential men have attached mistaken conclusions to the story. From Georg Fueurstein’s The Yoga Tradition, here’s a prime example:

Hindu tradition has it that Patanjali was an incarnation of Ananta, or Shesha, the thousand-headed ruler of the serpent race that is thought to guard the hidden treasures of the earth. The name Patanjali was given to Ananta because he desired to teach Yoga on Earth and fell (pat) from Heaven on the palm (anjali) of a virtuous woman, named Gonika. Iconography often depicts Ananta as the couch on which God Vishnu reclines. The serpent lord’s heads symbolize infinity or omnipresence. Ananta’s connection to Yoga is not difficult to uncover, since Yoga is the secret treasure, or esoteric lore, par excellence.

Almost the entire paragraph is annotation singular to Fueurstein’s take. The only real story-parts are the breakdown of the compound word patanjali and a short reference to Gonika, and because Patanjali is not included in the actual story, his fictitious role is added with commentary.

B.K.S. Iyengar does the same thing. In The Tree of Life not only is the first sentence of his version conclusory, it should come with a spoiler alert. Mr. Iyengar: “In the Puranas we are told of Patanjali’s birth.”

That’s known in Hollywood as “stepping on the reveal.” So, channeling Joseph Campbell, it would be nice if someone would just let the myth speak for itself. But I’m one to talk. The title of this post doesn’t exactly leave things up to your interpretation.

My excuse—besides being a man—is that I’ve been at this for a decade and misogynistic enculturation has worn me down. So the way I see it, the cause advances now with your help, or it advances without me.

In other words, I’m out of pamphlets. Mr. Iyengar scooped up the last one because he loves the way I edited his version of the myth. I call it Light on Gonika. Seriously. I do. I don’t really know how Mr. Iyengar feels, but to me, this is Light on Gonika:

Gonika was an unmarried tapasvini and a yogini. Having gained tremendous knowledge, and great wisdom, and not finding one right pupil to whom to give her knowledge, she prayed to the Sun God.

Compare that to Mr. Fueurstein’s version, where Gonika is described only as “a virtuous woman.” Since Mr. Fueurstein avoids the idea that Gonika gave birth, immaculately or not, I don’t know why he bothered telling us about her virtue.

It’s also amazing how Mr. Fueurstein pacifies Gonika. Ananta just “falls on her palm.” Could she be less active?

So I call Mr. Fueurstein’s version Artificial Light on Ananta. For clarity and contrast, I’ve also simplified, reordered, and combined three of his statements:

Ananta is thought to guard the hidden treasures of the earth, and Yoga is the secret treasure par excellence, (but) Ananta desired to teach Yoga on Earth.

The added “but” at least helps the ideas track. But you know what I believe? I believe Ananta always sticks to his appointed duty. So he confuses people into thinking he taught Yoga on Earth, and I think he confused Mr. Fueurstein most of all.

Ananta also might make this blog post come out on a slow day so it stays in elephant journal’s “Yoga Latest” column and then disappears like it never existed. It’s okay. A divine reptile’s gotta do what a divine reptile’s gotta do. And what I’ve got to do is invoke literary privilege:

So Ananta is out. Mr. Iyengar doesn’t mention him in his version anyway—not even in the annotations I’ve removed—so what’s left is the actual story that (mostly) fate has dictated:

Having gained tremendous knowledge, and great wisdom, and not finding one right pupil to whom to give her knowledge, Gonika prayed to the Sun God and as an oblation took water in her hand, saying, “This knowledge has come through you, so let me give it back to you.” At that moment she opened her eyes and saw something move in her hand.

Great. Everything we need to understand what happened to Gonika is there. Even better, esoteric information about what happened to yoga is there.

And I give myself credit. I didn’t like the abrupt ending at first. I hated that the snake wasn’t really gone. I told myself it was close enough:

“Gonika just sees something move in her hand. It could be anything. Literarily recoiled and imbedded deep into a critical last sentence that couldn’t be edited, the goddamn un-removable snake could be anything.”

