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'Patanjali and the Faultlines in East/West Theories of Mind' Yoga and Psychology Language, Memory and Mysticism By Harold

d Coward, SUNY, 2002 Review by Mike King, Augus 200! Harold Cowards fascinating book explores the relation of Western thought to the Indian Yoga tradition and one of its founding texts Patanjalis Yoga Sutras. It pro oked in !e just the kind of reflection that I think was intended. Cowards !aster" of the co!plex Indian ter!inolog" necessar" to penetrate the ideas of Patanjali is daunting at ti!es# but the book would be e$uall" interesting to those with knowledge of the Yoga Sutras as to those for who! this would be an introduction. %or !"self it was a journe" back to !" experiences in India so!e twent"&fi e "ears ago# and also to !" bookshelf to retrie e the rele ant texts. Coward asks just the $uestions that !" encounter with India principall" in the for!s of '.(.).I"engar *"oga teacher+ and 'hagwan )hree ,ajnees *guru+ has left !e exploring e er since. I was ph"sicall" exhausted after the intensi e hatha "oga course with I"engar# and e!otionall" exhausted after the transpersonal therap" courses at the ,ajneesh -shra!. I was howe er spirituall" awakened# and experienced !" first samadhi in India# which took "ears to integrate into !" being. Cowards book pro oked a re&assess!ent of both that experience and also the whole issue of the differences between .astern and Western notions of !ind. It pro!pted to !e retrie e fro! !" bookshelf not onl" the scholarl" translation of the Yoga Sutras b" /eorg %euerstein# but also the translation and co!!entar" b" ,ajneesh# along with 0ungian and !ore recent transpersonal texts. Coward finishes his book b" reprising his exposition of two funda!ental difference between .astern and Western theories of !ind1 first around kar!a and the collecti e unconscious# and second on the issue of the perfectibility of !ind. 2he latter is a $uestion of the Wests a!bi alence on the $uestion of enlighten!ent# liberation# moksha# nirvana# or whate er non&Western ter! we choose to use. Coward points to the insistence in 0ung# and !ore recentl" in the work of co!parati e philosopher 0ohn Hicks# that enlighten!ent in .astern ter!s is an i!possibilit" a notion where "oga 3o erextends itself. Coward lea es us with the onl" strateg" for resol ing this conundru!1 to undertake the experiential practice of "oga under a $ualified guru. -nd here lies the rub# how are we to assess which guru is 3$ualified4 I"engar clai!ed he would be enlightened in his next lifeti!e# so we can count hi! out# while ,ajneesh# who did clai! to be alread" enlightened# is utterl" discredited in the e"es of !ost co!!entators. (aren -r!strong usefull" points out that our dile!!a is due to the different cultural de elop!ent of religion in .ast and West the West is a tradition of scripture# while the .ast is a tradition of teacher or guru. 2he authorit" of scripture in the West rests on its putati e origins in the !ind of 3/od *a clai! that alienates faith co!!unities fro! secular culture like al!ost no other+. 2he fate of the guru in the West on the other hand has been a disaster# as books like )torrs Feet of Clay# %euersteins Holy Madness# and 5arianna Caplans Half Way up the Mountain testif". It is a personal anguish for !e that ,ajneesh is the touchstone for guru !alpractice in !an" such works# not that I can defend !an" of his !ore outrageous actions. 'ut his brilliant translation and co!!entar" on the Yoga Sutras# coupled with

