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Yoga: The Indian Tradition.

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Yoga: The Indian Tradition. Edited by IAN IAN Interactive Affiliate Network
IAN i am nothing
IAN Instrumentation & Automation News
IAN Ianuarius (Latin: January)
IAN Instituto Agronomico Nacional (Paraguay)
IAN Incident Area Network WHICHER AND DAVID CARPENTER. LONDON: ROUTLEDGE-
CURZON, 2003. Pp. xii + 206.
Perhaps the most difficult problem in dealing with yoga is to determine precisely what is meant by
the term. One approach is to allow for the greatest diversity. In such a broad approach the term
"yoga" may be taken to refer to any of the sets of ascetic spiritual practices, involving breath
exercises, disciplined bodily postures, and so forth, characteristic of South Asian religious traditions.
This would include Hindu. Buddhist, Jain, Tantric tantra
n.
Any of a comparatively recent class of Hindu or Buddhist religious literature written in Sanskrit and
concerned with powerful ritual acts of body, speech, and mind. . Sikh, and even Sufi religious
traditions in South Asia from the time of the Indus Valley civilization Indus valley
civilization, ancient civilization that flourished from about 2500 B.C. to about 1500 B.C. in the
valley of the Indus River and its tributaries, in the northwestern portion of the Indian subcontinent,
i.e., present-day Pakistan. up through and including twentieth-century Neo-Hindu and Neo-Muslim
traditions. Also to be included would be the various guru-oriented international spin-offs (Iyengar
Yoga, Siddha Yoga. Transcendental Meditation, and so forth) that appeared nearly everywhere in the
latter decades of the twentieth century. This is the sort of understanding of yoga that emerges from
the work of Mircea Eliade in his now classic. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (Princeton, 1959). and
Gcorg Feuerstein's The Yoga Tradition (Delhi. 2002). The obvious difficulty in such a broad approach
is that yoga traditions become so all encompassing as to become historically diffuse, theoretically
vacuous, and semantically meaningless. Eliade's work, for example, while filled with fascinating
materials that justify his claim that yoga is a "protean protean
adj.
Readily taking on varied shapes, forms, or meanings.
protean
changing form or assuming different shapes. " spirituality that is a "characteristic dimension of
Indian spirituality." sometimes also borders on becoming a potpourri of arcane oddities, which
perpetuate the worst cliches about a fabulous "mystic" or "fantastic" India!
A second approach at definition is to limit the notion of yoga to its strict philosophical identity as one
of the six classical systems of Indian philosophy, to what is usually referred to as Patanjala Yoga,
that is. a philosophical system of yoga as compiled in a text known as the Yogasulra in the first
centuries of the Common Era by a certain Patanjali. The Yogasutra is nearly impossible to decipher
by itself and is most often read together with a set of interpretive commentaries by Vyasa, Vacaspa-
timisra, Vijnanabhiksu, et al. Sometimes this system of philosophy is called Patanjala Samkhya, for
example, in S. N. Dasgupta's History of Indian Philosophy, vol. I (Cambridge, 1963), because of the
system's close affinity with the Samkhya philosophy of India. In fact, the two systems are often
referred to as a samdna-iantra ("common tradition") because the resemblance is so close. This more
limited notion of yoga is usually the province of Indologists, for example, Paul Deussen, J. W. Hauer.
J. Bronkhorst. Erich Frauwallner. et al. Such a limited notion of yoga has almost as many problems
as the broader definition of yoga mentioned at the outset. Among these are the name Patafijali. the
notion of yoga as a philosophical system, and the relation of Patanjala Yoga to later Hatha Yoga (the
so-called "exertion-yoga" of Matsyendranatba and Goraksanatha). Whether the Patafijali of the yoga
system is the same as the grammarian of the same name continues to be widely debated. Moreover,
some Indologists have suggested, for example. J. Bronkhorst and Erich Frauwallner. that the very
notion of yoga as a system of philosophy is questionable. Remove the Samkhya ontology
ontology: see metaphysics.
ontology
Theory of being as such. It was originally called "first philosophy" by Aristotle. In the 18th century
Christian Wolff contrasted ontology, or general metaphysics, with special metaphysical theories
and epistemology and the Buddhist meditation theorizing, and nothing is left but a congeries
congeries
n. (used with a sing. verb)
A collection; an aggregation: "Our city, it should be explained, is two cities, or more of practices,
which can be adapted to any of the Indian philosophical systems. Finally, the relation of Patanjala
Yoga to Hatha Yoga is something of a mystery. A careful reading of the later Hatha Yoga literature
shows little more than an occasional bow to Patanjala Yoga largely by way of seeking cultural
legitimacy for its own unique practices.