But, really, it was a snake. The snake idea just wouldn’t die, and eventually I realized why that was. Unnamed, unidentified, and undifferentiated, the snake is solely a mythic symbol. He represents knowledge, and because he comes into an author’s hand, he represents the seed of textual knowledge lovingly transmitted from a spiritual source.

Now I’m even wondering if Mr. Iyengar should have used the word “slither” instead of “move.” I don’t know. Maybe “slither” is too on the nose.

Moving on, let’s consider another mythic snake. Regular Christians think the one that supposedly “tempts” Eve in the Garden of Eden was evil. But mystic Christians know he symbolizes knowledge and even though knowledge is a very tricky thing, in the right hands, it can be textually translated to great advantage.

Of course, I don’t know if Eve authored anything. There’s no evidence that she did, but the Garden of Eden myth does tell us Eve actually shared a meal with a snake, making it clear that the knowledge necessary to author a momentous spiritual composition was given to her.

But my real point here has to do with the challenge of adopting new ideas. If we all grew up believing that the Garden of Eden snake authored the bible, then it would be hard for us to hear something different. But, objectively, if there was money on it, and we had to guess who was the real-life author—either the snake or Eve— all bets would be on Eve.

Besides, no one would construct a myth about a real-life man being born as a snake in someone’s palm just for the esoteric value of the story. Immaculate conception? Okay. Something “fell” into Gonika. But a reptilian palm trick? That’s crazy.

What isn’t crazy is using the word patanjali solely in the context of narrative action. The word pat tells us something fell and (while Fueurstein was confused on this point as well) the word anjali means it was a prayer. A prayer is what fell.

But Patanjali is a common Indian name. That’s why it doesn’t matter if someone named Patanjali authored a famous grammatical text. There’s not a single shred of evidence connecting the grammarian to the Yoga Sutra.

That’s because the only real information in the so-called “Patanjali myth” is about Gonika. So she is not just the myth’s main character, she’s really the myth’s only character, and even if she weren’t—even if Patanjali was actually a part of the story—Gonika would still be the only one with a problem to overcome.

Storytelling 101: your main character has a problem. Patanjali has no problem, so we know the story wasn’t about him. No one was ever “told of Patanjali’s birth.” They were told about someone dying to teach yoga that ended up not finding one right pupil with whom to share her knowledge.

Whoa. As I was writing that last sentence, I was hit by a wave of emotion. It’s just so terribly sad. When Gonika says, “This knowledge has come through you,” she’s speaking of the knowledge she already received and then couldn’t teach.

For a born teacher there could be no greater pain. I think Gonika’s suffering was so big that even Mr. Fueurstein felt it. He got confused and told us Ananta was the one who “desired to teach Yoga on Earth,” but the universe-sized description was there because real emotion wafts off Gonika’s story.

You can feel it too. And on a personal human-to-human level, it helps to open your heart to what it was like for Gonika the first time she received knowledge. Young and filled with hope, she believed in her soul that sharing her knowledge would change the world.

Plus, it wasn’t just an innocent’s dream. Gonika was right to feel the way she did about changing the world. She really would do that later in life, bringing a whole new yoga—one of only five main forms—into existence.

But before the miracle, Gonika was so disheartened she asked the Sun God to take back the knowledge. That’s huge. Imagine how much she must have been hurting. I’m crying now thinking about it. Seriously. I prefer to be a little glib about these things, but there’s no room for glibness.

And I find it especially heart-wrenching because Gonika bore her pain with great dignity. Despite what she’d been through, she didn’t plead with the Sun God, she just courteously asked him to do what was right.

It had to have been killing her, though, because Gonika knew what she had. Her knowledge was precious beyond measure—which is why she didn’t force it on anyone. In India at that time, I’m sure there were great students. They weren’t “right” only because her knowledge was so new.

Of course, not forcing it on anyone only increased the pressure. It was just more wisdom, and what was germinating inside her needed to be taught, not only in relation to her being a teacher, but in relation to the knowledge itself, which was connected to an imminent birth in huge evolutionary need of happening.

