Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/409

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

jali introduced into it the doctrine of a personal god, but in so loose a way as not to affect the system as a whole. Indeed, the parts of the Sūtras dealing with the person of God are not only unconnected with the other parts of the treatise, but even contradict the foundations of the system. For the final aim of man is here represented as the absolute isolation (kaivalya) of the soul from matter, just as in the Sānkhya system, and not union with or absorption in God. Nor are the individual souls here derived from the "special soul" or God, but are like the latter without a beginning.

The really distinctive part of the system is the establishment of the views prevailing in Patanjali's time with regard to asceticism and the mysterious powers to be acquired by its practice. Yoga, or "yoking" the mind, means mental concentration on a particular object. The belief that fasting and other penances produce supernatural powers goes back to remote prehistoric times, and still prevails among savage races. Bodily asceticism of this kind is known to the Vedas under the name of tapas. From this, with the advance of intellectual life in India, was developed the practice of mental asceticism called yoga, which must have been known and practised several centuries before Patanjali's time. For recent investigations have shown that Buddhism started not only from the theoretical Sānkhya but from the practical Yoga doctrine; and the condition of ecstatic abstraction was from the beginning held in high esteem among the Buddhists. Patanjali only elaborated the doctrine, describing at length the means of attaining concentration and carrying it to the highest pitch. In his system the methodical practice of Yoga acquired a special importance; for, in addition to con-