The Sāṃkhya System: Accounting for the Real

The Sāṃkhya System: Accounting for the Real
March 22 - 23, 2018
Loyola Marymount University

  • The Yoga Studies program at Loyola Marymount University will offer a two-day conference exploring The Sāṃkhya System: Accounting for the Real

    Yoga Studies

    Loyola Marymount University offers the first Master of Arts in Yoga Studies in America. Graduate students engage in deep study of Yoga philosophy and history, Sanskrit, elements of physical practice, comparative spirituality, and study of India. LMU also offers a selection of Yoga Studies certificates which are open to the public. Topics range from Yoga Therapy to YogaEd/Yoga in Schools, Mindfulness and Social Change, and Philosophy courses. Each summer master teacher Ramaswami visits campus to teach in the Krishnamacharya tradition, and twice a year the University offers 200-hour teacher trainings called Yoga and the Healing Sciences. 

    Learn more about Loyola Marymount University's Yoga Studies program.

    Loyola Marymount University

    LMU is a private Catholic university with 6,000 undergraduates, 2,200 graduate students and 1,100 law students from diverse backgrounds and many perspectives. Our seven colleges and schools boast best-in-the-nation programs in film and television, business, education and more. Our stunning campus in West Los Angeles is a sun-soaked oasis overlooking the Pacific coast and a model of sustainability. We're rooted in the heart of Los Angeles, a global capital for arts and entertainment, innovation and technology, business and entrepreneurship. Our mission is grounded in a centuries-old Jesuit educational tradition that produces extraordinary men and women dedicated to service and social justice. We're proud of more than 85,000 LMU alumni whose professional achievements are matched by a deep commitment to improving the lives of others.

  • LecturerDescription of Paper
    Professor Christopher Key Chapple

    Revisiting Sāṃkhya Kārikās 25-31: The Determinative Nature of the Guṇas

    This paper will focus on the discussion within Sāṃkhya Kārikā verses 25-32 on the function of fluctuations (vṛittis) in the world, examining the argument presented by Īśvarakṛṣṇa that the world is construed according the constitution of one’s own particular set of guṇas. A suggestion will be made that the repeated use of the number three in these verses can be seen as a reference to the guṇas, not to the threefold organ as defined later in the text (33).

    Professor Urmila Patil

    The Ontology of dukkha: Recovering Samkhya through Vyasa’s Commentary on Yoga Sutras II. 15-II.25

    What makes dukkha or suffering an inescapable part of the human condition? This question is at the heart of Indic philosophies in general and that of Samkhya in particular. This paper looks at how the Sāmkhyan theory of existence and suffering as laid out in the Sāṃkhya Kārika finds a strong resonance in Vyāsa’s commentary on the Yoga Sutras II. 15 – II.25. Through an in-depth textual analysis, we will explore the conceptual and linguistic strategies of Vyāsa with which he draws upon Sāṃkhya. While the affinity between Sāṃkhya and Yoga is well-known, investigating the gaze of the commentarial tradition of the Yoga Sutras upon the Sāṃkhyan thought would open up novel ways to understand this relationship. 

    Professor Christopher Miller

    Streamlining the Production of Neoliberal Subjectivity: The Reconfiguration of Sāṃkhyan Principles in India’s Common Yoga Protocol at the International Day of Yoga

