Thinking with the Yoga Sutra: Translation, Interpretation


CONFERENCE: Thinking with the Yoga Sutra: Translation, Interpretation
April 10 - 11, 2015 | Loyola Marymount University

An international group of scholars from Israel, Germany, England, Canada, and various American universities converged at LMU on April 10-11, 2015 to discuss current research and to share their work with Yoga Studies graduate students and members of the Yoga community.  Topics included Yoga's usefulness for dealing with trauma, the role of physical postures in Yoga, theological aspects of Yoga, and its role in Indian and American cultural history. Professor Andrea Jain of Indiana University presented the Annual Virchand Gandhi Jain Lecture on Friday night on Jaina Yoga.   

Īśvara in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra 
Edwin Bryant (Rutgers University)

In this paper, I will argue that the Isvara element in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra cannot be considered in isolation or immunized from the late and post-Vedic Īśvara traditions that had long been sweeping over the North of the subcontinent by the time of the composition of the text. Much scholarship on the sutras seems to downplay or bypass the corollaries of this, viz., the prima facie view that Patañjali was, in all probability, either a Vaishnava or Śaiva.  This paper will engage this issue, examining the characteristics pertaining to Īśvara specified in Patañjali’s minimalistic sutras in the context of the greater theistic landscape of the time.

Edwin Bryant a professor at Rutgers University where he teaches courses on Hindu philosophy and religion. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, published six books and authored a number of articles on Vedic history, yoga, and the Krishna tradition. In addition to his academic work for the scholarly community, Edwin's Penguin World Classics translation of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana, the traditional source for the story of Krishna's incarnation, is both for Indology specialists as well as students and those interested in Hinduism from the general reading public and the yoga community.

The Purported Realism of Classical Yoga 
Mikel Burley (University of Leeds)

It is often assumed by modern interpreters that the objections to Buddhist idealism raised in traditional commentaries on sūtras 4.14-22 accurately reflect an anti-idealist bent in the Yoga Sūtra itself. Drawing upon my research into Classical Yoga and Samkhya, and giving close attention to sūtra 4.14 in particular, I argue that the foregoing assumption is dubious.

Mikel Burley is Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Leeds. His research interests include interdisciplinary and cross-cultural philosophy of religion, the relation between soteriology and philosophy, and the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. In the area of Yoga studies, his publications include Haṭha-Yoga: Its Context, Theory and Practice (Motilal Banarsidass, 2000), Classical Sāṃkhya and Yoga: An Indian Metaphysics of Experience (Routledge, 2007), and “‘A Petrification of One’s Own Humanity?’ Nonattachment and Ethics in Yoga Traditions,” Journal of Religion 94(2): 204-228.

The Path to Origins: Pratiprasava
Christopher Key Chapple (Loyola Marymount University)

This presentation will examine directionality as construed in the Yoga Sūtra.  The practitioner of Yoga, rather than remaining outward-facing and prompted by afflictions (kleśa), seeks to understand and gain mastery over the fettering habits that cause suffering.  Both physiological and psychological aspects will be discussed of this practice.

Dr. Christopher Key Chapple is the Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology and director of the Master of Arts in Yoga Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His research interests have focused on the renouncer religious traditions of India: Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism. He has published several books with SUNY Press, including Karma and Creativity (1986), Nonviolence to AnimalsEarth, and Self in Asian Traditions (1993), Reconciling Yogas (2003), and Yoga and the Luminous: Patanjali’s Spiritual Path to Freedom (2008). He has also edited and co-authored several books on religion and ecology, including Ecological Prospects: Religious, Scientific, and Aesthetic Perspectives (1994, SUNY), Hinduism and Ecology (2000, with Mary Evelyn Tucker, Harvard), Jainism and Ecology (2002, Harvard), Yoga and Ecology (2009, Deepak Heritage), and In Praise of Mother Earth: The Prthivi Sukta of the Atharva Veda (2011, with O.P. Dwivedi, winner, translation prize, Dharma Academy of North America). He also is editor of the journal Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology (Brill).

The Past, The Future, and the External World: Yoga Against Yogacara 
Arindam Chakrabarti and Kevin Perry Maroufkhani (University of Hawaii)

If one reads Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (YS) through the lens of the Yoga Vasistha (YV), one can identify strong pan-psychist and non-dualistic elements. By focusing on YS IV.12-24, we will show how the YS bhasya (commentary) explicitly embraces a pluralist realism about the past, the future and the external world, refuting the Mind-only position within the Buddhist tradition. Just before the yogin attains kaivalya (liberation), prasmkhyana (omniscience) may create the illusion of idealism. Final liberation, however, comes only when one is uninterested in such omniscience. Only then does the Yogin become a cloud of dharma and compassion for others.

