Anjaneyasana Yoga Pose

So the post YS discourse and its adaptation were mainly about signals and symbols. In the language of anthropologists, it was a totem – an object with symbolic power. Those who claimed that they mastered the texts would send a symbolic message to the world. If we draw on ethnographic evidence from the Buddhist camp (Sharf 1995, Stuart-Fox 1985), then we can suggest that the lay Brahmin – like the Buddhist monk – had little understanding of or practical involvement with the meditation canon. These lower Brahmin ranks might like their Buddhist counterpart have had little skill in meditation techniques. It is likewise clear from the Buddhist milieu that the texts detailing meditation functioned as mantra objects: the monks recited the texts endlessly without understanding a word.

And this probably could also hold true for the Brahmin monk or priest including the YS in their religious worship. By endlessly chanting the texts, the monk – Brahmin or Buddhist – in the end would either build up merit to improve further re-births, or even better: he would become the text – i.e. a semi-divine being (Pflueger 1999, Kaelber 1989). We have to remember that there was a general assumption that the universe consisted of words or sound vibrations. By endlessly repeating holy words, the adept would become those holy words. This was a strong signal to send out to the surrounding population and competitors. But it did not of course generate a philosophically based meditative movement – not even among professional holy men like the monks. The discourse was in other words primarily about symbolic communication – yoga as a totem.

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