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Theory And Practice of Yoga: Essays in Honour of Gerald James Larson (Studies in the History of Religions, 110.) Hardcover – November 1, 2005
About the Author
Knut A. Jacobsen is Professor in the History of Religions at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is the author of a number of books on religions in South Asia including Prakrti in Sāṃkhya-Yoga (1999), and is the editor (with P. Pratap Kumar) of South Asians in the Diaspora (Brill 2004).
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The essays are written by eighteen professors in the field of the history of religions, most of them former graduate students of Gerald James Larson, Larson is Rabindranath Tagore Professor Emeritus, Indiana University, Bloomington, Professor Emeritus, Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, an internationally acclaimed scholar on the history of religions and philosophies of India, and one of the world's foremost authorities on the Samkhya and Yoga traditions. The publication is in honour of him.
The essays of this book have been written by students and close associates of Gerald James Larson, an internationally acclaimed scholar of the history of religions and the philosophies of India, and one of' the world's foremost authorities on the Samkhya and Yoga tradi¬tions. Larson combines the high standards of indological rigorous scholarship with the creative and innovative thinking characteristic of the best work in Religious Studies. This festschrift honors him as a teacher and a scholar. As professor in the Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara (1970 199:1, and as Rabindranath Tagore Professor of' Indian Cultures and Civilizations and director of' the India Studies Program, Indiana University. Bloomington, (1995 2003), Larson trained a number of graduate stu¬dents in Indian philosophy and the religions and languages of India. Most of them have become university professors and have made significant contributions to the study of' the religions and cultures of India. Larson conveyed to his students his enthusiasm and high stan¬dards for scholarship, which became the ideals they, tried to emulate and an inspiration to excellence.
Larson has contributed considerably to the historical and philo¬sophical understanding of the Samkhya and Yoga systems of reli¬gious thought. He has made the philosophy of- Samkhya and Yoga available to scholars not only in North America, but in Europe and India as well, through teaching and books Larson's interpretation of' Indian philosophy has strongly influenced all his students, also his view that the classical Samkhya and Yoga systems of' religious thought have to he taken seriously as a basis for contemporary constructions of' philosophy. Larson always emphasizes that with respect to a text of the Indian religious and philosophical traditions one must ask two questions: What did the text mean then? And what does the text mean now? He also strongly advocates the application of insights from ancient India to engage contemporary issues in theology, philosophy and science.Samkhya influenced a large number of Indian systems of knowl¬edge. Its influence is so strong that it has been claimed (by Gopinath Kaviraj in conversation with Larson) that Samkhya is not just one of India's philosophical systems, but is the philosophy of India.' Larson has contributed also to the study of several of the traditions most strongly influenced by Samkhya-Yoga such as Kashmir Shaivism and the Indian systems of medicine. This wider interest is reflected in the content of this book. While many of the essays are about Samkhya-Yoga, three essays are about yoga in Kashmir Saivism, many are about yoga in medieval and modern India, and one essay is about Indian traditions of interpretation of the body. Larson has also con¬tributed to the understanding of the Indian traditions of visual art and one essay is devoted to this topic.
Larson emphasizes critical scholarship. But yoga is not only a schol¬arly enterprise: indeed it has become a global phenomenon attract¬ing millions. The modern phenomenon of yoga is a function of inno¬vation and transformation as well as the global religious market. In addition, the strong dominance of Vedanta in modern India, espe¬cially among those whose interest in meditation is combined with some fluency in the English language, has often led to interpreta¬tions of Yoga as a form of Vedanta, and identification of yoga with the Vedantic goal of union. Larson trained his students in the clas¬sical traditions as a solid basis for investigating a whole array of tra¬ditions including the modern transformations of yoga. One of the main tasks of the academic study of yoga is to look beyond the pre¬sentations of the yoga traditions colored by contemporary Western systems of physical training, health and healing and the Neo-Vedantic environment and instead evaluate yoga as a historical and pluralis¬tic phenomenon flourishing in a variety of religious and philosoph¬ical contexts. The essays of this book contribute to this task.