Arindam Chakrabarti is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His major areas of specialization are the Philosophy of Language and Logic, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, and Indian Philosophy. His major publications include Denying Existence, a book on negative existentials and fictional discourse; an introduction to 20th-century Western epistemology in Sanskrit; and five books in Bangla, the latest of which focuses on the philosophy of food and clothing. He has also co-edited several collections of texts, including Knowing from Words (with B.K.Matilal), Universals, Concepts and Qualities (with P.F. Strawson), ApohaBuddhist Nominalism (with Mark Siderits and Tom Tillemans), and Mahabharata Now (with Sibaji Bandyopadhyay). The Eastern Philosophy of Consciousness and the Humanities Project (EPOCH Project), which engages imagination, concepts and emotion, has also been established under his direction.

Kevin Perry Maroufkhani is a Ph.D. Candidate and Part-time Lecturer at University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. dissertation in comparative philosophy and comparative ethics, focusing on Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy and systems of practical rationality in the West.

The making and unmaking of the self: Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra and the experience of trauma 
Stephanie Corigliano (Boston College)

Physical Yoga practice is effective for helping individuals heal from trauma and recover from addiction. Further, physical Yoga is often contextualized within the historical and theoretical purview of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras. As such, it is important to consider the implication of samādhi and kaivalya as detachment oriented goals that are set forth in the YS. The following essay will present evidence for the effectiveness of Yoga therapy and its connection to the YS. Subsequently, I will consider the concepts of absorption or withdrawal (samādhi) and isolation or utter simplicity (kaivalya) in the context of extreme trauma and in the YS. This comparison highlights the need for a more careful articulation of samādhi/kaivalya in relation to healing therapies and within the field of Yoga philosophy.

Stephanie Corigliano is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Theology at Boston College.  Her dissertation, “A Hermeneutic of Modern Yoga: Detachment and Spiritual Practice in Christianity and Hinduism,” explores the dialectic tension between life-affirming goals in Yoga (health, balance, well-being) and the world-renouncing asceticism of traditional texts such as Patañjali’s Yogasutra through a comparative study with Christian spiritual praxis.  Previous work includes a master’s thesis entitled, “Eckhart and the Yoga Vasistha: A Comparative Analysis of Detachment and Just Action,” as well as an article and extensive research into the history of Christian Inculturation in India.  Stephanie first practiced with Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Rangaswamy in 2000 and was authorized to teach by Jois in 2003.

Interpreting Patanjali's Yoga Sūtra from a Heart Centered perspective 
Nischala Joy Devi (Abundant Wellbeing)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra has almost exclusively been translated and interpreted from a mental and intellectual view. Changing prospective, we look at it from a heart-centered, intuitive approach. This enables us to understand our true divine nature, see the divinity in others, and live from our hearts through honoring the ancient, yet eternally useful teachings. 

Nischala Joy Devi is a masterful teacher and healer. For many years she has been highly respected as an international advocate for her innovative way of expressing Yoga and its subtle uses for spiritual growth and complete healing. Her dynamic delivery and deep inner conviction empower each individual, allowing the teachings to expand beyond boundaries and limitations of any one tradition enabling her to touch people’s hearts. She is now dedicated to bringing the Feminine back into spirituality and the scriptures, in her book, The Secret Power of Yoga, a woman’s guide to the heart and spirit of the Yoga Sutras and Secret Power of Yoga Audio book Nautilus Book Silver Award Winner 2009!

The Perfect Body in Classical Yoga 
Ana Funes (Loyola Marymount University)

Yoga has been called a dualist system because of its alliance with Samkhyan metaphysics regarding the distinction between unconscious nature and self-aware consciousness. In sutra 4.19 Vyāsa argues, on the basis of an analogy between consciousness and space (ākāśa), that consciousness alone, and not the body-mind complex, is self-illuminating. I will show that this analogy could be applied just as much to the yogic notion of perfect body (kāyasampat), in which case we would have a strong phenomenological argument for a non-dualist philosophy of the body in the Yoga Sūtra.

Ana Funes completed her B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy with a focus on Philosophy of Religion at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, with theses on the topics of Advaita Vedanta and interpretations of the Yoga Sutra, respectively.  She is completing her Ph.D. in Comparative Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii under the guidance of Professor Arindam Chakrabarti. She is the Clinical Professor for Loyola Marymount University’s Master of Arts in Yoga Studies program. 

