Sunrise, sunset and before retiring are excellent times for practice Yoga poses hard . If your circumstances do not permit this, choose any time when you can be alone Yoga poses hard and completely quiet. Ideally, you should practice at approximately the same time each day. 3. The time spent in each practice is up to the individualthe longer, the better. Ten to twenty minutes is a minimum period. 4. Select a pleasant, secluded place.
For a discussion of the various meanings of samadhi in relation to the YS, see Whicher (1998). For a detailed comparison of samadhi within Buddhism and Brahmin yoga, see Sarbacker (2005).
For a further discussion of the Siddhis of chapter three, see Chapple (2012b) and Rukmann (1997).
For further comparison between the methods of hypnotic trance and the meditation of Yoga Sutra see S. Chowdhary and J.K. Gopinath: Clinical Hypnosis and Patanjali yoga sutras , in Indian Journal of Psychiatry 2013, vol. 55, issue 6.
White (2009) also argues that vibhuti-yoga – supernatural powers of yoga – is a central strain of yoga and therefore not an accidental extension of the YS. However later yoga discourse – Brahmin and orientalist – has tried to downplay this strain in order to construct the pious, spiritual and peace-loving yoga monk.
For a good concise introduction to these complex issues, see Larson (2012).
Larson (2008) argues that yoga does not mean yoke; but the root form of yoga is yuj -which rather mean concentration. Hence in the YS yoga really means samadhi: i.e. Yoga = concentration.
Different interpretations are possible here, see Whicher (1998) and Sarbacker(2005).
There is a growing list of research (see Sarbacker 2005 for an overview) into the influence of Buddhism and Yogacara on the YS. However I have just chosen to show the similarities which would catch the eye of even a novice of Buddhism.
Instructive and critical introduction to Buddhistjhana can be found in Griffiths (1981), Stuart-Fox (1989), Bucknell (1993).
Scholars like Deussen, Frauwallner and Hauser almost a century ago came up with different suggestions based on detailed analyses for which specific parts of the YS are influenced by which different roots – be it Buddhism, Samkhya, ascetic traditions, Brahmanism. Larson (2008) gives an overview of this. Mine is just a rough one trying to sort out some headlines.
There is an exegetic YS tradition where different (sectarian) interpreters (like Vyasa, VMisra, V Bhiksu, B. Raja, H. Aranya and many others) put a range of opposing views upon these abstract sutras. This exegetic tradition is documented by Whicher (1996, 2003). See also Larson (2008) for an overview of the commentary tradition.
Larson (1999) however argues that the commentaries make the textual tradition – i.e. the commentaries were a way of innovating an orthodox tradition by leaving the orthodox doctrine intact and adding innovation in the commentary. If this observation is correct, Larson then would have to explain why did all Buddhist orthodox schools not just similarly provided commentaries, but instead produced philosophical innovations and ruptures.
So commentaries were not about meditative issues but about theological inclusions. As an extension of that inclusion strategy, we see that as the Muslims entered India some of them also translated and adapted the YS in similar ways to their religion. An example is Al-Biruni’s Book of Patanjali from about 1000 AD (Larson 2009).
Malinar (2009) draws similar conclusions: in order to become recognised new sects needed to align their theology with the orthodox hegemonic philosophies.
This ideological move has been accepted and reproduced by many if not most Orientalist and modern scholars.
A (theological) paper rejects this and claims that yoga does indeed play a role for the founder Sankara, see Sundaresan (2003).
See Stein (1998), Thapar (2002) and Kulke & Rothermund (2006) for introductions to the Mediaeval Ages. For a quick introductory historical overview see Michaels (2004). For a regional perspective on Medieval History see Eaton (1993 & 2005).
As hatha-yoga grew out of the Tantric and Saivite discourses I will mainly focus on them. As I said, the discourse of Tantra also fundamentally changed the other discourses. In fact the Buddhists and the Saivists argue amongst themselves, which were first and most influenced by Tantric discourse. Both of them developed parallel notions of the subtle body, a notion which hatha-yoga discourses refined and made fundamental to their practice.
I deliberately use the notion of feudal’ and mediaeval’ even though they are periodisations belonging to European history. Inden (2000) criticises the idea that we can force such traditional European periodisation periods upon Indian history. I agree with his discomfort with the use of the terms, but as the notions are very vague and seem to be generally used and known by most, I have chosen to use them anyway, as I have not come across anything better.
In the 19 century the noun Tantrism was constructed as a concept defining a cultural period. Western Indologists – the Orientalists – who thought they had discovered an exceptional undercurrent contrasting sharply with the respectable Hindu philosophy -coined it.