All of this is to suggest that much work still needs to be accomplished by way of framing a more
precise historical and theoretical treatment of yoga. In this regard, this volume edited by Ian
Whicher and David Carpenter, entitled simply Yoga: The Indian Tradition, is a very welcome addition
to the secondary literature on yoga. The collection of essays is divided into two parts, first, a section
called "classical foundations," including an essay on yoga in the Mahdhhdrata (by John Brockington).
and essays on the details of classical practice and theory (by David Carpenter, Ian Whicher, Lloyd W.
Pflueger. and Christopher Chappie chappie
Noun
Informal a man or boy
). A second part of the volume is entitled "the expanding tradition." This part includes essays
examining the presence of yoga in Advaita Vedanta (by Vidyasankar Sun-daresen), in Jain and Niith
Siddha A siddha in Sanskrit means "one who is accomplished" and refers to perfected masters who
according to Hindu belief have transcended the ahamkara (ego or I-maker), have subdued their
minds to be subservient to their Awareness, and have transformed their bodies composed mainly of
traditions (by Olle Qvarnstrom). and in later Saiva, Vaisnava, and Sakta Tantra Tantra (t?n`tr?),
in both Hinduism and Buddhism, esoteric tradition of ritual and yoga known for elaborate use of
mantra, or symbolic speech, and mandala, or symbolic diagrams; the importance of female deities,
or Shakti; cremation-ground (by David Gordon White and Glen Alexander Hayes).
What is distinctive about this volume is its attention to careful historical analysis, a focus on the
practice of yoga, and critical philosophical reflection. Following a brief introduction, which describes
the scope of the volume, the first chapter of the work. John Brockington's "Yoga in the Mahabharata"
nicely locates what can be responsibly said about the origins of yoga from an historical point of view.
It is hardly noted sufficiently in most publications that the terms "yoga" and "samkhya" are for the
most part quite late in appearing in the ancient texts. It is only in the Kafka and Svetdsvatara
Upanisads that they appear for the first time in any sort of systematic usage. This suggests that the
historical origins can hardly be traced back further than the milieu of the Mahdbharata, the so-
called '"middle" Upanisads, and the final redacted version of the Bhagavadgitd, or, in other words
Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , roughly the first centuries of the Common Era. There were, of course, older
traditions of ascetic spirituality, as has been pointed out by Johannes Bronkhorst in his The Two
Sources of Indian Asceticism asceticism (?s?t`?s?z?m), rejection of bodily pleasures through
sustained self-denial and self-mortification, with the objective of strengthening spiritual life. (Bern.
2003). Even as late as the final redaction of the Mahabharata, however, one can only refer to a
variety of incipient yoga traditions. In this regard Brockington's essay in the volume under review
provides a useful historical overview of this plurality of yoga traditions.
Following Brockington's historical discussion, David David, in the Bible
David, d. c.970 B.C., king of ancient Israel (c.1010-970 B.C.), successor of Saul. The Book of First
Samuel introduces him as the youngest of eight sons who is anointed king by Samuel to replace
Saul, who had been deemed a failure. Carpenter's essay, "Practice Makes Perfect," examines the
importance of practice in any discussion of yoga, and offers insightful comments about certain
technical terms, namely, "repetition" (abhyasa), "renunciation" (vairagya), "devotion to God" (isvara-
pranidhana), "predisposition" (samskara samskara
In Hinduism, any of the personal sacraments traditionally observed at every stage of life, from the
moment of conception to the scattering of one's funeral ashes. ), and so forth. Ian Whicher. Lloyd
Pfleuger, and Christopher Chappie then take up some of the major theoretical or philosophical
issues in yoga thought. Whicher's essay, "Integration of Spirit and Matter," strives to overcome the
hard-core dualism of Samkhya-Yoga's purusa/prakrti, without losing the notion of pure
consciousness, on the one hand, and the reality of the material world, on the other. The danger, of
course, in striving for integration is either to fall into a Vedanta-like consciousness that reduces or
swallows up the material world or into a materialism that fails to do justice to yoga's (and
Samkhya's) unique notion of consciousness. Pflueger's essay, "Dueling with Dualism," accepts the
hard-core dualism without apology and simply comments. "This is not a vision which glamorizes a
life of accumulating wealth, erotic joy, children or public service. This is moksa philosophy unsuited
to the goals of the householder dsrama" (p. 73). Both Whieher and Pftueger make important points
about the philosophy of yoga, and it is probably fair to say that their debates about the dualism of
yoga reflect the polemics within the tradition that have been characteristic of practitioners from the
very beginning and that will undoubtedly continue for as long as yoga continues to be practiced.