No surprise, Gonika’s heart cracks open. It has to if she’s to let knowledge come back through her and return to the Sun God. The Sun represents the Soul, so her soul is completely open here as well and that exposure should give us what I’ll refer to as a contact vulnerability.

But we also don’t have to worry. Gonika felt a kind of birth pain that could only be experienced by someone evolutionarily positioned the way she was. It was time for only the third yogic form in history to be born and that could only happen if someone accessed the knowledge necessary to birth just the right teaching tool at just the right moment.

It was, then, pretty much a singular event. In five thousand years of yoga, there have been four other similar moments, but none of the other ones were linked to such a specific transmission of knowledge, and none of them were so well recorded.

And even though Gonika’s text was purposely buried a long time later, her actual story does have a happy ending. Gonika gets what she needs to teach. She gets the seed of knowledge that she can birth into the perfect teaching tool, and she’ll go on to instruct a new yogic form best identified as jnana yoga.

But right now, I’m still feeling that climactic moment when something moved in her palm. It must have been initially horrifying, not because she’s seeing a snake, but because she’s sensing more knowledge.

I just hope she could feel it was not just a repeat. That’s likely because the second transmission had form, which is another reason to keep the snake image. It shows the difference between the Sun God’s two gifts.

So maybe the second gift didn’t so much “slither” as it did wiggle—like textual spermatozoa. Sorry, but again, the image is apt since Gonika will have to transform what the Sun God implanted and the transformation will happen through her own creative birthing process.

The actual storytelling ends before that part, but it’s perfect. On an exoteric level, cutting things off so abruptly discourages us from thinking Gonika gave birth to an actual being, and on an esoteric level, it encourages us to let ourselves really feel the moment of conception.

Again, it’s perfect. Gonika looks at her hand, sees something move and we fade to black.

Then we put the rest together. In our minds, we see Gonika going on to author the original version of the Yoga Sutra. And while her text no longer exists, and while the Patanjali myth may continue to cover-up the real story, the energy of Gonika’s teaching tool is still here on Earth.

It didn’t fall here and disappear. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, so what moved in Gonika’s hand is still moving in the world. The words are lost, but the energy of the “fallen-prayer” is still here. Literally, the patanjali is still with us.

And while the yoga of our time is hatha yoga, how we practice now makes us incredibly sensitive to the way prayerful energy moves. Every pose is a prayer position. Every pose helps every other pose be a better prayer position.

So for us, the praying happens hathayogically. When we move from the specific palm sensitization of Downdog back up to Samastitihi, we bring magical energetic spirituality to our anjali-mudras and the whole experience forestalls ideological conflict. There’s no arguing about energy. We all believe in it.

We know what comes through the Sun God comes through us. We’re all Sun Gods, sensing what energetically moves in our palms all the time. Gonika praying to the Sun God is also symbolic. In myths, the Sun represents the Soul, and hathayogically, we can all pray to the Soul together, without ideological debate.

Again, for us, it’s all about energy. It’s also about Energy with a capital E, but in any case, we can all manifest prayer energy and experience the magnetic force of what it attracts. We’re hatha yogis, and practicing on that level creates hathayogic inclusiveness.

Of course, yoga was different in Gonika’s time. That’s also part of the story. Gonika couldn’t teach what she knew because, consistent with yoga’s overall evolution, it connected to a more democratically inclusive yoga that didn’t yet exist. The yoga of Gonika’s time was bhakti yoga. The yoga she end up teaching was jnana yoga.

So Gonika was the last real bhakti since the era of Bhakti Yoga ended with her. Once people started doing jnana yoga, the era of Jnana Yoga began and it lasted a thousand years. There have been five Yogic eras, within which people have practiced five yogic forms. And here’s the short, but esoterically critical explanation for that:

We do yoga, but Yoga also does us.

In our time, we do hatha yoga, and Hatha Yoga also does us. In Gonika’s time, everyone did bhakti yoga, and Bhakti Yoga did them.