The Siddhis and Philosophical Exercise in the Yoga Sūtra 
Yohanan Grinshpon (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

I will present the teaching of the siddhis in the Yoga Sūtra as a call for "effective imagination" (bhavana). By extrapolation, I view "calls for imagination" as one of the essential speech-acts of the Yoga Sūtra.

Yohanan Grinshpon serves as a lecturer at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, where he teaches Indian culture and philosophy. His three books include, Silence Unheard; Deathly Otherness in Patanjala-Yoga (SUNY, 2001), Crisis and Knowledge; The Upanishadic Experience and Story-Telling (Oxford, 2003), and The Secret Sankara (Brill, 2011).

Virchand Gandhi Jain Lecture 
Andrea R. Jain (Indiana University)

I will situate the Yoga Sutra in the thought of two nineteenth-century thinkers, Virchand Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda, and their disseminations of Jain and Hindu traditions respectively. I will compare the role of the Yoga Sutra in their disseminations to the text’s place in late-twentieth century modern yoga systems, from the Jain preksha dhyana to popularized varieties, with special attention to Iyengar Yoga. I will argue that modern yoga systems cite the Yoga Sutra for varying reasons, ranging from establishing authority based on an ancient transmission going back to the Yoga Sutra to demonstrating that the Yoga Sutra, while authoritative, actually offers nothing more than what is already included in earlier sources that serve as a part of the relevant system’s transmission.

Andrea R. Jain is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis and author of Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture (Oxford University Press, 2014). Recently, she co-authored Comparing Religions: Coming to Terms (by Jeffrey J. Kripal et al., Wiley-Blackwell, 2014). Her recent publications also include articles in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Nova Religio and book chapters in Gurus of Modern Yoga (ed. by Ellen Goldberg and Mark Singleton, Oxford University Press, 2014) and The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (ed. by Charles Farhadian and Lewis R. Rambo, Oxford University Press, 2014). She is a regular contributor to Religion Dispatches on topics relating to yoga in contemporary culture and Co-Chair of the Yoga in Theory and Practice Group of the American Academy of Religion.

Liberation and Unification in al-Biruni's Arabic translation of the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali 
Mario Kozah (American University of Beruit)

The fourth section of al-Biruni's "Book of Patanjali", his eleventh century Arabic translation of the Yoga-Sutras, is described as treating the subjects of liberation and unification.  This talk will consider the intellectual and philosophical challenge facing the medieval Arab Muslim reader when presented with the intricacy of composition, translation and allusion that permeates this final section.

Mario Kozah received his B.A. (Queens' College, 1998) and Ph.D. (Trinity Hall, 2002) from the University of Cambridge in Oriental Studies.  After a Junior Research Fellowship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he moved to Lebanon in 2003 and began teaching Arabic and Syriac language and literature at the Department of Arabic and Near Eastern Languages and at CAMES. His first book is entitled The Syriac Writers of Qatar in the Seventh Century (Gorgias Press, 2014). He is currently preparing an anthology of writings by these same Syriac writers (forthcoming, Gorgias Press). In addition, he recently signed a contract with Cambridge Scholars Publishing to produce an edited volume on the Lebanese poet Jawdat Haydar entitled Jawdat Haydar’s Poetic Legacy: Issues of Modernity, Belonging, Language and Transcendence (CSP, 2015). Finally, his book manuscript entitled The Birth of Indology as an Islamic Science. Al-Biruni’s Treatise on Yoga Psychology has just been accepted by Brill Publishers for its series Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science.

Once More on Postures in the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra  
Philipp Maas (University of Vienna)

In the present paper, I take a fresh look at the exposition of posture as an ancillary of yoga in Pātañjala Yogaśāstra 2.46-48. This passage contains the famous characterization of posture as sthirasukham, which was understood in various ways by the Sanskrit-commentators and by modern scholars and translators. By weighing these interpretations against each other and by drawing upon different textual versions of the passage under discussion as they are transmitted partly in unpublished manuscripts, I hope to arrive at an improved understanding of Patañjali’s conceptions of what postures are, how they are achieved and which purposes they serve.