Abstract of Contents:
Introduction: Yoga Traditions by Knut A. Jacobsen
Person, Purity, and Power in the Yogasutra by Lloyd W. Pfleuger: God talk in Classical Yoga is full of surprises. The curious notion of isvara `the Lord' in Patanjali Yogasutra, only explicitly mentioned in five sutra-s, is a cornerstone of the Yogasutra worldview. This notion, when read independently of the traditional commentaries, reveals a rather impersonal and strikingly powerless deity, essentially not pure conscious¬ness, quite in keeping with the constraints of' classical Samkhya-Yoga thinking. This view of isvara is only reinforced by the trouble tradi¬tional commentaries, influenced by the rising current of bhakti, take to reverse it by reading in all the traditional personality and power of a more puranic conception of god. But prakrti abhors a vacuum: If isvara lacks in power and personality in the YS itself, the unstated and hidden deity of the YS is the successful yogis who is lavished with supernormal powers (vibhuti-s/siddhi-s) about which both ancient and modern com¬mentaries have little to say. Yet the powers and supernormal perfections of the yogin are invested with more sutra-s than any other single topic in the Yogasutra. Ultimately the real deity of' the Yogasutra, standing in the background of the experiential system, is the yogic guru, potent and immanent, protecting, guiding, assuring, and inspiring the aspirant.
Revisiting the Jivanmukti Question in Samkhya in the Context of the Samkhyasutra by I S. Rukmani: Samkhya argues for a state of liberation while still embodied (jivanmukti), as is evidenced the Samkhyakarika. But the Samkhyakarika does not dwell on this concept clearly and strongly and thus it left a lot of room for later commentators to borrow vocabulary from both the Yoga and Advaita Vedanta schools to explain this state. This led gradually to a dilution of the concept itself If the time of the Samkhyapravacanasutra. This paper deals with the way the change took place and how even¬tually the very concept of jivanmukti as advocated by the Samkhyakarika
got entangled in a web of verbiage the later Samkhyapravacanasutra and iii the commentaries on it, that resulted in Samkhya's inability to sustain the Samkhyakarika definition of jivanmukti itself.
Being a Witness: Cross-Examining the Notion of Self in Sankara's Upadesasahasri, Isvarakrsna's Samkhyakarika, and Patanjali's Yogasutra by Richa Pauranik Clements:
This study compares the notion of Self in three independent treatises belonging to the three most influential schools of `Hindu' philosophy: Sankara's Upadesasahasri (Advaita Vedanta), Isvarakrsna's Samkhyakarika (Samkhya), and Patanjali's Yogasutra (Yoga). Behind their different metaphysics non-dualistic, dualistic, and dualistic with an element of theism --lie striking conceptual and linguistic similarities in the writings on causality (parinamavada and satkaryavada), the functioning of an indi¬vidual's inner sense (antahkarana) and its modifications ( vrtti-s or pratyaya-s), and the pure witness-consciousness (saksitva) of Self. Radical Oneness of the Self is the spiritual goal common to all three schools, and none considers God's existence essential or even necessary to achieving it. The only difference is in the interpretation of the oneness of Self, viewed as an integrated Atman-Brahman by Advaita Vedanta, and as disintegrated isolation of individual purusa-s by Samkhya-Yoga. In either case, the Self remains a witness.
`It Ain't Necessarily So' by Nandini Iyer: This article argues that the opposition between Samkhya-Yoga and Vedanta is not all irrevocable either/or dichotomy. The claim that it is necessary to choose one and only one system need not he accepted, and this is so also with regard to their apparently irreconcilable meta-physical and ontological truth-claims. Both Samkhya-Yoga and Vedanta have their theoretical strengths and weaknesses. Each has its advan¬tages and provides useful starting points in, and connecting links with the everyday world of the ordinary person. Each offers it relatively coherent and insightful view or explanatory system dealing with mat¬ters of ultimate concern, and each attempts to answer the questions that inevitably arise for any individual engaged in a spiritual quest. The article concludes that in the final analysis, we cannot expect any conceptual metaphysical system to be able to express the Absolute Truth or reveal to us the infinite mysteries of the ineffable, indescrib¬able Ultimate Reality.