Then Gonika helped jnana yoga come into existence. Maybe what I’m explaining here is the hathayogic version of her lost teachings. But in any case, her text came into existence when it did because Bhakti Yoga had evolved into Jnana Yoga. It “did” everyone jnanayogically, and the next Yogas did people karmayogically and hathayogically, so Gonika was the last bhakti.

But Gonika is also very significantly described as a “tapasvini.” There’s no contradiction in that, because tapasvinis are also bhaktis. Both groups are yogic spiritualists, but tapasvinis are much more hardcore, and in Gonika’s time, they definitely did not do motherhood.

And with that, I’m also done. I know it’s an abrupt ending, but as you should understand now, sometimes an abrupt ending can be meaningful. Uh-oh, something just moved in my hand. Kidding.

Oh, but hold on. One more thing. In case those of you who practice Iyengar Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga are wondering what to do about the class opening “Patanjali” invocation, I suggest calling it the “patanjali” invocation.

If you’re a teacher, you can explain that in context of Gonika having authored the Yoga Sutra. I teach students to do the actual chant the same way as always. I just explain everything to them and then invoke a sacred connection to the effect of fallen-prayers. Om.


Shit. I can’t stop yet. I’ve put too much emotion into this post not to end this with my real feelings. I mean, come on. The world is filled with female yoga teachers. Thousands of women are teaching thousands of teacher-training programs. How long is the lie that only male yoga practitioners have ever done anything historic going to be promulgated in those trainings? Can’t that end now?

Obviously, the best use of the social media connects to democratic change. Let people know we’re literally changing yoga history. This has nothing to do with religion, but if Hindu traditionalists complain, remind them that the Hindu orthodoxy has always been opposed to people practicing yoga—especially hatha yoga. We’re not stepping on their beliefs; we’re just changing ours.

Okay. Now I am really done.

But instead of “move” maybe Mr. Iyengar should have used “hiss.” Gonika hears something hiss in her hand. Nah. Again, too on the nose. Although it does connect nicely to the Nada—the soundless sound—believed to emanate from the Universe’s core: Gonika hears something hiss in her hand…Gonika sees something move in her hand…I don’t know…”move” goes better with hatha yoga…

Scott Smith Miller is the Director of Western Yoga College. He has written three yoga books, including “What Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga”. Go to www.westernyogacollege.com for more information.




Editor: Malin Bergman

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36 Responses to “A Woman Authored the Original Yoga Sutra. ~ Scott Smith Miller”

  1. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Just to be clear, I did not add the links in this post. They go to other elephant journal posts that do not explain the evolutionary history I describe, and are in fact inconsistent with what I believe. If anyone is confused by my take on history, I'm happy to explain, but what the message that a woman authored the original Yoga Sutra should not be subsumed by debate on side subjects. The important thing here is simple: a yogini can be added to yoga's history.

  2. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Also, the image of Gonika is a collage that I doctored up myself. There are no statues of Gonika. I created the image of her in a typical Patanjali posture for visual effect.

  3. Laura Cueva says:

    It is wonderful to hear someone discuss, with heart felt understanding, the previously minimized impact of a woman on this sacred practice of yoga. I believe that women have a deeper understanding of the transformative quality of giving birth and your description of Gonika's struggling journey in her practice beautifully captures this quality. Also, I so appreciate your description of every pose being a prayer position; this realization is a profound addition to practice.

  4. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Thank you, Laura. I would go a step further and point out that even when a woman chooses not to actually give birth, she remains connected to "the transformative quality of giving birth." So it's possible for the transference of that energy to create yogic power–the power of a tapasvini.

  5. @undefined says:

    We could also say that Jesus and Buddha (and possibly many others who died or disappeared) studied with women Hatha yoga teachers which is why religion calls their learning years the "lost" years or the years spent "sitting under a bodhi tree." I have believed this to my very core for as long as I can remember. It would explain an interesting dynamic that developed shortly thereafter, major male dominated, male oriented regions. I love you Scott. You are one of my heros.

  6. @undefined says:

    Hi Scott. The above quote is from ML

  7. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Thank you, ML. You're right, it does explain a lot.

