Patanjali, undoubtedly the greatest expounder of Yoga, lived sometime between 500 and 200 B.C. The life of Patanjali is an enigma to modern historians, and almost nothing is known about this great Master who epitomizes Yoga. It is only with the help of legends that one can draw inferences about him. Undoubtedly he was a great Yoga adept and was perhaps the head of a school in which “Swadhyaya”, study of the Self, was regarded as an important aspect of spiritual practice.
Indian history is presumptive of several individuals by the name of Patanjali. Three of them were well-known; the first one being the famous grammarian who wrote the commentary on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi (the Mahabhashya) and compiled the Yoga Sutras, the classical text on Raja Yoga. The Mahabhashya symbolises the perfection of the discipline in grammar. The object of grammar is to supply rules for control of current speech (laukika) for the preservation of the integrity of the Vedas and the comprehension of proper meaning. The second person named Patanjali wrote the Nidana-Sutras, considered indispensable for the study of the Vedic ritual literature; while the third was a well-known teacher of Samkhya Philosophy. The above three people, in the historian’s view, happen to come from different time periods and are considered to be different personalities. The Indian Tradition however, differs in opinion strongly and advocates that the above different treatises were done by a single person and even further, attributes various medical treatises to him.