The Samkhya-Yoga Influence on Srivaisnava Philosophy with Special Reference to the Pancaratra System by P. Pratap Kumar: One of the advantages of studying various Indian philosophical tradi¬tions historically is that it enables us to understand the influential fac¬tors in the development of different philosophical schools and their mutual dependence. While individual philosophical schools do not admit such mutual dependence, one can rarely discount the syncretistic nature of all philosophies. No Indian philosophical school was developed in isolation from the rest. It is fairly an established position that Samkhya philosophy occupies the place of being one of the most ancient systems within the Indian thought. Generally several Indian philosophical tra¬ditions have borrowed and built on the fundamental philosophical cat¬egories that Samkhya had provided. Vedanta, perhaps is most prolific in its borrowing from the Samkhya system. In the present essay. Kumar attempts to demonstrate the extent to which the Visistadvaita system (Srivaisnavism) had borrowed from the Samkhya system in developing its many subtle aspects. One of the most interesting characteristics of this interaction is that in the hands of the Vaisnava philosophers of the south, some of the Samkhya abstract categories have been deified and given personal characteristics. One such category is the notion of `nitya-vibhuti' which in effect is the transformed idea of what is known in Samkhya as pure sattva. Nitya-vibhuti in Srivaisnavism is the tran¬scendental realm which is beyond the material creation of Prakrti.
Interpreting Across Mystical Boundaries: An Analysis of Samadhi in the Trika-Kaula Tradition by Jeffrey S. Lidke: The following analysis of Abhinavagupta's system of mystical practice termed the fourfold path or upaya-catustayam) aims to illustrate the ways in which the Western discourse of duality, because of its fundamental acceptance of a mind/body split, is an unsuccessful heuristic model for understanding non-Western mystical traditions. Specifically, I examine the hermeneutical limitations one encounters when applying W. T . Stace's model of comparative mysticism, which gives a Cartesian privilege to the introvertive' mystical experience of mental inwardness over its `extrovertive' counterpart, to Abhinavagupta's eleventh-century Trika-Kaula system. Abhinavagupta's own discourse on mystical states of consciousness inverts Stace's model and ultimately collapses the dis¬tinction between introvertive and extrovertive. In the preparatory stages of Trika-Kaula practice, the adept harnesses all inward, regressive power (visarga-sakti) in pursuit of an introvertive mystical experience with eyes closed (nimilana-samadhi). In the later stages, however the same regressive power is inverted to reveal its progressive side and the Tantric thereby attains an extrovertive experience with eyes opened (unmilana-samadhi). At the culmination of his or her practice the Tantric attains a state of consciousness in which the inner and outer become united in the singular continuum of consciousness. At this `no-path' stage of transcendent experience (bhairavimudra) the Self within and the world without arc one.'
`Tarko Yogarigam Uttamam': On Subtle Knowledge and the Refinement of Thought in Abhinavagupta's Liberative Tantric Method by Paul E. Muller-Ortega: This essay focuses on passages drawn from two important texts of the medieval Saiva Tantra, the Tantraloka and Tantrasara of Abhinavagupta. In particular, it examines the ways in which the tenth century Kashmiri theologian of Saivism articulates views on the Yoga of Tantrism. The approach Abhinavagupta takes directly criticizes the classical Yoga of Patanjali. This he categorizes as artificial, and contrasts it with the `natural' and spontaneous Yoga of Saivism he here propounds. A par¬ticular focus of the essay centers on the role of the mind, intellectual knowledge, and perfected reason, `tarka' in the liberative methods here prescribed by Abhinavagupta. The essay touches on the four-fold cat¬egorization of upaya or liberative methods that is central to this form of Tantric Yoga. As well, it examines the notion of vikalpa-samskara, the refinement and purification of mental states intrinsic to several of these upaya-s. The essay intends to contribute to an understanding of 1 the ways in which the meaning of yoga changed in the early medieval period as a result of the theological innovations of the Saivas.
Meditating Mantras: Meaning and Visualization in Tantric Literature by
Sthaneshwar Timalsina: This may explores the relationship between Tantric and Patanjalian Yoga systems, focusing upon the Mantra practice. Exploring the poly¬valent nature of meaning in Tantric texts, this essay discusses the med¬itative aspects of mantra-recitation, demonstrating the complex interplay of reflection with numerous visualizations. Two major aspects of mantra practice, the internalization of pranic forces while focusing upon different centers and reciting mantras, and the reflection upon multiple mean¬ings, bring the Tantric concept of Mantra practice to the core of Yogic meditation. This essay centers upon the sixfold meaning of a mantra, recognized within the Sakta tradition as a process of identification of the practitioner with the deities, the mandala, and the cosmos.