  8. CK MacLeod says:

    Somewhat buried the lede – but that's OK, at least for me. Great and very useful textual analysis, as well as yoga instruction, and the parallels with the Eve myth are truly striking when you consider the Bhakti/Jnana transition next to the divine/human knowledge. Yet, in the spirit of letting the myth speak for itself, and considering that you've already raised the issue of child-bearing, do you have to be a Freudian to ask what the woman and the snake together might also convey?

  9. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Yes, you do have to be a Freudian, CK. Kidding. But you see what I mean about the snake idea just refusing to slither off into that good night? And the post did try to get lost in the column shuffle. I contacted the nice people at elephant yoga and they said it was a "glitch.". Yes. An Ananta glitch.

  10. […] the “Yoga Sutras,” the seminal, classical text on yoga practice, Patanjali asserts that all human suffering is […]

  11. Vic DiCara says:

    Dear Scott,

    Your article interested me. I am "late to the party", apparently, on this issue, so please check and see if I understand you correctly:

    1) You say that Gonika is the original guru of yoga?
    2) Patanjali is her disciple, child. or perhaps just a pen-name?

    I feel like this article is a late commentary on an ongoing discussion and that most of the meal was already served in earlier articles somewhere. For example, where is the Sanskrit? I don't think it is possible to reliably suss out anything without reference to the original language.

    Thanks for your help and direction here, i am sincerely interested in what you have brought up – I just can't make a satisfactory opinion of it from the current article. Please clarify whatever you can.

  12. Scott Smith Miller says:

    You are right on time, Vic–not late at all. This is completely new stuff to everyone who hasn't taken classes with me or read my books, and that's not a lot of folks. You're the first person outside that circle to comment, and I appreciate it. There are several levels for me to explain. Mostly, I want to simply get people to take a look at what has already been documented. Fueurstein and Iyengar posited versions of the myth and reinterpreting things from their versions lends credibility to my idea. I agree that it would be important to find the actual Sanskrit. But it would not be conclusive because the cover-up most likely happened right after written Sanskrit happened. The myth was related orally like the Sutras initially. Then written Sanskrit happened and as books like "The Alphabet vs the Goddess" explains, the written word connected with left-brain authoritarianism. So the Sanskrit would not help uncover what what was altered. In fact, patanjali as a word could first have been turned into Patanjali as a name with the Sanskrit. Still, I would love it if someone who can translate Sanskrit would check into this. Like Mr. Iyengar, I'm a yoga practitioner, not a scholar. Mr. Fueurstein was a scholar and you can see what he did with the story. So in answer to your questions:
    1) Gonika was not the first guru, no. There were the real-life rishis (maybe 2000 years earlier), and there were the first bhaktis who's ancestors taught Gonika the regular teachings she knew before receiving Revealed knowledge.
    2) I don't believe there was a Patanjali. I think it was a misinterpretation to use the word patanjali as a name. Gonika received Revealed Knowledge, authored her version of the Sutras, and then the text was buried with rewrites a thousand years later, around the time that most scholars think the Sutras first came into existence.
    Thank you again for commenting here, Vic. I am happy to explain everything. I didn't want to bog down the post with too much of my take on yoga's evolution. The main thing is to realize that the Patanjali idea-proposal comes from the same story as the one about Gonika. It is the only record. If we believe in Patanjali from that one story, it's not too much to ask that we change to believing in Gonika since the story is really about her. That's really the whole point. I'm fine with people just seeing it as belief. Fueurstein admits, "anything we say about Patanjali is speculation." We actually know some things about Gonika and believing in her is a much better belief for lots of reasons.
    Keep the questions coming Vic. Thanks.

  13. Vic DiCara says:

    Thank you. I will check with a very trustworthy yoga scholar and let you know if he says anything interesting.

  14. Scott Miller says:


  15. Vic DiCara says:

    He (Dr. Satyanarayana Das Babaji) says: "Well Patanjali is not the originator of the Yoga Darshana. That is understood from the very first sutra. But i never heard that he is not the author of the sutras. If i am not wrong Gonika was a great tantrika and of course yogini, but I never heard that she wrote yoga sutras."