Urban (2003) has one of the best discussions of the term Tantra and its historical construction.
There is very little research but see for instance Gronbold (1996), Feuerstein (1998), Brunner (1994), Rastogi (1992), Vasudeva (2000).
Bharati (1965) has analysed some 35 Tantra scriptures, which show that 60% of the verses are about mantra themes (10% about mandala, 10% meditation on gods).
Due to extensive trade India’s religio-philosophy came in this period under strong Chinese influence (Samuel 2008).
A historical-sociological presentation of these eras of India’s history in Ling (1968), Nandi (1986) and in the discussions of Champakalakshni and Chattopadhyaya (1995). See also the historical articles in White (2000).
Sharma (2000 and 2001) has a Marxist account of the rise of Tantra.
For further details on the relationship between kings and religion/ cults in this period see Inden (1990), Davidson (2002), Eaton (1993), Cort (1998), Davis (1998) and Michaels (2004).
Stein (1998) and Jha (2000). Eaton (2005) gives a detailed description of the same processes in a later period.
Davidson: (2002). Srinivas (1966) – his interesting concept of Sanskritisation’ (an emulation of high caste behaviour) should not be confused with M. Weber’s term Hinduisation’ (enforcement of caste). See also N.B. Dirk’s critique of Sanskritisation (2001).
The terms Great versus Little Tradition’ was coined by Redfield (1956) and has been extremely influential. It has also been widely criticised (see Morris 2006 for an overview) but as long as the conceptual pair is used as guiding notions I find they can have a heuristic function in capturing underlying structural conflicts.
In general the medieval individual and his community would in fact get their identity from a mixture of sources: rituals (religion), caste, occupation, guru lineage, clan, tribe, geographical location. For more on elusive religious boundaries and identity in Indian society, see Oberoi (1994) and Dundas (2002).
Hence a local clan or tribe would often connect to a local guru or priest lineage and follow their rituals and social codes. The guru lineage-ship in itself could be the property of a certain clan, which secured the guru clan authority and existence over generations. So a tribe could end up subscribing to a local guru lineage, which had practices, rituals and gods, which actually contradicted many of the tribe’s own rituals and gods. But such diversity was not a problem.
It seems that most resistance coming from these Tantric groups worshipping female gods, was the Sakti communities, as Sakti managed in many texts to rise to the levels of power of Siva, Vishnu, Suria etc. For more about Sakti see Brighenti (2001), Ling (1968), Brockington (1981), Davis (2000), Flood (1996 & 2006), Urban (2001).
It seems that some extreme Siva (and Sakti) cults shared a belief in spiritual exaltation and purification through subversive behaviour.
Others were borderline groups between Tantra and Saivism: should they be classified as aboriginal local clans’ (having adopted certain Saivite ideas) or as ascetic Saivite groups’ (having adopted Tantra)? In this melting pot of liberation discourse, monotheistic salvation, Brahmanism, asceticism and Tantric discourses it is almost impossible to say how we should categorise them.
For further discussion of yoga within Tantra, see Muller-Ortega (2005), Brunner (1994 & 1992), Rastogi (19920, Alter (2006), Vasudeva (2000).
This suspicion is supported by Sanderson (1988), who claims that the Pasupatas were restricted to Brahmins.
Harper (2002). Both Flood (2006) and Michaels (1998) show that Tantric rituals and imaginations transformed the body of the king to a deity – thereby securing his power basis.
For more about the relationship between the King and the holy men, see Inden (1990) and Davis (1998).
This situation is very similar to the present day New Age spiritual market.
Tantric culture went on undisturbed in rural areas (White 2003, Urban 2001).
See Desika Char (1993). I have not come across much research how the life of holy men was affected by the Turkic Muslim take over. Eaton (1993) has made some contributions.
According to White (2003) some Tantric texts continued to surface – in fact there is a small Tantric renaissance some hundred years later, he says.
Eaton (1993) and Desika Char (1993) state that the displacement of Hindu kings by Muslim rulers meant that many cults lost their royal patronage and almost vanished. However, Sakti cults being merged with Siva ideology blossomed under the restructuring of Sakti Brahmins.
For further details of the Kula movement see White (1996).
This intercourse technique of sucking up the female sexual discharge by using urethral suction techniques became known as vajroli mudra – a technique much later adopted by hatha-yoga.
In a modern world framed by Western philosophy we would not see the subtle body as a physical system but as a meta-physical notion. However, in the Tantric discourse the physical and meta-physical flow seamlessly into each other – those who have the right knowledge and tools are able to access systems not visible to the human eye.