The Guru-gita or `Song of the Master' as Incorporated in the Guru-caritra of Sarasvati Gangadhar: Observations on Its Teachings and the guru Institute by Antonio Rigopoulos: This paper offers an overview of a particular version of a celebrated Sanskrit hymn (stotra), the Guru-gita, as it was incorporated in the Marathi Guru-caritra (circa 1550) of Sarasvati Gangadhar, the founda¬tional text of the Datta-sampradaya in the Marathi area celebrating the lives of the first two avatara-s of Datta/Dattatreya, Sripada Srivallabha (circa 1323-53) and Nrsimha Sarasvati (circa 1378-1458). The paper presents the Guru-gita's articulation of the three ideal phases in the master-disciple relationship and highlights the context in which the hymn has been inserted towards the end of the Guru-caritra, in an effort to appreciate the rationale of such an appropriation. Some consider¬ations on the guru institute, on the veritable worldly power and socio-political 'weight' of the guru, conclude the study.
The Samkhya Sage Kapila and Kashmiri Visnu Images by Pratapaditya Pal: The article reexamines the identification of the fourth head on Visnu images of Kashmir known generally as Vaikuntha. This head has been identified for almost a century as representing the sage Kapila, the founder of the Samkhya system of philosophy who came to be regarded as an avatar of Visnu. The article re-examines the literary evidence and suggests an alternative explanation for the `demonic' fourth head.
The Yogic Exercises of the 17th Century Sufis by Craig Davis: Mughal Prince Dara Shukuh was a seventeenth-century Sufi scholar and heir-apparent to his father Shah Jahan's throne. This essay describes the yogic practices discussed in Dara's writings and details how, in the princes eyes, these exercises were merely a continuation of Islamic tra¬dition, dating back to the Prophet Muhammad. Dara's treatise Risalah-i hagq numa describes Nath-yogic exercises that his Sufi predecessors had handed down from master to student for centuries. The Mughal prince perceived these Nath-yogic traditions as both Hindu and Islamic. By claiming that these Hatha-yogic exercises could be traced back to the Prophet Muhammad-who according to Dara had received revelation at Mt. Hira while practicing yoga-that Mughal prince inextricably interwove South Asian lore with Islamic tradition in a way that laid the very foundation of Islamic revelation on those yogic exercises.
Raja Yoga, Asceticism, and the Ramananda by Sampraday Ramdas Lamb: Suggestions of yogic and ascetic practices can be found among the earliest archaeological findings from the Indus Valley. Additionally, the ancient sacred chants, the Vedas and Upanisads, also tell of yogis and ascetics seeking liberation from the mundane. Eventually, some of these practices became formalized in the Raja Yoga system. During the last two millennia, Raja Yoga and many other ascetic practices have formed the basis of religious discipline for the many and varied Hindu renunciant orders. Today, the largest of these is the Ramananda Sampraday. This chapter traces the development and connection be¬tween yogic and ascetic practices, and then focuses on how these are incorporated into the life of the Ramanandi renunciant.
In Kapila's Cave: A Samkhya-Yoga Renaissance in Bengal by Knut A. Jacobsen: A striking number of the leading religious figures in the 19th and 20th century Bengal, many of whom gained pan-Indian or international fame, had a strong interest in yoga, and many of these religious thinkers were interested in and gave interpretations of Samkhya-Yoga. Few of them, however, were practitioners of this yoga tradition. The most significant Samkhya-Yoga thinker of this period was Hariharananda Aranya who was a yogin, a Sanskritist and a prolific writer, and around whom devotees and associates founded a small matha. A unique fea¬ture of this tradition is that the living guru isolates himself perma¬nently in a cave. The essay places this movement in a historical context and analyses the meaning of the cave tradition of this living Samkhya-Yoga matha.
Raising Krishna with Love: Maternal Devotion as a Form of Yoga in a Women's Ritual Tradition by Tracy Pintchman: During the Hindu month of Kartik, which falls during autumn, women in the North Indian city of Benares perform a special, daily puja (`rit¬ual worship') to Krishna. This essay explores the nature of this puja tradition as a form of yoga. Yoga is understood in this context in broad, popular terms as referring to various forms of religious disci¬pline that entail ascesis (tapas), self-denial, and selfless devotional love directed toward another and that serve to promote individual spiritual growth. In particular, this essay focuses on the portrayal of mother-hood as it surfaces in Kartik puja practices and the ways that imagery of mothering and raising children taps into values often associated with yogic traditions.