!" deepl" .astern spiritual instincts and personal experience of samadhi# ha e gi en !e a perspecti e that !akes !e sceptical to Western interpretations. %euerstein to so!e degree but Coward in particular raises the $uestion for !e# to what extent are the" reading Western !onotheist assu!ptions into the Yoga Sutras4 Cowards exposition is di ided into two parts# the first dealing with the relationship between the "oga tradition and language# and the second dealing with "oga and Western ps"cholog"# principall" the transpersonal. Coward pro ides in !asterl" fashion a route into the obscurit" of Patanjali ia a nu!ber of er" Western conte!porar" preoccupations# principall" the role of language in constructing experience# but also including transpersonal ps"cholog" and recent ad ances in neurolog". 2he Yoga Sutras *dated approxi!atel" 788 C.+ are difficult e en for the spirituall" literate Westerner because of three factors1 the" are aphoristic *pith" state!ents like for exa!ple in Pascals Pens es+9 the" are further condensed because of the )anskrit habit of using onl" nouns9 and because the" are written on the basis of cultural assu!ptions that are profoundl" different to our own. 2he cultural gap in ol es two factors1 firstl"# as -r!strong has identified# a funda!entall" different attitude to scripture# and secondl" the necessit" to take into account the secularisation of Western culture. Cowards strateg" is to take locate the potential co!!on ground# work out fro! there# and lea e us with the challenges that the Yoga tradition poses to the West. 2he co!!on ground as Coward sees it includes a possible identification of the Hindu !svara in the Yoga )utras with the Western 3/od# the role of language# and the relationship between Western theories of !e!or" and "ogic notions of kar!a. : erall# the fra!ework which Coward adopts as his starting point is -braha!ic language&centred !onotheis!# a natural Western starting point# but for !e# $uite alien. )ince !" spiritual awakening in India I ha e naturall" explored the great spiritual literature of the .ast# but# !uch !ore difficult was to learn the Western tradition. Hence I a! $uickl" alerted to what I think is a nu!ber of 3awkward fits when reading one tradition in ter!s of the other. In particular# the e!phasis that Coward places on a few short state!ents in the Yoga Sutras# which list 3surrender to !svara as a alid techni$ue for liberation. ,ajneesh was ada!ant in his co!!entaries that this was !erel" included b" Patanjali for the sake of co!pleteness# and that the" represent the de otional path *bhakti "oga+# not at all the subject of his exposition. Coward has $uite the right instinct to see it as the co!!on ground with Christian !onotheis!# but his e!phasis on it rather i!poses on the original I think. ;e ertheless# it allows for the second part of his strateg"# that is to focus on language. :nl" b" standing outside of the -braha!ic !onotheis! of the West is it possible to see that the e!phasis on the 3Word and language is a peculiarit" of that tradition and not at all a uni ersal. Howe er Coward is in good co!pan" with leading 'ritish transpersonal scholar# 'rian <ancaster# whose exposition of 3language !"sticis! draws on his own 0udaic roots# and which e!phasis on language is core to both Western religion and philosoph". Coward finds support for the language anal"sis fro! the Hindu philosopher of language and poet# 'hartrhari# while <ancaster draws fro! the "bhidhamma texts of the 'uddhist Pali canon. 5" own spiritual experiences and !" own reading of the Indian texts# including the Pali canon# lead !e to think that the cluster of notions around !onotheis! and language# when laid o er the Yoga Sutras# obscure rather than re eal. Howe er#

Cowards argu!ents# drawing on the work of 'hartrhari# are fascinating. Is he right to assert# in line with the Western tradition# that language has the power to 3reali=e release4 In particular# when this language has the scriptural authorit" of origins in !s#ara4 :r is this an i!position of the Western notion of the re ealed 3Word of /od# onto the .astern tradition that -r!strong suggests is !ore oriented around the guru and personal experience than scripture and textual authorit"4 Coward tackles the difficult .astern notion of kar!a in ter!s of Western ps"cholog" and neurolog" of !e!or"# pro iding further ground for a Western reader to approach the alien world of the Yoga Sutras. -gain# fro! personal experience of the workings of kar!a# I a! hesitant about this approach. (ar!a is !uch !ore than the neutral accu!ulation of !e!or" traces that Coward suggests# and the strateg" he uses of e idence fro! neurolog" is proble!atic for !e. :n the one hand# b" drawing on conte!porar" neuroscience# we can appeal against the reductionist secular prejudice against the spiritual. :n the other hand it gi es the sceptic a!!unition too9 in this case to ask how on earth neuronal pathwa"s could be 3groo ed b" sense experience fro! pre ious li es. 2he last sections of Cowards sti!ulating book explore how 0ung perhaps e!ble!atic of the Western !ind was sceptical that 3liberation# as the goal of the Yoga )utras# was possible at all. 0ung !e!orabl" described notions of .astern enlighten!ent or nirvana as an 3a!putation# belie ing that pursuing the goal of "oga and si!ilar disciplines would lead to a state of total unconsciousness. Coward explores this issue with reference to later transpersonal theorists# though he !ight usefull" ha e called on Wilbers assess!ent of 0ung as icti! of the 3ele ationist fallac"# whereb" 0ung e$uated the unconscious with the highest states of !ind# such as described b" Patanjali. Coward tells us that 0ung held "oga to be in error# effecti el" holding to the Western iew that onl" 3/od was perfect# and that the hu!an !ind was i!perfectable. With the Western s"ste! of the authorit" of re ealed scripture# no testi!on" fro! its own !"stics has been ad!issible. In the .ast on the other hand the guru !anifests the ulti!ate# scripture acting !ore as a support. -s we !entioned at the outset# Coward lea es us with this central issue regarding the .ast > West di ide. Ha ing taken us through the Yoga Sutras with rather Western e"es# he acknowledges that !ere scholarship cannot resol e the issues onl" stud" under a guru can do that. -nd I ha e to acknowledge that while it worked for !e# it is a step that few are prepared to take# for good reasons.