    BTW – the first sutra is अथयोगानुशासनं (atha yogānuśāsanaṁ)

    The words are atha / yoga / anu-śāsana

    The use of the word "anu" (which means "to follow") as a prefix for śāsana (which means "instruction") indicates that the yoga sutras will follow pre-existing teachings of yoga.


    Your interpretation presented in the article of the name patanjali is acceptable, but I want to note that the name more directly means "Master of Benedictions." Or "Master of the Palms" in other words, "pat-" does not exclusively mean "fall" it also indicates mastery.

  16. Scott Smith Miller says:

    As far as I know, outside of what I've been trying to start here as a movement, ever since the cover-up, no one has ever heard that Gonika authored the Sutras. That's why I equate it to the Da Vinci Code. I'm saying that if look at the myth as evidence of what happened, we can read history. It's nothing new to recognize the misogyny of the Indian culture. The idea that men buried a female-friendly yoga text is not far-fetched. That idea goes along with what we can glean from the myth that is still encoded. As a Hollywood writer I became very aware of what stories look like when multiple rewrites happen. The Yoga Sutras were clearly rewritten (once the written word came on the seen) and the myth was re-interpreted to go along with a counterfeit text. I can substantiate those ideas and have substantiated them. But, again, what needs to happen first is for us to consider what the myth tells us. It is the only record of there ever being a Patanjali who authored the Sutras. If it was okay for us to build up the understanding that Patanjali wrote the Sutras from this one short story, it should also be okay for us to decide that Gonika authored them. There is no difference in respect to believability. It is all based on the same story. The story itself has obviously been misinterpreted. If we get the whole world to look at the story objectively I'm sure it will obvious to a majority of people that it makes much more sense to credit Gonika with having authored the Sutras. The story obviously points to that, and since belief in Patanjali is only based on the story, then the case is open and shut. And as I wrote in the post, this has nothing to do with Hindu tradition. This is about yoga. This is about yoga's history. It's time that yogis decide what is taught in yoga teacher training programs and woman teaching yoga teacher training programs should at a minimum be able to tell people this feminist alternative perspective on things.

  17. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Sometimes my typos crack me up. "Once the written word came on the seen." That is actually really funny in relation to how the Universal dualistic model in the Sutras (Purusha and Prakriti) is termed the seer and the seen. Obviously I meant scene. Also, the last sentence should be "women teaching yoga teacher training programs…"

  18. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Interesting not on the name Patanjali. Sanskrit words all mean many things. But since both Fueurstein and Iyengar translate pat as fall, I don't think there is any confusion there in respect to the storytelling.

  19. […] A Woman Authored the Original Yoga Sutra. ~ Scott Smith Miller […]

  20. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Should have read "Interesting note on the name Patanjali." Sorry for the typo.

  21. SelfOfSelf says:

    I can feel the prayer…I'm enjoying the prayer. Hey Scott, thanks for " linking " the community to that balancing truth…

    I have a question for you. The hatha-yoga which we practice today is almost on a bullet train to who knows where ( yoga studios up the yin/yang). Of course, it is great that hatha-yoga has an energetic reach on our human lives, but do you think that thruths like the one you are bringing up matter to the children of hatha-yoga? I mean, we are going where we are going, right? It is a nice ride…hatha-yoga is popular, and trendy, because it is true. So how far can we get, and how far do we want to go with these beautiful truths which you are bringing up?


  22. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Dear SOS,
    Great question, wonderfully stated. Yes, "we are going where we are going." With yoga, for the previous 5000 years, I think we were going toward increased inclusiveness and understandability. Hatha yoga is the crowning achievement of that Compassion-driven evolution. But it did come at a price. "It's a nice ride, but…" But there was also a but when yoga started. It was, "This is a blissful ride but not everyone can participate because not everyone relates to The Absolute." As hatha yogis we can all participate. Everyone believes in Energy. It's also still a limitless yogic form because Energy is eternally limitless too. With karma yoga, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, and raja yoga it was about the eternal limitlessness of Presence, Knowledge, God, and the Absolute respectively. I think we are now on the way up again, and while we may still be in the second Hatha Yoga stage for another 1000 years, moving back up to Karma Yoga. All the Yogas might come back quicker into a Super Yoga singularity. That would be cool. But no matter what, as you point out, we are going where we are going. Thanks for commenting.