    This paper analyzes the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) deployment of Sāṃkhyan principles within the context of the government-issued Common Yoga Protocol (CYP), a series of bodily practices involving western calisthenics, yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. The CYP is disseminated by the BJP in online media each year in preparation for Narendra Modi’s International Day of Yoga (IDY) “mass yoga performance,” and, as I will show, reconfigures Sāṃkhyan principles as found in the Yoga-Sūtra in order to reify a form of a-spatial neoliberal subjectivity conducive to the BJP’s - as well as an increasing section of India’s middle class’ - economic aspirations.   I begin the paper with an explanation of the centrality of the Yoga Sūtra in today’s transnational yogic canon by presenting a brief overview of colonial and Orientalist translation history as it pertains to the Yoga Sūtra. Combining two theoretical approaches to analyze the Indian government’s interpretation and deployment of the text, I then show how Sāṃkhyan metaphysics as found in the Yoga Sūtra are reconfigured by the BJP in the CYP instructional video: First, I engage recent political theory concerned with biopolitics and the formation of neoliberal subjectivity in the modern nation state. Next, I present David Gordon White’s distinction between “yoga practice” (methods aimed at the cessation of thought - pādas I, II, and IV) and “yogi practice” (methods used for the hostile takeover of bodies - pāda III) in the Yoga Sūtra. Combining these two theoretical approaches allows us to see how the BJP deploys the former (i.e., “yoga practice”) in order to achieve the aims of the latter (i.e., “yogi practice”) within a biopolitical context. As I will show, the CYP promotes a tranquilizing, ritual extrication of practitioners’ sensorium from the immediate environment thereby subtly diminishing awareness of the process Sāṃkhya identifies as pariṇāma. The result of this process is a contemporary form of what White identifies in pre-modern yoga traditions as a “hostile takeover” which serves, today, as an innovative instrument of Foucauldian biopower aimed at reforming India’s labor force for the mutual benefit of both the BJP and the political party’s middle-class support base.  

    Professor Marzenna Jakuboczek

    Kāpil Maṭh: A Contemporary Living Tradition of Sāṃkhyayoga

    In this paper I describe the phenomenon of Kāpil Maṭh in Madhupur (Jharkhand), a Sāṃkhyayoga āśrama founded in the early twentieth century by a charismatic Bengali scholar-monk Swāmi Hariharānanda Ᾱraṇya (1869–1947). While referring to Hariharānanda’s writings I will consider the idea of the re-establishment of an extinct philosophical school. I shall specify the criteria of identity of this revived Sāṃkhyayoga tradition by explaining why and on what assumptions the modern reinterpretation of this school can be perceived as continuation of Patañjali’s and Īśvarakṛṣṇa’s lineage. The starting point must be, however, the question whether it is possible at all to re-establish a philosophical tradition which had once broken down and had disappeared for centuries. In this context, one ought to ponder if it is likely to revitalise the same line of thinking, viewing, philosophy making and practice in accordance with the theoretical exposition of the right insight achieved by an accomplished teacher, a master, the founder of a ‘new’ revived tradition declared to maintain a particular school identity. Moreover,  I will refer to a newly published monograph of Knut A. Jacobsen (2018) devoted to Kāpil Maṭh tradition interpreted as a product of the nineteenth-century Bengali renaissance.

    Professor Geoff Ashton

    What is the Ground of Manifest Procreativity (Vyakta-prakṛti)? An Existential Phenomenological Theory of Life as the Self-Manifesting of Samyoga (Compresence)

    This paper represents part of a larger philosophical interpretation of the Sāṃkhya Kārikā through Jose Ortega y Gasset's existential phenomenology. It examines the question, "What is the nature of classical Sāṃkhya metaphysics?" by way of the question, "What is the ground of manifest procreativity (vyaktaprakṛti)?" It begins with a critique of realist and idealist responses to this question, focusing upon the interpretations of notable Sāṃkhya scholars, Gerald Larson and Mikel Burley, who respectively emphasize mūlaprakṛti and puruṣa as the ontological foundation of vyaktaprakṛti. The paper then argues that "samyoga" (literally, "joining with") is a dialectical compresence of mūlaprakṛti and puruṣa, and that when viewed through the lens of Ortega's existential phenomenology, samyoga gets understood as both underlying vyaktaprakṛti and manifesting as vyaktaprakṛti. Ortega's philosophy helps us to (1) recognize the ontological rootedness of vyaktaprakṛti, and (2) organize the "making manifest" (vyakta) of procreativity (prakṛti) in terms of the dialectical interplay of two distinct yet "con-joined" (sam-yoga) fundamental principles: a discrete center of consciousness (puruṣa) and an other that transcends that consciousness (mūlaprakṛti). Vyaktaprakṛti is reducible to neither a world of mind-independent entities that lie in waiting for our observation and analysis (à la external realism) nor the mental activity of a transcendental ego (à la certain forms of idealism). Rather, vyaktaprakṛti unfolds as the self-manifesting, dialogical interchange between puruṣa and mūlaprakṛti.