Wisdom and Method: Yoga in the Platonic Dialogues by Judy D. Saltzman: Yoga, defined as a method of liberating the individual from the bondage of material existence and joining her/him to a higher, enlightened phi¬losophy and religious systems, was taught in the West through Pythagoras, called the Pitar or Yavana Guru in India. In his line of successors, Plato continued this tradition of spiritual knowledge and austerity of habits, but broadened it hopefully to influence the political and ethi¬cal climate of the Greek city states and of humanity in general. This essay shows how the yogas: jnana, the seeking of knowledge as higher wisdom; karma, the purifying of behavior and political institutions; bhakti, devotion through love, and raja, the kingly mystery of meditation, are all present in the Platonic dialogues. Although Plato presents his knowl¬edge in specifically Greek language and terms, and some of his meth¬ods differ, his spiritual aims are not ultimately different from those of the Upanishads or Bhagavadgata.
Jung's Depth Psychology and Yoga Sadhana by Patrick Mahaffey: The depth psychology C. G. Jung was influenced by his study of Indian thought and centers upon the concept of the self. The self, for Jung, is a primordial image akin to ideas found in the brahman-atman teach¬ings of the Upanishads. This essay examines affinities and differences between Jung's psychology and yoga sadhana including his perspective on mandalas, tapas, active imagination, and self-inquiry (Atma vicara). Special attention is given to Jung's seminar on kundalina yoga since he regarded cakra symbolism to be parallel evidence for individuation from another culture. While the similarities between yoga and his depth psy¬chology are noteworthy, Jung discouraged Western persons from prac¬ticing yoga. He felt that a conflict between faith and knowledge and a mind-body split made the practice of yoga ineffectual in the West. Moreover, he believed that the tendency to control nature necessitates that Westerners discover their own nature through self-inquiry. The methods appropriate for this task include active imagination and ana¬lyzing the contents of the unconscious via psychotherapy. Jung regarded yoga to be one of the greatest things the human mind has ever cre¬ated but believed that the spiritual development in the West has been along entirely different lines. He felt that the West would gradually develop its own yoga. While this essay argues that Jung's belief that yoga is not suitable for Westerners is mistaken, it also suggests that his depth psychology is itself a kind of Western yoga.
Yoga in America: Some Reflections from the Heartland by Wade Dazey: This article begins with a brief sketch of the introduction of yoga into America, from Henry David Thoreau and the Transcendentalists to Swami Vivekananda and Paramaharnsa Yogananda. It then tries to discern which aspects of yoga (specifically, Hatha yoga postures, clas¬sical Yoga philosophy, and Vedanta philosophy) have most interested Americans, and why. Not surprisingly, the author concludes that the detailed physical aspects of yoga have been more readily accepted into mainstream America than the details of Yoga philosophy. Indeed, yoga postures and exercises have been appropriated by mainstream American culture to such an extent, even in the `Heartland' of middle America, that many Americans are no longer aware of yoga's Hindu origins. More surprisingly, perhaps, is the conclusion that beyond physical benefits there is another reason why yoga has fascinated many Americans. This reason is psychological and spiritual, namely that the idea of the `self' in Yoga-and particularly the `Self' of Vedanta philosophy-has deep affinities with certain strains in American forms of Christianity.
Indian Traditions of Physiognomy: Preliminary Remarks by Kenneth G. Zysk: This paper examines the history, practice, and principles of human physiognomy in India with a focus on its Sanskrit literature. Particular to the upper castes, the brahminic tradition of physiognomy or Samudri¬kasastra was used at least until the eighteen century to determine male succession and in the selection of partners in arranged marriages. In examining the history of physiognomic literature, this paper postulates that the system of fortune-telling by the body was a folk art originally preserved in different versions in anustubh-metre in five Mahapuranas, and by a process of legitimisation through Hindu mythology and refor¬mulation in different Sanskrit metres, the various forms of physiog¬nomy became condensed and systematised into the brahminic science known as Samudrikasastra.
Gerald James Larson, The Teacher: A Personal Reflection by James McNamara
Gerald James Larson: Appointments and Publications