The Siddhas could be found in most regions of India and were therefore known under different names such as the Manesvara Siddhas (Siva worshippers), the alchemist Tamil Sittars, the Maha Siddhas, the Rasa Siddhas and the Nath Siddhas.
Accordingly one of the Siddha groups was named the Rasa (fluid) Siddhas.
From the beginning the function of the subtle body was to energise and vitalise the physical body. We could therefore call the subtle body (or rasa) our vital force’. This is what we would today call vitality’ or just life’.
For an introduction to the interaction between these three bodies, see for instance Prawley (1999).
There was such a close exchange of ideas, practices and people between the Buddhist Siddhacaryas and the Siddha Naths (Siva worshippers) that they shared a common platform of Tantric practices. We have already observed that two Buddhist Tantras – the Kalakacra- and Guhyasamaja-Tantra – taught a six-limb yoga almost identical to that of some Saivite groups. Sometimes these rural groups attended the same temples and worship the same Gods. The existence of a subtle body among the Buddhists is documented in the Buddhist text Amrta-siddhi-yoga from about 1200 AD (Schaeffer vol.30). Here they discuss how amrta – nectar from the subtle body being channelled up -meant the attainment of immortality. K. Liberman The Reflexivity of the Authenticity of Hatha Yoga (2008) even claims that the Siddhas actually evolved out of Buddhist circles (Mallik 1953 has the opposite view). Liberman claims, among others, that the founders of hatha-yoga were actually Buddhists. See also Birch (2011).
Some of the early groups among the Siddhas who offered techniques manipulating the subtle body were the Rasa Siddhas alchemists. They claimed that they could achieve immortality by increasing the vital fluids by eating mercury. Increasing the level of mercury would increase the level of semen and the presence of Siva in the body, all seen to be the same. So we see how various discourses of fluidity and divinity are freely combined.
He did not use the term hatha-yoga ‘ for the techniques – Gorakhnath coined this name much later.
For a detailed description of the Tantric sadhana (techniques) and ritual, see Bharati(1965) – the 5 M techniques should not be seen as hedonistic pleasure but serious sacrifice to Kundalini, according to Bharati.
Hence Mallinson suggests that the two distinct hatha-yoga discourses belonged to separate milieus – one focusing on bindu in Saivite, Buddhist and Brahmin milieu and one on Kundalini in Kula and siddhi milieu. However if we follow White it seems that the fluid discourse instead belonged to the siddhis.
See Birch (2011) for an overview of the early hatha discourse and how the sign slowly took form.
Some researchers have tried to identify the real core writings – see for instance White’s detailed detective work (1996), Briggs (1938) or Banerjea (1962).
Historical dating by Mallinson (2012). See Larson (2008) for brief summaries of several of Goraknath’s writings.
Texts that would become central to the canon of the Nath order – like Goraksa-siddhanta-samgraha and Yoga-yajnavalkya – are often attributed to Goraknath, but they are probably written 100 years later. They repeat Goraknath’s ideas and promise the selfs union – i.e. yoga – with the supreme self mainly by applying the techniques of pranayama. It seems that these texts see a Nath as one who is endowed with liberation of the Supreme’- typical Tantric Siva discourse establishing divine identities through the salvation of Siva.
There are many other early hatha texts not belonging to the Nath canon. Mallinson (2012b) discusses some of them. They were texts like Armta-siddhi, Dattatreya-yoga-sastra, and Khecarividya. Birch (2011) also gives a good overview of the early hatha texts.
For a discussion see Eliade (1958).
It is often claimed that immortality and perfection are symbolically meant: they are about immortality after death. First the Siddha becomes perfected with a strong and purified body (siddhi), then he can commence becoming an immortal soul (i.e. a jivan-mukti), who later on will leave his physical body – it is the soul which becomes immortal. This interpretation is very popular. However Dasgupta (1976) (among many other scholars) analysing the Siddha-Naths, concluded that immortality’ should be understood in its direct physiological sense. The Naths were closely related to the alchemist Rasa-Siddhas and the Buddhist Siddhacaryas who all aimed to escape death (Schaeffer vol.30). They asserted that when the perfected body’ was free from defilements’, it was a purified principle fitted to become a guru/arahant – then this body could decide when it wanted to leave this world and become like Siva -para-mukti- or Buddha.
For Vedanta see Fort (1996); for Tantra see Muller-Otega (1996).