    Professor Ana Funes

    A Feminist Phenomenological Approach to the notion of Body in Classical Sāṃkhya

    This talk examines the gendered aspect of Sāṃkhyan philosophy and reveals the problematic nature of the “male gaze” as it is illustrated in various metaphors used by the tradition to refer to puruṣa (consciousness- the observer) and prakṛti (matter- the observed). This analysis has as a purpose to recover the notion of body— particularly the “subtle body”— in Sāmkhya philosophy using Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological notion of “flesh” and Luce Irigaray’s notion of the “maternal feminine”. The phenomenological approach brings to the fore an aspect of Sāṃkhya that is usually overlooked: that the interrelation between puruṣa and prakṛti is played out in the realm of the body, of our bodies.  The feminist perspective helps to show that the recognition of the feminine aspect of embodiment in Sāṃkhya can guarantee a reciprocal and reversible interaction of both principles— consciousness and matter— within the flesh.

    Professor Mikel Burley

    Substance, Essence and Soteriological Practice in Sāṃkhya Philosophy

    Approaching Samkhya philosophy through the concepts of substance and essence can disclose some of its central themes along with certain interpretive difficulties. To serve these purposes, this paper first provides an overview of Samkhya's importance within the Indian philosophical milieu and then examines how the terms "substance" and "essence" have been applied in interpretations of Samkhya.  As will be seen, several prominent Samkhya concepts have been explicated in English-language discussions with reference to one or other, or both, of these terms. Focusing especially on the concept of tattva (which has sometimes been translated as "essence"), the latter part of the paper argues that seeking to understand this concept highlights the need to contextualize Samkhya's ontological pronouncements in relation to its professed soteriological aspirations.

    Professor Al Collins The Unity of the Puruṣārthas in the Sāṅkhya Kārikā

    The Sāṅkhya Kārikā, as Gerald Larson interprets it, presents us with an “eccentric dualism” in which one partner (prakṛti) takes up almost all the space and the other (puruṣa) virtually none—but nevertheless constitutes the aim or final cause of the action of the former, and indeed is essential to its very existence since prakṛti’s being inheres completely in its action of unfolding and manifesting itself (inpariṇāma or pravṛtti) in reference to puruṣa. This most basic fact about ourselves (and all other sentient beings in the universe—which arguably means everything) is called puruṣārtha, “for the sake of puruṣa.”   Prakṛti seeks to accomplish two seemingly disparate things for puruṣa: pleasure or experience (bhoga) and release (apavargamokṣakaivalya). The aim of this paper, focusing on verse 58 of the SK, will be to show that these goals are in fact virtually (or perhaps actually) identical. In that verse, the nivṛtti (quenching) of a desire (autsukya) through action in ordinary life is said to be like (yathā/tadvad) the action of prakṛti in releasingpuruṣa.

  • Headshot of Ayurveda Conference speaker Christopher Key Chapple

    Christopher Key Chapple, Ph.D. | Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, and Director, Master of Arts in Yoga Studies, Loyola Marymount University

    A specialist in the religions of India, he has published more than twenty books, including the recently released edited and co-edited volumes, Yoga in Jainism (Routledge publishing) and Engaged Emancipation: Mind, Morals, and Make-belief in the Moksopaya/Yogavasistha. Chris serves on the advisory boards for the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, the Ahimsa Center at Cal Poly Pomona, the Centre for Jain Studies at SOAS, University of London, and the International Summer School for Jain Studies in Delhi. 