Philipp André Maas is assistant professor at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna, Austria. His first book (originally his PhD thesis) is the first critical edition of the first chapter (Samādhipāda) of the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra, i.e. the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali together with the commentary called Yoga Bhāṣya. He published, inter alia, on classical Yoga philosophy and meditation as well as on the textual tradition of the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra. For the last couple of years, he worked in several research projects directed by Prof. Karin Preisendanz (at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and at the University of Vienna, Austria) that aim at a critical edition of the third book (entitled Vimānasthāna) of the oldest classical text corpus of Āyurveda, the Carakasaṃhitā. Since 2009 he is a member of the “Historical Sourcebooks on Classical Indian Thought” project, convened by Prof. Sheldon Pollock, to which he contributes with a monograph on the development of Yoga-related ideas in pre-modern South Asian intellectual history.

Patañjali in the Eyes of His Opponents 
Andrew Nicholson (Stony Brook University)

In this talk I will focus on depictions of Patañjali's system of thought by those who argued against it in first- and early second-millenium India, such as Śaivas and Advaita Vedāntins. One of the shortcomings of 20th century studies of Patañjali's yoga was often a lack of attention to the legacy of Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra and the responses it generated from later thinkers. By looking at the ways Patañjali's ideas were denounced and/or appropriated in other texts, we can come to a better understanding of the Yoga system's place in the intellectual history of medieval India.

Andrew J. Nicholson is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies and the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University. His first book, Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History (Columbia University Press, 2010), received the award for Best First Book in the History of Religions from the American Academy of Religion. His second book, Lord Śiva’s Song: The Īśvara Gītā (State University of New York Press, 2014), is a translation of and commentary on an 8th century Pāśupata work. He has written numerous articles on Indian philosophy and is the co-chair of the American Academy of Religion's "Yoga in Theory and Practice" Group.

Yoga and Classical Darśana 
Stephen Phillips (University of Texas, Austin)

Largely unnoticed in textbook accounts of classical Indian philosophic schools is advocacy of yoga practice and alliance of Nyāya and Vedānta with teachings of the Yoga-sūtra. Yoga and Nyāya, for example, come to differ sharply in how nature is viewed, its components and causal laws. But on the side of subjectivity, puruṣa and ātman, there is more convergence than difference. And Advaita Vedāntins such as the great Śaṅkara propose practices of yoga as prerequisites for inquiry into Brahman the Absolute. At least three philosophic traditions converge in the commentaries of the tenth-century polymath Vācaspati Miśra who often shows influence from one or the other direction in his Yoga-sūtraNyāya-sūtra, and Bhāmatī commentaries. At the end of Nyāya-sūtra chapter four there is not only a substantial and remarkable stretch of sūtras devoted to yoga practice and liberating self-knowledge (NyS 4.2.38-49), there is also an implicit assimilation of philosophic debate as a yoga practice.

Stephen Phillips is professor of philosophy and Asian studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and has been visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and at Jadavpur University, Kolkata . He received a PhD from Harvard University (1982) after having attended Harvard College (A.B. 1975) and the Sri Aurobindo International Centre for Education in Pondicherry. He is the author of seven books, including Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy (Columbia University Press), and Classical Indian Epistemology: The Knowledge Sources of the Nyāya School (Routledge). Phillips is perhaps best known for his first-time translations of late classical Sanskrit philosophic texts, including the thirteenth-century Tattva-cintā-maṇi (“Jewel of Reflection on the Truth about Epistemology”). He has lived in India about six years and sometimes teaches Sanskrit to yoga teachers. He regularly attends hatha-flow yoga classes and teaches a popular course on yoga philosophy and psychology, “Yoga as Philosophy and Practice.”

Abhiniveśa: Pātañjala-yogaon Life and Death 
Daniel Raveh (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

The aim of my paper is to speculate on what happens after death, a question about which, according to Yama (Death himself), even the gods have doubts. I will look for clues in Patañjali's commentators on the notion of abhiniveśa ("grasping onto life", or "fear of death"), which occurs in the kleśa scheme in chapter 2 of the Yoga Sūtra. I will also draw on the Kaṭha Upaniṣad and try to understand what type of answer, "the śreyas and the preyas (the good and the pleasant) are two different things" (KU 2.1), is to the question of existence-or-not after death. Finally I will work with Daya Krishna's paper "Bondages of Birth and Death: Emerging technologies of freedom on the horizon and the hope of final release from the fundamental bondage of humankind," where he argues that the lack of answer to the mahā-question of life and death is not necessarily an obstacle to freedom.

Daniel Raveh is Associate Professor in the department of philosophy, Tel Aviv University. He is author of Exploring the Yogasutra (Continuum 2013) and co-editor of Contrary Thinking: Selected Essays of Daya Krishna (OUP 2012). He is now working on a book project titled Narrative and Transfiguration: Sutras, Stories and Yoga Philosophy.