Often jivan-mukti was made the equivalent of being physically immortal. Sometimes a two step rocket was envisioned: yes, the yogi can become immortal (siddhi) – physical purified and loaded with magic. He can then move on and become a living liberated (jivan-mukti) – a person who one day decides to leave his body and become an immortal soul.
Birch (2011) list the most important compilation sources as: Yajnavalkya’s and Vasistha’s Ashtangayoga, Amanaskayoga’s Rajayoga, the Vivekamartanda’s Sadangayoga, Ardinath’s Khecarividya, and the Virupaksanatha’s Amrtasiddhi.
There are different versions of HYP. One version consisting of ten chapters and a version found in Jodphur provides instructions for a larger amount of asana – but these passages were probably inserted later (Buhnemann 2007). My account relies on the short version based on a translation of Swami Muktibodhananda (1998) from the Bihar School of yoga.
The drawings illustrating the HYP techniques in this chapter are from Swami Muktibodhananda (Bihar School of yoga) commentary on Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1998).
The text does not make clear what principle is behind its recommended diet. To get an idea of how such principles might have been, see Frawley (1999) who from a modern Ayurvedic point of view advises how a correct yogi diet can facilitate liberation efforts.
According to Mallinson (2007) the instruction of the khechari mudra is based on an earlier influential Tantric Nath text called Khecharividya. Mallinson also confirms that that these extreme Tantric techniques, which HYP just lists, tended to disappear as the HYP was adopted by high castes.
According to Birch (2011) the HYP here mainly draws on Medieval raja yoga discourse – as for instance the already mentioned Amanaskayoga – where raja was a synonym for samadhi. However in this raja discourse we find the same ambiguities as we find in the Patanjali samadhi discourse.
The whole idea of increasing subtleness of chakras’ is discussed in Alter (2004).
White (2003) claims that raja in raja yoga in the early texts is meaning semen and raja yoga means the union of semen and blood.
I use the translation by Briggs (1938). He calls his version the Poona Text and defines it as the most central of all hatha-yoga texts, as it is quoted in several later texts.
This ambivalence can be traced back to Matsyendra (900AD – precursor to Gorakhnath) who according to White (2003) began to domesticate the wild Kula rites, hitherto taking place in cremations ground. Matsyendra included them in a Saivite Gnostic discourse. Those who receive the jnana (Gnosis) obtain bhukti (pleasure), mukti (liberation) and siddhi (magical powers) – according to the Kaula-jnana-nirnaya of Matsyendra. So already here, there is a tendency to subsume Tantric practices in Saivite theism.
See Eaton (1993) and Desika Char (1993) – how religious life was affected by Muslims.
ee Metcalf (2002) and Bayly (1986) for how a small trading company developed into a colonial master.
White (2009, p. 212). White has done a long overdue job in gathering a range of accounts from Muslims and Europeans arriving in India in the period we are dealing with here. Hence many quotes in this chapter draw on White’s efforts.
For historical introductions to the Sultanate and the Mughals, see Metcalf (2002), Eaton (1993), Desika Char (1993), Eraly (2007), Asher & Talbot (2006).
For a controversial account, see Sharma (1986).
See Pinch (2006) for the conflict between Bhakti and yoga ascetics. He argues further that Bhakti and British colonialism seriously marginalised asceticism during the 19 century.
Quote from White (2009), p.220.
So there was close interaction between Muslim and Indian elite and popular religious cultures. It is however unknown to me how this new Northern Indian multiculture specific influenced for instance urban Brahmin yoga and rural hatha-yoga. Certainly we can see many Persian translations of Indian religious texts – even the Yoga Sutra and HYP were studied. So there was certainly some uptake among the Muslim upper classes. For Hindu and Muslim religious relations, see Desika Char (1993).
All over India there were small rural fortresses where the local people would be able to defend themselves for months. This of course also generated problems for the upper classes trying to levy the farmers’ economic surplus. They had to muster significant armies to claim their taxes, and travelling through the countryside was connected with significant risks of attack from the locals (Kolff 1990).
Kolff (1990) in his investigations of the military market of Northern India commencing in 1450, at the end of the Delhi Sultanate.
Farquhar (1925), Lorenzen (1978), Clark (2004) show how militant asceticism in the Sultanate period was widespread. See also Gross (1992) for further literature discussions.
Pinch (2006) argues that the Muslims did not escalate these conflicts.
Quote from White (2009), p.214.
Quote from White (2009), p.216.
See Metcalf (2002) and editors Introduction in Gommans & Kolff (2001).
Muslims brought with them a tradition of using either slave-soldiers (Mamelukes) or mercenaries (often warrior tribes) according to Keegan (1993).
