Again on the existence of a separate Yogasūtra

As most readers know, Philipp Maas (elaborating on a short article by Johannes Bronkhorst) has claimed that it is highly probable that an independent Yogasūtra never existed and that we should therefore only speak of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra, a work including what is known as Yogasūtra and what is known as Yogabhāṣya. He notices that the Yogasūtra is not independently transmitted, that all quotes until the 11th c. refer to either the YS or the YBh in the same way, as if they were the same work. For more details, see section 2 of his article in Franco 2013 (available here) and his article in Bronkhorst 2010 (available here).

Federico Squarcini recently disputed this claim on the basis of the fact that it is too much dependent on the manuscript transmission, which is not so meaningful, given that all manuscripts are centuries later than the YS–YBh:

La maggior parte di quelli datati fra essi (manoscritti dello YS–YBh) è del XIX secolo. […] non si conoscono manoscritti degli Yogasūtra più antichi del XVI secolo d.C (Squarcini 2015, cxii).

Squarcini also mentions as an evidence in favour of the distinction of the two texts, text-passages such as the following of the YBh:

iti patañjaliḥ etat svarūpam ity uktam (YBh ad YS 3.44)

Here, the author or the YBh seems to quote from the YS as a work by someone different from himself, called Patañjali.

If you read Squarcini, Bronkhorst and Maas, which arguments convince you more?

On Maas 2013 and Maas’ view on the single author of YS and YBh, see here.

(cross-posted on my personal blog)

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog:, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

5 thoughts on “Again on the existence of a separate Yogasūtra

  1. I haven’t read the articles in enough detail to take a position, but I’ve always found this discussion interesting and under-appreciated. Especially, it continues to irritate me how much of an industry there is around translating the YS without the bhāṣya – usually including the translator’s own commentary instead. Even if Squarcini is right that the two circulated independently at some point, it seems important that we’ve never had access to such independent circulation. Throughout the attested history of the YS it has always been attached to the bhāṣya, until Western translators seemingly decided en masse that they could do a better job than the bhāṣyakāra. We could definitely use better translations of the bhāṣya; it seems to me we really don’t need any more translations of the sūtras without the bhāṣya, yet somehow we keep getting them.

  2. I completely agree with Amod Lele’s comment above, though I too have not seen Squarcini’s disputation. Furthermore, the Pātañjala Yoga tradition, if it is even appropriate to call it that, *is* a textual tradition. Hence if his critique of Maas’ work rests on the idea that it is “it is too much dependent on the manuscript transmission, which is not so meaningful”, I would ask: What non-textual, pre-modern transmission of Pātañjala Yoga is both available and more “meaningful”?

    • Thanks, Jonathan. Squarcini’s point is not that non-textual witnesses should be more important than textual ones, but that the *manuscript* witnesses are all too recent to offer a significant evidence in favour of a unified PYŚ (just because recent manuscripts are in general not a reliable guide in deciding about the status of a text allegedly written 1,5 millennia before them—otherwise the last two centuries’ practice of reading the YS and YBh separately should also count against the unity of the PYŚ).

  3. Dear Elisa,
    I feel a little reluctant to enter this discussion, because it is about my own published work, to which at the moment I do not have much to add.

    However, if you represent Squarcini’s point correctly, it does not reflect a very thorough awareness of the theoretical background of textual criticism. The fact that some manuscripts are recent does not imply that the text they contain is as recent throughout. On the contrary. All existing manuscripts are copies of previous copies. Most of the text of a copy agrees with the text of its exemplar. By comparing in a systematic way different textual witnesses, it is possible to reconstruct an early text version (for an introduction to the methodological background, see, for example Trovato’s book “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Lachmann’s Method” In the case of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra this means that text that is identical in both main versions of the work (i.e., in the vulgate as well as in the southern version) may be as old as the work itself. Leaving some methodological problems aside, one may assume that text identically transmitted in both hyparchetypes is in any case older than the time when the transmission split into the two main branches. This event can be dated to a time before 950 CE, or even before the composition of the Vivaraṇa, possibly in the 8th century (see my “On the Written transmission of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra,” p. 163, available at This is the minimum of historical depth that can be reached by means of stemmatics. But in general, I believe that it is possible to reconstruct a version of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra that is quite similar to the earliest written version of this work that may be dated to the fifth century.

    In my view, arguments concerning the authorship of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra derived from the evidence of the manuscripts may be considdered valid as long as they are not based on readings that are proven to be transmissional textual innovations.

  4. Pingback: Past, present, and future in one complete view | selforum

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