Why Yoga Philosophy Matters: Reflections on the Past and Present of the Aṣṭāṅgayoga System 
Stuart Ray Sarbacker (Oregon State University)

This presentation will discuss the ongoing import of Patañjali’s aṣṭāṅgayoga system of yoga in the comparative study of philosophy and religion in India and beyond. I will focus on three facets of the ongoing relevance of this system: 1) as a key representative of the codification of brāhmaṇa asceticism and śramaṇa traditions during the “classical” era; 2) as providing the foundational framework for establishing yoga “orthodoxy” throughout the arc of yoga traditions, through the medieval era into the present; and 3) as a constructive philosophical framework for understanding the dynamics of self-transformation and extraordinary accomplishment in a variety of  premodern to contemporary religious and cultural contexts.

Stuart Ray Sarbacker teaches at Oregon State University where he specializes in the Comparative Study of Religion with a focus on Indic religion and philosophy. His work is centered on the relationships between the religious and philosophical traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. He also works extensively on issues related to method and theory in the study of religion. He has written extensively on topics related to the theory and practice of Yoga (both contemplative practices and bodily disciplines) in South Asian religion and on method and theory in the study of religion. His book, Samādhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga (Albany: State University of Press, 2005), deals with the psychological and sociological dynamics of contemplative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Meditation on Vishoka and Jyotishmati as a Doorway to Experiencing the Majority of the Practices Described in the Yoga Sūtra 
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait (Himalayan Institute)

My presentation is primarily based on the texts belonging to the Sri Vidya tradition of tantra, and hatha yoga, particularly Saundaryalahari, Sri Vidyarnava, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and select Upanishads. It will be more practice-oriented than an academic analysis or comparative study.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, is a modern-day master and living link to the unbroken Himalayan Tradition. He embodies the yogic and tantric wisdom which the Himalayan Tradition has safeguarded for thousands of years. Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Sri Swami Rama of the Himalayas and the spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute. Pandit Tigunait is fluent in Vedic and Classical Sanskrit and holds two doctorates, one from the University of Allahabad (India), and another from the University of Pennsylvania. As a leading voice of YogaInternational.com and the author of 15 books, most recently The Secret of the Yoga Sutra: Samadhi Pada, his teachings span a wide range, from scholarly analysis and scripture translation to practical guidance on applying yogic wisdom to modern life. Over the past 35 years, Pandit Tigunait has touched innumerable lives around the world as a teacher, guide, author, humanitarian, and visionary spiritual leader.

A Phenomenological Approach to Asamprajnata Samadhi 
Sthaneshwar Timalsina (San Diego State University)

I will discuss the possibility of non-intentional consciousness in the highest state of samadhi. In light of this, I will briefly address my ongoing projects on memory, recognition, and other cognitive aspects that are inspired by my reading of the Yoga Sūtra commentaries.

Professor Sthaneshwar Timalsina is a professor of Religious Studies (Religions of India, Tantra, Religion and the Body) at San Diego State University. His fields of interest include Vedic and Tantric traditions, Yogacara philosophy, literary theory, and ritual studies. His book include, Seeing and Appearance: History of the Advaita Drstisrsti (published in 2006 by Shaker Verlag), and Consciousness in Indian Philosophy: The Advaita Doctrine of ‘Awareness Only ’ (published in 2008 by Routledge). He is currently working on a third book, Language of Images: Visualization and Meaning in Tantra.

Reflections on Liberated Consciousness 
Ian Whicher (University of Manitoba)

In this talk I will suggest that the full emancipatory stage of kaivalya, at which yoga practice ultimately aims, is not so much a state of spiritual isolation, as is frequently interpreted, as it is a state of nonattached “seeing” referring not only to the realization of puruṣa but also to the play of prakrti. Thus the yogi “achieves” a spiritual freedom that is not only a freedom from the world, through the transcendence of afflicted ordinary awareness (self as the “seen”), but also a freedom for the world, through a balance of theory and practice, discernment of puruṣa and ethical engagement with the manifestations of prakṛti.

Ian Whicher is a Professor and Head of the Department of Religion at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. He specializes in Hinduism and the Yoga tradition and is the author of scholarly books and numerous articles including, The Integrity of the Yoga Darśana (SUNY Press), and coeditor of Yoga: The Indian Tradition (Routledge Curzon). Dr. Whicher is currently writing a book on The Yoga of Intelligence.