See also Ghurye (1953), Gross (1992), and Clark (2004) for discussions of militant asceticism. Clark focusses on the Siva tradition. Kolff (1990) gives an overall analysis of the military market.
Quote from White (2009), p.222.
Orr (2001) (1940) describes further the aggressive culture of the Nath yogis.
Hence we hear about such communities/identities – often emerging from the ranks of the Rajput semi-nomads – of warrior-ascetics carrying names like Purbiyas, Ujjainiyas, Bundelos, Baheliyas and Pasis. Such identities were grouped together as Naukari -providers of (soldier) services . They often provided the backbone of armies for local warlords, travelling caravans and Mughal armies etc.
White (2009), p.222.
White (2009), p.211.
However among the local population the discourse of holy men as ever imbued them with awe and respect and made them acceptable as a fact of life. The European Christian discourse on the other hand mostly lacked this quality of respect as it could not possibly see these men’s holiness.
White (2009), p.217.
See Tod: (1920) and Gosh (1930) – painting a picture of thieves and lawless bandits of the sadhus.
However ironically enough the jogi of the marketplace performing contortionism became one of the first hatha yoga asana performers – seen with the eyes of a modern observer.
See Gold (1984 &1999,) Mahapatra (1972), Robertson (2004). For the doctrines of the Nath see Gupta (1976) and Mallik (1953).
They subscribe to a mixture of Buddhist, Saivaite and Tantric ideas and practices. They seem to have strong caste opposition and a taint of anti-Brahmanism.
Quote from White (2009), p.218.
It is a seven-limb yoga: kriya (21 variations; hygienic techniques similar to shatkarma) – asana (32 variations; mostly meditative poses) – mudra (25 variations) -pratyahara – pranayama – dhyana – samadhi. The six ancillaries remind much more about those typical listed in yoga treatises than those of HYP.
According to Mallinson (2007) hatha-yoga became – stripped from its Tantric elements – very popular among Vedanta Brahmins.
Actually there are many texts directly influenced by HYP. Larson (2008) gives a short summary of texts like Vastistina-samhita, Satkarma-samgraha, Hatha-samhitacandrika, Hatha-tattva-kaumundi, Yoga-cintamani etc.
We can gather that the number 84 became a crucial number in the hatha yoga discourse.
Larson (2008) briefly summarises one of them written by Brahmananda.
They carry the names: Kshurika-, Yoga-Kundalini-, Yoga-shikha-, Yoga-tattva-, Yoga-cuda-mani-, Darshana-, Tri-shiki-Brahmana-, Vraha- and Shandilya-Upanishad.
The Yoga-Sikha apparently borrowed many passages from Naths texts like the Yoga-bija mentioned earlier. The Kshurika has extensive discussions of subtle body notions like nadi, ida, pingala etc. The Kundalini discusses the Bandhas (locks) of HYP. The Tattva argues that hatha prepares for the demands of raja (i.e. samadhi meditation) and so on.
This ideology of inclusion is often re-created by uncritical scholars in their interpretation efforts. Eliade is an example.
Accordingly reading the Upanishads listed above which discuss hatha-yoga shows how hatha-yoga was adopted as a technical yoga within all kinds of Saivite, Vashnavite and Vedanta communities, some of them probably conservative communities. Even around 1900, the technical adaptation strategy was still in place as seen by the influential neo-Hinduist Vivekananda: hatha-yoga was once more defined as a preliminary step for doing raja (i.e. meditative) yoga.
Some Brahmin upper castes might even have practised hatha-yoga and other Tantric rituals in private because of the violation of many caste norms. During the day they would follow their duties as a Brahmin public person. But in private they would turn to their secret Tantric practices for their own private goals (Renfrew Brook 1990).
See Alter (1992) – showing that the difference between wrestler / ascetic Sadhu is minor.
Often asanas are combined with interlinking movements – vinyasa – and special breathing styles, which are never mentioned in the old hatha texts. The modern student is primarily taught refined body awareness and aims for gymnastic perfection and health. This again diverts dramatically from the hatha-yoga scriptures, which aim for Kundalini to rise through the sushuma channel.
Many instructors – sometime Brahmins and holy men – were previously employed and participated in royal rituals and they seem to have left traces of their instructions in form of documentation. Part of the instructors’ job was the physical and mental training of the princes, rajas, aristocrats, warlords and their soldiers. Extensive training programs were developed- both for strength and flexibility.
