Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Loriliai Biernacki

Second Advisor

Greg Johnson

Third Advisor

Edwin Bryant

Fourth Advisor

Deven Patel


Patañjali’s Yogasūtra forms the textual basis for what is commonly called “Classical Yoga Philosophy”. This seminal first millennia text repeatedly employs the Sanskrit word “īśvara” to refer to a presiding divinity, the nature of which has been contested for centuries. In contrast to the abundance of modern interpretations that depreciate the status of “God” in Classical Yoga, I argue that the īśvara of the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra (sūtras and bhāṣya) carries an eminence comparable to that of Lord Kṛṣṇa of the Bhagavad Gītā. In short, “God” means “Supreme God” for Patañjali, regardless of the philosophical complications that may result from the admission of a totalizing divinity. This argument is evidenced through a historical analysis of the word “īśvara”, a close reading of its role in the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra, and a juxtaposition with relevant verses from the Bhagavad Gītā.