    Learn more about Professor Chapple

    Urmila Patil, Ph. D. | Instructor in Yoga Studies, Loyola Marymount University

    Urmila Patil teaches Sanskrit, Bhagavadgita, and the Yoga Sutras (along with Prof. Chris Chapple) in the Yoga Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University. She did her MA in Sanskrit and Vedanta Philosophy from Mumbai University. She completed her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin and worked as a post-graduate fellow at University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include Indic philosophy, Sanskrit intellectual tradition, Hindu legal tradition, and early-modern social identities. She also teaches Contemporary Hinduism at UCLA.

    Christopher Miller, CPA, MA, Ph. D. Candidate | University of California, Davis

    Christopher Miller has master’s degrees in Comparative Theology (Loyola Marymount University) and Religious Studies (UC Davis) and is a PhD Candidate in the interdisciplinary Graduate Group for the Study of Religion at the University of California, Davis where his research is focused upon transnational modern yoga. Christopher served as an assistant editor for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR), as guest editor for the International Journal of Dharma Studies (IJDS), and currently sits on the steering committee for the Dharma Academy of North America (DANAM). He has presented his research at a number of conferences internationally and has several forthcoming publications in edited volumes including chapters with Oxford University Press and Springer. Christopher has edited a special issue titled “Contemplative Studies in Dharma Traditions” for IJDS and is also co-editor of the forthcoming volume Beacons of Dharma (Lexington Books).

    Learn more about Christopher Miller

    Marzenna Jakuboczek, Ph. D. | Pedagogical University of Cracow, Poland

    Marzenna Jakubczak currently works at the Department of Philosophy and Sociology, Pedagogical University of Cracow. Marzenna does research in Indian Religions, Comparative Religion and Social and Political Philosophy. Their most recent publication is 'The problem of psychophysical agency in the classical Sāmkhya and Yoga -'

    Learn more about Professor Jakuboczek


    Geoff Ashton, Ph. D. | University of San Francisco

    Geoff Ashton recently joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where he also held an appointment as Assistant Professor of Asian Philosophy. Geoff Ashton has studied Sanskrit, Thai, and Spanish, and conducted research at numerous institutions of higher learning abroad (twice as a Fulbright scholar), including Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi, India), Deccan College (Pune, India), the Jñāna-Pravaha Institute (Varanasi, India), Chiang Mai University (Chiang Mai, Thailand), Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok, Thailand), and La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Madrid, Spain). He has authored numerous articles, book chapters, and essays on Indian Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Comparative Ethics, and Comparative Aesthetics. He has three main research agendas: Indian Philosophy of Religion, Buddhist Philosophy and Comparative Ethics, and Comparative Aesthetics. He is currently revising a manuscript titled, Whose Suffering? Whose Freedom? A Phenomenological Reconstruction of the Philosophy of the Sāṃkhya Kārikā (under review). Interpreting Classical Sāṃkhya philosophy through the lens of José Ortega y Gasset’s existential phenomenology, this book attempts to shed new light on the interrelation between the traditional Indian concepts of suffering, freedom, selfhood, and action. 

    Learn more about Professor Ashton

    Ana Funes, Ph. D. | Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Eastern Connecticut State University

    Ana Funes is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Connecticut State University.  Her research involves the hermeneutical and phenomenological analysis of the notion of bodily self-awareness with focus on Yoga philosophies and French Phenomenology.  She has published various articles on topics related to Yoga philosophy and is currently editing a multidisciplinary anthology of papers on Patañjali's Yogasūtra. 

    Learn more about Professor Funes


    Mikel Burley, Ph. D. | Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Leeds, UK

    Mikel Burley is Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Leeds, UK. His books include Classical Samkhya and Yoga: An Indian Metaphysics of Experience (Routledge, 2007) and Rebirth and the Stream of Life: A Philosophical Study of Reincarnation, Karma and Ethics (Bloomsbury, 2016). 

    Learn more about Professor Burley


    Al Collins, Ph. D.


    Andrew Nicholson, Ph. D. 


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