Many of the wrestling orders were protected by the royal courts or were a part of them. The Muslims brought originally wrestling to India. It was a popular Persian sport and became also popular in India (Alter 1992). As mentioned earlier, under British rule many warrior ascetics turned to wrestling, as they could no longer make a living as professional soldiers.
Many of the asanas shown are – in best Western gymnastic style – using ropes. The asanas described in this document are the oldest asana document we have, where the asanas in both name and form are very similar to Western modern poses. However, these poses were not exercised for liberation purpose, but to physically train soldiers and wrestlers.
Alter (1992) describes the danda and other wrestling exercises in detail, where Sun Salutations were an essential part of the regime. He states that the sun salutations were formalised in the late 19 century by royal wrestlers and that different early forms of sun salutations can be traced a couple of hundred years back’ (from 1992) – they seem to have emerged in the period of the Mughal empire. Are sun salutations originally ascetic warrior exercises adapted by wrestlers?
See D. Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) for a Nobel prize-winning social psychological account of how the mind thinks and makes decisions.
See Olson (1997 & 2002) for further comparisons between Indian and post-modern philosophy.
Buddhist philosophy – build around anti-essentialism – very strongly criticised Brahmin essentialism (Gombrich 2009).
One of the finest proponents is Karl R. Popper. See for instance The Open Society and its Enemies or Conjectures and Refutations.
For the different histories and origins of Perennial Philosophy see von Stuckrad (2005).
Jones (1993) gives a comprehensive philosophical critque of this claim of mystics.
For further excellent discussions of mystical experience and non-reductionism, see Katz (1978). For a philosophical reply from a mystic to Katz’s famous criticism see Forman (1990 & 1999). For an overview of the discussion see King (1999b) and Jones (1993).
For further ?????see C. Keller: Mystical Literature – and S. Katz: Language, Epistemology and Mysticism – both in S. Katz (ed): Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis (1978)
For an quick introduction to this see Spinelli (1989) (psychological perspective) Burr (1995) (sociological perspective), Hagen (1995) (Zen Buddhist perspective) and Spinner (1974) (philosophical perspective).
See Olson (2002) who compares how language (and writing, desire, disappearing self, rationality, etc) is understood in Indian and postmodern philosophies..
For further excellent discussions of mystical experience, non-reductionism etc., see Katz (1978). For a philosophical reply from a mystic to Katz’s famous criticism see Forman (1990 & 1999). For an overview of the discussion see King (1999b).
See my discussions on consciousness in the chapter What are we talking about? and Glucklich (2001). This notion of multiple-centre-processing-of-consciousness’ also offers an explanation to the objections the phenomenologist M. Merleau-Ponty in his Phenomenology of Perception (1962) has towards this Kantian approach to consciousness. Merleau-Ponty criticises the Kantian model as an intellectualist’ model not able to explain the findings of Gestalt psychology and the experiences of brain damaged patients.
See Gimello (1978), Klein (1986) and Scharf (1998), Forman (1998) for discussions of de-conditioning of consciousness and pure consciousness – a discussion stretching back to Kant and which have been re-invigorated by post-modern philosophy. King (1999b) points out that as well as perennialism ends in a myth of a transcendent object then constructionism ends in an opposing myth of isolated context.
Sarbacker (2005) tries to rescue the notion ofliberation as mystical insight’ from the onslaught of constructionism. He calls his approach a mild form of constructionism, but I struggle to see why any constructionist should accept it. See also Forman’s (1990 & 1999) attempt to save mysticism
See Brown (1986) who reaches similar conclusions in a technical and psychological comparison of three meditative traditions – Theravada, Mahayana Buddhism and Patanjali yoga.
Sharf (1998) has produced some interesting reflections on the meaning of the notion experience’. He shows that the concept originated among the romantics and argues that to talk about an inner subjective religious experience’ breaks down what experience actually is about. If we were to take seriously reports of religious experiences’ we should also take seriously people reporting to be abducted by aliens, he says mockingly.
Bourdieu has a very critical view on ‘the sacred’. For him it is an example of symbolic violence. He sees ‘sacredness’ as a central part of religion’s primary function to legitimate social inequality. Trough the power of the religious field to define what is sacred – called ‘consecration ‘ – it elevates social and cultural signs to a sphere where they can only be admired and respected but not critical evaluated. See Rey (2007).
Quoted and translated from Sarasin (2009) p.228.
See the efforts of Forman (1999), Sarbacker (2005), King (1999b).
There is also widespread criticism of introspection within social psychological experiments, where it is found often to have serious drawbacks. Wilson and Dunn (2004) find for instance that introspection, instead of leading to genuine self-revelation, often leads to self-fabrication.
