Patanjali Yoga sutras, written almost 2500 years ago, are the earliest treatise on Yoga. In the book Sage Patanjali enunciates in a scientific manner how to control thought – a process which makes the mind powerful enough so that when it focuses on any subject its complete knowledge results.
The book consists of 195 sutras and is divided into four sections. The first two sections give instructions on how to do Yoga for control of thought waves; the third section is on physical powers that a Yogi obtains by practicing Yoga and the last section is on how to get liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
Thus in Vibhuti Pada (Powers section) of Yoga Sutras, Patanjali talks about how concentrating on various subjects like akaash (space) or various parts of the body a yogi understands the laws of universe and human body and gains mastery over natural forces so that he/she attains super powers like walking on water, flying in space or at will can enter some other body, etc.!
However, at the end of Vibhuti Pada (it has 56 sutras), Patanjali discusses the concept of space and time in two sutras with uncanny resemblance to what Einstein talked almost 2500 years later on.
Patanjali says, “By making Sanyam (combination of concentration, meditation and Samadhi) on a single moment and on the sequence of moments, a yogi gets vivek (exalted knowledge) so that he/she can comprehend all objects in universe simultaneously irrespective of their location and sequence of change”. Or in other words, the Mind of God!
And according to John A Wheeler – one of the world’s foremost experts on relativity, Einstein’s theory of gravitation can be simply stated as “Events and the interval between events build space-time”. The geometric nature of space-time gives rise to gravity, tells the mass on how to move, and is the basis of Universe and the movement of all heavenly bodies.
Similarly, there are other sutras whose knowledge has been shown to be vindicated by the modern science. I think a whole book can be written about their relevance to science and technology.
For example, Patanjali describes God as a special entity beyond time and space (Section I) and is identified by the original word or sound. According to the existing scientific theories about the origin of Universe, the first thing that came out was sound even before light and matter. Later commentaries on Yoga sutras talk about this sound as Aum, but Patanjali never mentioned Aum but said original word or sound.
Again in Vibhuti Pad, he says that by doing Sanyam on the hollow of throat, one conquers hunger and thirst. Recently scientists have discovered that by stimulation of Vagus Nerve, hunger pangs can be suppressed. Vagus nerve is concentrated near the esophagus tube – close to the hollow of throat. Last year U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved a device, which can electrically stimulate the Vagus nerve so that the brain gets the signal that stomach is full.
The comparison of Patanjali sutras with modern science is neither to belittle the latter nor to glorify our ancient tradition – both are important in their own way, but to show that all great thoughts originate from the same Knowledge Space irrespective of person and time of their discovery.
I have always found Patanjali Yoga sutras as a source of almost limitless knowledge and feel that more we delve into them and try to understand their meaning; the deeper it gets with more hidden truths still remain to be discovered.