Christopher Chappie's "Yoga and the Luminous" concludes the theoretical discussions by taking a
more irenic irenic also irenical
adj.
Promoting peace; conciliatory.
[Greek eir view, concluding, "Yoga does not reject the reality of the world, nor does it condemn the
world, only the human propensity to misidentify misidentify
tr.v. misidentified, misidentifying, misidentifies
To identify incorrectly.
mis with the more basic aspects of the world" (p. 95).
Part II of the volume, "The Expanding Tradition," traces yoga into the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of
Samkara, the Jaina tradition and the Nath Yoga traditions of western and northern India, early
tantra traditions, and, finally, the later Sahajiya Tantric traditions of Medieval Bengal. V.
Sundaresen argues that yoga plays a much more central role in Advaita Vedanta than many earlier
scholars had realized. This is certainly true in regard to the use of meditative techniques and
practices. At no point, however, does Samkara accept either the ontology or epistemology of yoga.
Samkara is highly critical of any attempt to make pradhdna (in Samkhya) and/or citta (the yoga
equivalent) into independent principles apart from Brahman. Also, of course, Samkara could never
accept the centrality of yogic praxis as a requisite means for attaining moksa. For Samkara, finally,
yoga can only be prolegomenon prolegomenon
n. pl. prolegomena
1. A preliminary discussion, especially a formal essay introducing a work of considerable length or
complexity.
2. prolegomena (used with a sing. or pl. .
Qvarnstrom takes up the manner in which yoga finds its way into Jaina traditions, first, in the early
work of Umasvati (second century c.n.), in which the term "yoga" means simply "activity" of any
kind. Next he looks at the work of the eighth-century figure Haribhadra. who actually introduced the
"eight-limbed" system of Patanjala Yoga as set forth in the Yogasittra. It is from this time, says
Qvarnstrom, that classical yoga became incorporated generally into Jaina ascetic practices. Finally,
Qvarnstrom examines the later work of Hemacandra (1089-1172), who in his text entitled Yogasastra
utilizes much of classical yoga but also incorporates some of the Hatha Yoga practices that had
become more prevalent in this later period. It is in this late period that certain common practices
appear in Jaina as well as in Nath Yoga or Kanphata traditions, especially in the regions of western
India. What probably links the Jaina and Nath traditions is hardly any philosophical commonality but
rather certain peculiar practices derived from the Hatha Yoga system.
Likewise it appears to be the case that the yoga that is utilized in the tantra is not Patanjala Yoga
but rather Hatha Yoga. In both David Gordon White's essay, "Yoga in Early Hindu Tantra." and in
Glen Alexander Hayes's essay on tantra in medieval Bengal, it becomes clear that although, to be
sure, lip-service is paid lo "eight-limbed yoga," the focus in theory, but perhaps especially in
practice, has dramatically changed. Whether Hatha Yoga traditions influence tantra traditions or
whether lantra traditions influence Hathha Yoga traditions, there appears to be clearly an elective
affinity in Max Weber's sense and a remarkable lack of affinity with the older Palanjala Yoga. The
historical relations among these traditions have yet to be fully understood. The influences of local
vernacular (non-Sanskritic) ritual traditions and archaic tribal traditions need lo be examined. Also,
traditions from outside of India, in the far northwest of the subcontinent as well as the far northeast,
must be taken into careful consideration, as P. C. Bagchi has suggested (see his "Evolution of the
Tantras." in Studies on the Tantras, ed. Swami Lokeshwarananda [Calcutta. 1989], 6-24). There is
also the important material from the Kashmir region being researched in the work of A. Padoux, A.
Sanderson, and M. S. C. Dy-czkowski.
One of the great virtues of the collection under review is the excellent bibliography, which provides
a comprehensive overview of both primary and secondary works on yoga. The only lacuna
lacuna /lacuna/ (lah-kunah) pl. lacunae [L.]
1. a small pit or hollow cavity.
2. a defect or gap, as in the field of vision (scotoma). in the volume is the absence of a chapter on
Buddhist yoga and the manner in which Buddhist traditions have played a key role in the history of
yoga The History of Yoga spans from four to eight thousand years ago to the current day. From hints
of its practice in the Indus Valley civilization (c. 3000 BC), the Vedic civilization (c. traditions.
GERALD JAMES LARSON
UNIVERSITY OP CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA
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