See for instance M. Hewstone, W. Stroebe & K. Jonas: Introduction to Social Psychology (4 ed. 2007).
Even some accomplished critical researchers seems to adhere to this discourse – see for instance Sjoman: (2004) who for instance maintains the old saying that yoga is known from yoga and What can a mind, fed on a gluttonous feast of distraction as culture, understand of a system that teaches the contrary? which seems to exclude external non-yogis based critical evaluation.
See Lorenzen (2004) for further discussions on how religious groups competed for income and support. An important source of income from the Medieval period was the control of pilgrim routes and centres – often situated along the Ganges basin.
The Introduction of this book looked for critical yoga literature. As the yoga popularisers have strong economical interests in yoga it is clear that those circles cannot generate a critical discourse about yoga. That would be to cut away the branch they are sitting on. As these popularisers of the yoga industry are further enmeshed in a spiritual and romantic crusade against modernity they cannot therefore allow themselves to criticise the instrument – yoga – which they hold up against modern life and its diseases.
Following Collins (1975) who builds on both Marx and Weber and integrates their focus on social conflicts.
Self interest is here seen as an impulse. A default reaction, which of course can be -and often is – overwritten. Further I am not saying that self-interest is the only driving factor. Interesting studies show that human beings also had a propensity to corporate and to punish (even at personal costs involved) those who abuse the norms of corporation (Ginits et al 2005 ; Beinhocker 2007, Seabright 2010). For a critique of defining self interest’ as human nature, see M.Sahlins: The Western Illusion of Human Nature (2008) Self interest clearly also underpins Bourdieu’s works even if he denies this (Schwartz 1997).
Weber himself also wrote on Religions of India (1909). I am not drawing much on the conclusions Weber made about yoga in his book, as they were based on the very restricted information available at that point in time. What is of interest is Weber’s methodology and how it can be integrated with recent methodologies. One could say that the sociology of Bourdieu in many respects is a refinement of Weber and his reflections on religion (Rey 2007).
See for instance Benavides (2000) who discusses the interplay of ecological conditions, social hierarchies and religious legitimation – based on Leo Howe’s studies of Balinese societies: certain hierarchical organisations (like kingships) can only emerge under certain ecological/demographic conditions and need to be justified by religious ideologies.
Definition from Harris (1997). For a discussion of culture, see Lincoln (2000) and
Sanderson’s model is consciously left open and vague as it assumes that when human culture and religions arise – often expressed in new discourses and cultural fields – it is in response to historic specific configurations of conditions, dynamics and conflict lines. There is, therefore, in the model no specific trans-historical assumption or general understanding as to why cultures and religions’ arise, what functions they have or what content they have.
Increasingly within history, politics and sociology one see Darwinian evolutionary models being successfully applied (Gat 2008). G. Hodgson & T. Knudsen: Darwin’s Conjecture (2010) and B. Thayer: Darwin and International Relations: On the evolutionary origins of war and ethnic conflict (2004) give methodological and philosophical reasons for integrating the biological and social sciences.
See Sanderson (2001) and Sarasin (2009) for a discussion of the debate around the use of Darwin’s model of evolution in sociology and for the application ofthe evolution algorithm’ to economy, see Beinhocker (2007). Regarding my effort to bring together Darwin and Foucault: according to the Swiss historian P. Sarasin (2009) this makes sense in many ways. For instance, both thinkers employed a genealogical method which showed that what we previously thought to be the essence, identity and origin of phenomena (species or ideas) would dissolve on closer historical inspection. For a provocative account of us humans being more animal-like than we prefer to be and of our efforts to disguise them, see Gray (2002) and de Waal (2006). See also Dennett’s (1995) influential account about the impact of Darwin’s way of thinking.
One could argue that my use of a-historical notions like self interest’ and status competition’ (alluding to human nature’) directly contradicts the fundamentals of poststructuralism. However, I believe it is now time to introduce counter-intuitive ideas -following Kuhn and Feyerabend – in order to break out of the constraints of poststructuralism; this is an attempt to establish new research programmes. Anyway, according to Sarasin (2009) the effort to bring together Darwin and Foucault is meaningful as both of them employed a genealogy.
For theory and historical application see for instance Yoffee (2005), Lull & Mico(2011), McNeill 2003, McEvilley 2002, Gat 2008, Thayer 2004, Fukuyama 2011,Witzel 2003. Among Russian archaeologists and anthropologists social evolutionary approach is widely used (Korotayev et al 2000, Kradin 2002, Beliaev & Bondarenko 2001 and in Kohl 2009, Anthony 2010).