  23. yogamamba says:

    Hi – RE Patanjali – to know who he is and where he comes the best thing to do is find out who his guru was. His guru's name was Vyagrapadar. The Patanjali samadhi – (tomb) if you like is in Rameshwaram Tamil Nadu where theres a statue of him and his guru. HIs guru – because all tradition in India is called Parampara -a line of teachers – will have learned the yoga from his guru etc. on up the line. The name Vyagrapadar is the north Indian name of Pulipani – Pulipani Siddha Parampei is a 3000 year old tradition in south India. The word Puli means tiger in Tamil as does Vyagra. the word 'Padar' means feet. The staue at the shrine shows Vyagrapadar with legs of a tiger. Pulipani got his name from his guru Bhoganathar because he used to mesmerize and ride a tiger.taking water – PANI – up to his guru on the tiger. Hence the name Pulipani. The third Pulipani in line after Bhoga in the dynastic tradition was called Vyagrapadar in northern India. Bhoga was also the guru of Babaji mentioned in the yogananda book 'autobiography of a yogi'- the worst thing ever to have happened to the western psyche. The sutras we all think are about yoga are actually all about 'self'.

  24. yogamamba says:

    excuse a few typos – ' Where he comes from . . . ' 'Statue in the shrine' – also the third Pulipani in the line after Bhoga was the guru of Patanjali.

  25. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Thanks for this information, Yogamamba. Do know of any reference material on this idea? I'm aware of the Babaji lineage to some degree. He's believed to have never died. But it amazes me that given all the references on the subject of Patanjali's existence, Fueurstein, Iyengar, and the rest, never mention the belief that he had a guru at all–much less one with a specific name. Again, I appreciate you explaining the belief. That is one of the reasons I posted this piece–to get more opinions on the subject. Of course, the idea that Patanjali had a guru is not revelational to the degree that it comes even close to refuting the far better interpretation of the mythological record I've afford here, but I appreciate you providing information on the subject that is extremely uncommon. Again, if you would, please give me any reference material on Vyagrapadar. I would greatly appreciate it.

  26. CK MacLeod says:

    challenging and interesting comments, yogamamba (and hilarioius screenname) . Also of course entirely mind-boggling and information-overloading – to be expected in a 3,000 year-old and widely and irregularly distributed, re-translated tradition. I love the notion that Yogananda's book is the worst thing ever to have happened to the western psyche, tho the dialecticist in me wonders if the worst thing must not by definition also be the best thing, and whether there would be any difference in the end between sutras "about yoga" and sutras "about self" – and, if so, what that difference would be precisely or concretely.

  27. yogamamba says:

    Well as I said – I was taken on this jaunt with Swamigal Pulipani and a few others accompanied by a very learned astrologer by the name of Krishna. The story unfolded at the back of the shrine where the actual samadhi is located. In other words where Patanjali is. We sat there together next to the samadhi in meditation after which the astrologer turned to me and asked if i knew the importance of us being there and I asked what he meant and the story corroborated by Pulipani unfolded from there. Krishna told me that the Vyagrapadar was the north india name for Pulipani, Swamigal then turned around very casually and matter of fact said yes the third Pulipani in the dynastic tradition was the guru of Patanjali and he also said that Patanjali had done his Sadhana at the ashram and on the mountain. The ashram being where I was staying with the Pulipani family where I remained and lived with the family for quite some time. So this is all i have on it. The Bhoganathar tradition – Bhoga Pulipani Parampei is very old. I say 3000 yrs but it goes way back. 5000 years is not stretching it. Bhogas life is legend. A Siddha. I made a comment to Pulipani that the name Patanjali could have been misinterpreted down the years, and that it may have been Padaranjali in line with the fact that his guru – which in the siddha tradition Guru is all – VyagraPADAR was revered for and in his name feet PADAR were highlighted while ANJALI means 'devoted to'. We are talking about the mists of time, ancient Tamil being dravidian originally then coming into modern Tamil and then you have the Brahmins who have plagiarized everything cultural which originated in the south India where the Tamils were a nation of Kings and the Brahmins were cowboys who came into India to graze their cattle thousands of years ago. The brahmins were the equivalent of the truckers of today. So when you do some research you may find Vyagrapadar there somewhere but in truth it doesn't really matter who Patanjali or Vyagrapadar were, they were only communicating and sharing what they had learned from their teachers and this is how it goes on and has for time imemorial. We all learn what we learn from somebody how to tie a shoelace, how to boil an egg. When it come to knowing the unknowable self someone is also there to teach us and this tradition has been going on for the longest time and has no name other than if one has to name the culture of mankind it is called Sanatan Dharma.

