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Patanjali's Invocation

A classic chant that honors the writer of the yoga sutras and helps to prepare us for our yoga studies. 


Sanskrit and Transliteration

योगेन चित्तस्य पदेन वाचां।
मलं शरीरस्य च वैद्यकेन॥
योऽपाकरोत्तं प्रवरं मुनीनां।
पतञ्जलिं प्राञ्जलिरानतोऽस्मि॥

आबहु पुरुषाकारं।
शङ्खचक्रासि धारिणं॥
सहस्र शीरसं श्वेतं।
प्रनमामि पतञ्जलिम्॥


yogena cittasya padena vācāṁ
malaṁ śarīrasya ca vaidyakena
yo'pākarottaṁ pravaraṁ munīnāṁ
patañjaliṁ prāñjalirānato'smi

ābahu puruṣākāraṁābahu puruṣākāraṁābahu puruṣākāraṁ
śaṅkha cakrāsi dhāriṇaṁ
sahasra śīrasaṁ śvetaṁ
pranamāmi patañjalim


Translation and Meaning

"To the noblest of sages, Patanjali, who gave us yoga for serenity of mind, grammar for purity of speech and medicine for the perfection of the body, I salute. I salute before Patanjali whose upper body has a human form, whose arms hold a conch, and disc and a sword, who is crowned by a thousand headed cobra. Oh, incar­nation of Adisesa, my humble saluta­tions to thee."

Commentary by Geeta S. Iyengar

When one gazes at the idol of Sage Patanjali one sees the three and a half coils below the navel. The three coils indicate the Pranava Āum, a mystical symbol conveying the con­cept of God as generator, organizer and destroyer. It signifies him as omnipresent, omnipotent and omni­scient. Aum is composed of three syllables, Ā, U and M with a crescent and a dot on the top.

The three coils indicate that he is a master of Yoga, Grammar and Ayurveda. The half coil indicates the reaching of the state of kaivalya.

The conch, in the left hand, signifies the state of alertness, attentiveness and readiness to face obstacles, which are inevitable in the practice of Yoga. In olden days the conch was blown as a warning call to get ready to face disaster or calamities as it is done nowadays with sirens. It is also a symbol of jnana.

The disc, in the right hand, signifies the destruction of ignorance with supreme effort and is a symbol of protection. The sword, tucked in the waist, indicates the cutting of the ego, pride or sense of “I” which is the main obstacle covering pure being. It is a sword of jnana to vanquish â jnana. These three weapons also indicate the restraint of mental fluc­tuations, removal of obstacles and the eradication of afflictions through the practice of Yoga.

The hood above the head is an assurance of protection from Adisesa, King of serpents. This pro­tection always remains for the prac­titioner, provided he surrenders to the Lord, which is signified in the atmanjali mudra, hands folded in namaskara.

The thousand headed cobra, sahas­ra sirasam svetam, indicates that Patanjali guides us in a thousand ways by showing us the several methods of practice and the approach to find the Soul within.

The idol of Patanjali shows him as half-man and half-serpent. The human form indicates the individual­ity of man, since he has been endowed with intelligence to use his own efforts to reach the goal. The form of the serpent suggests the motion and continuity of Sadhana, which cannot end until the goal is reached.

Patanjali guides us to move like a serpent, intensely, silently and fast on the path of Yoga and to be a tivrasamvegin, the ultimate type as a pupil. If you have understood the significance, offer your prayers with a mind of prayerfulness so that you know what Sage Patanjali means by tajjapah tadarthabhavanam, that means - recite the prayers knowing­ly, repeatedly, devotedly.

Geeta . S . Iyengar