For an example see J. Diamond: Collapse (2005).
Darwin’s genealogical methodology should be kept very separate from Social Darwinism (and bio-sociology) which are lamentable ideologies transforming Darwin’s ideas into something they never were (Sarasin 2009, Bowler 2009). For discussions of integrating the biological and social sciences see Thayer (2004), de Wall (2009), Alcock (2003) and Segerstrale (2000).
Barkov (1989) argues that prestige is the most important factor of human drives. This drive for social power and recognition – status – is prevalent among all the primates (de Waal 2006 & 2009).
Milner (1994) has a good discussion of status.
Basham (1967) show how asceticism is related to social change. See also C. Fuller (1992), Aiyappan (1965). How social groups upgrade themselves in a caste system, see Srinivas (1952).
Preston (1980), Wadley (1985) – religious life in a village. Dalrymple (2009) shows for instance how dance and epic telling is given magic-religious meaning by the rural population.
There is nothing unique in this method of using the insights of contemporary- and inter-disciplinary studies to help us to understand the past. An excellent example is the work of the historian Peter Heather: Empires and Barbarians – Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe (2009. Other impressive examples are the historian Azar Gat: War in Human Civilization (2005) and the anthropologist D.W. Anthony: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language (2010) – the last discussing this methodology. So more and more scholars are very critical of current academic hyperspecialisation, which sees the trees but not the forest.
Gat (2008) makes a similar complaint.
Keith Sawyer (2005) argues in his book about societies as complex systems, that stable emergents – the new – can only be explained by introducing an interactional level as a mediating link between the structural and the individual. It is within the interactional layer – where ideas and practices flow together – that the new crystallises. The Interactional Paradigm as Keith Sawyer labels it allows us to explain social change on both the individual and on the structural level. Adherents to this Paradigm are, according to Keith Sawyer, writers such as Simmel, Mead, Cooley, Bourdieu, Foucault and the Chicago School of Symbolic Interaction.
A better way of labelling social and biological evolution following Beinhocker (2007) is that both models are sub-classes of hyper-complex adaptive dynamic systems.
For introductions to discourse analysis see Phillips & Hardy (2002), Fairclough (1992).
As the reader might have observed my basic assumption of conflict sociology – like impulses of self-interest and power seeking – could easily be accused of universalism and essentialism I believe that by using the notion of default (people can override impulses if they choose so) I can save my skin.
The similarity between religious ecstasy and creativity has been noticed for almost a century see Geel (1982).
For a multi-disciplinary and multi-centred approach to consciousness see Glucklich (2001) and Dennett (1993) which has inspired many of the thoughts in this chapter.
Lewis (1981) in his classical account of ecstatic religions has a similar approach. He also defines a common underlying form of ecstatic altered states of consciousness and then sets out to analyse how these ecstatic religious practices interact with specific societies and their specific conflicts. For an multidisciplinary overview of ecstatic religion see Holm (1982).
For more about hypnotic trance and meditation as an ASC, see S. Chowdhary and J.K. Gopinath: Clinical Hypnosis and Patanjali yoga sutras, in Indian Journal of Psychiatry 2013, vol. 55, issue 6.
The map is only thought to be a tool that allows us to discuss and compare different technologies of consciousness. Scholars like Walsh (1993) have drawn much more detailed phenomenological maps of ASC working with up to 11 dimensions, which he uses for the same purpose as I do. However, I did not find it necessary to use such complexity to get my points across.
Grof is well known for his research into mind-altering-techniques’ and mind-altered-states’, which he calls holotropic consciousness – i.e. consciousness moving towards wholeness (Grof 1993 and 2000).
Psycho-analytically oriented scholars like S. Grof interpret and differentiate such mind states in a range of ways such as projections of repressed aspects of unconscious mind; near death experiences; perinatal experiences; transpersonal experiences; condensed experiences etc. (Grof 1993 and 2000).
In a recent essay on the YS, the yoga specialist Larson (2012) only briefly mentions that there is a chapter on supernatural powers. The largest part of the essay consists of clarifying and detailed explaining the countless mind states of YS.
Some studies have been conducted by Jack Brown and Daniel Engler in K. Wilber, J. Engler & D.P. Brown (eds) (1986): Transformations of Consciousness and in J. H. Austin: Zen and the Brain (2001).
The essay quoted from above is found in a volume edited by Whicher and Carpenter, which is actually called: Yoga – The Indian Tradition. Already the title indicates the proposal which has not been investigated and confirmed, that there exists such a thing as a yoga tradition.