  28. yogamamba says:

    All the texts ultimately talk about the self – the truth of the human being which obviously exists or the texts would not talk about it. – yogananda has put everyone into an orbit – a wild goose chase looking themselves or god which is only going to end in disappointment. We dont realize in looking for yourself you deny your own existence.

  29. yogamamba says:

    'looking for themselves'

  30. Scott Smith Miller says:

    I get your drift there, Yogamamba. I'm with you especially in respect to this all being mysterious. No issue there, and I'm also cool with visionary understandings of things. That's part of what I find so remarkable about the Gonika myth. Not that concrete evidence of something makes something any more or less true, but it's amazing how the evidence in this case has survived. After 3000 years, it's still here, very much in tact. We can also use a very renowned yogis very popular, regular, unprejudiced (on the Gonika side) take on it to re-interpret this very simply so that the actual record tells us what happened.
    I'm with you that we don't have to have an actual record to understand mystic information. We can receive it abstractly as well, but it's pretty amazing that we have this record and no one has even tried to interpret it better than it has been interpreted since the Hindu orthodoxy started pushing the Pantanjali proposal.
    Thanks for the clarifications as to how you came to understand things the way you do. Cool story. One point:
    With gender awareness in mind, "mankind" can now be better referred to as "humankind."

  31. […] this is going to be upsetting to the people who believe that yogis are supposed to be good drivers. I’m sure I read that in the Yoga Sutras. The truth is, I’m a New Yorker, and you know what that means in terms of my […]

  32. Pankaj Seth says:

    Scott, you've made a very good case here, my friend. In my teaching, I will from now on highlight Gonika's preeminent role in the arising of the YS. Once again, very good work, and I am grateful for having my knowledge added to. Thanks a lot.

  33. Scott Smith Miller says:

    Thank you, Pankaj.

  34. Frank says:

    This is absurd. Do you have any of your own textual studies or connection to any lineages on this subject at all? Iyengar doesn't even teach traditional hatha yoga, let alone understanding jack about Patnajali and higher yogic practices and Fuerstein, while respectable, is just one little blurb on the yoga map. Most of this is your own ranting. Can you read Sanskrit even?

  35. Scott Smith Miller says:

    This response exemplifies the patriarchal strategy. Sling random abuse toward everything in sight and hope that it intimidates and disheartens people engaged in exploring feminist perspectives. And just attacking me isn't violent enough. If Frank just attacked me, then I might have a defense. So even though I'm supposedly just doing "my own rant," he attacks Mr. Iyengar and Mr. Fueurstein. Why? Frank knows I wasn't using them up as authorities. I was just doing my own rant. All I did was quote them. Frank attacks them to weaken my position even though my position isn't even dependent on the strength of theirs. So imagine what Frank would have done with any teacher that I did set up as an authority. He tells me I should have a lineage, but if I did, he would have attacked it even more aggressively than he did Mr. I and Mr. F. The real stumper is that someone who cares enough about "Patnajali" to read this piece at all could write the way Frank writes. A real mystery. Yikes.