Yoga is hugely popular around the world today, yet until now little has been known of its roots. This book collects, for the first time core teachings of yoga in their orginal form, translated and edited by two of the world's foremost scholars of the subject, It includes a wide range of texts from different schools of yoga, languages and eras: among others, key passages from the early Upanisads and the mahabharata, and from the Tantric, Buddhist and Jaina traditions, with many pieces in scholarly transaltion for the first time. Covering yoga's varying definitions across systems, its most important practice, such as posture, breath control, sensory withdrawal ad medition , as well as models of the esoteric and physical odies Roots of Yoga is a unique and essential source of knowledge.
JAMES MALLINSON is Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit and Classical Indian Civilization at SOAS, University of London. His research focuses on the yoga tradition, in particular the texts, techniques and practitioners of traditional hathayoga. He has edited and translated several texts on hathayoga from its formative period, the eleventh to fifteenth centuries CE, and published encyclopaedia entries and journal articles on yoga's history. His primary research methods in addition to philology are ethnography and art history. He has spent several years living with traditional Hindu ascetics and yogis in India and was honoured with the title of 'mahant' by the Ramanandi Sampradaya at the 20I3 Kumbh Mela festival. He is currently leading a five-year, six-person research project at SOAS on the history of hathayoga, funded by the European Research Council, whose outputs will include ten critical editions of key texts on hathayoga.
MARK SINGLETON is Senior Research Fellow in the department of Languages and Cultures of South Asia, SOAS, University of London, where he works with James Mallinson on the Indian and trans- national history of hathayoga. He taught for six years at St John's College (Santa Fe, New Mexico), and was a Senior Long-Term Research Scholar at the American Institute of Indian Studies, based in Jodhpur (Rajasthan, India). He was a consultant and catalogue author for the 20I3 exhibition 'Yoga: The Art of Transformation' at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and has served as co chair of the Yoga in Theory and Practice Group at the American Academy of Religions. He is a manager of the Modern Yoga Research website. His research focuses on the tensions between tradition and modernity in yoga, and the transformations that yoga has undergone in recent centuries in response to globalization. He has published book chapters, journal articles and encyclopaedia entries on yoga, several edited volumes of scholarship, and a monograph entitled Yoga Body: The Origins
of Modern Posture Practice. His current work involves the critical editing and translation of three Sanskrit texts of hathayoga and new research on the history of physical practices that were incorporated into or associated with yoga in pre-colonial India.
Over the last three decades there has been an enormous increase in the popularity of yoga around the world. The United Nations' recent declaration of an International Day of Yoga? is symbolic of yoga's truly globalized status today. Along with this globalization, however, has come metamorphosis: yoga has adapted to social and cultural conditions often far removed from those of its birthplace, and in many regions has taken on a life of its own, independent of its Indian roots. The global diffusion of yoga began at least a century and a half ago, since which time yoga has continued to be refracted through many new cultural prisms, such as New Age religion, psychology, sports science, biomedicine, and so on.:'
In spite of yoga's now global popularity (or perhaps, rather, because of it), a clear understanding of its historical contexts in South Asia, and the range of practices that it includes, is often lacking. This is at least partly due to limited access to textual material," A small canon of texts, which includes the Bhagavadgita, Patanjali's Yogasastras, the Hathapradipika and some Upanisads, may be studied within yoga teacher-training programmes, but by and large the wider textual sources are little known outside specialized scholarship. Along with the virtual hegemony of a small number of posture-oriented systems in the recent global transmission of yoga, this has reinforced a relatively narrow and monochromatic vision of what yoga is and does, especially when viewed against the wide spectrum of practices presented in pre-modern texts.
Of course, texts are not reflective of the totality of yoga's development - they merely provide windows on to particular traditions at particular times - and an absence of evidence for certain practices within texts is not evidence of their absence within yoga as a whole." Conversely, the-appearance of new practices in texts is itself often an indication of older innovations. Despite these limitations, however, texts remain a unique and dependable Source of knowledge about yoga at particular moments in history, in contrast to often unverifiable retrospective self-accounts of particular lineages. In addition to texts, material sources, particularly sculpture and painting from the second millennium CE, provide invaluable data for the reconstruction of yoga's history. While we have not addressed such sources directly here, they have informed our analyses. Examples of our work with such sources can be found in Diamond 2013.
In some respects this book resembles a traditional Sanskrit nibandha (scholarly compilation) in that it gathers together a wide variety of texts on a single topic." Unlike a nibandha, however, our approach does not have a sectarian religious orientation, and it will, we hope, be somewhat more accessible as a result. The material is drawn from more than a hundred texts, dating from about 1000 BCE to the nineteenth century, many of which are not well known. Although most of the passages translated here are from Sanskrit texts, there is also material from Tibetan, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Tamil, Pali, Kashmiri, Old Marathi, Avadhi and Braj, Bhasha (late-medieval precursors of Hindi) and English sources. This chronological and linguistic range reveals patterns and continuities that contribute to a better understanding of yoga's development within and across traditions (for example, between earlier Sanskrit sources and later vernacular or non-Indian texts which draw on them). Where possible, we have used the earliest available textual occurrence of a particular passage, rather than a later duplication. For this reason, perhaps better known but derivative texts, such as the later Yoga Upanisads? are passed over in favour of the earlier texts from which they borrow. By and large we have not included material which is incidental to the mainstream of yoga theory and practice in South Asia, nor do we draw on non-textual sources popularly considered to be fundamental to yoga's history, but which have been discredited by scholarship." Indeed, this collection benefits enormously from advances in historical and philological research in yoga traditions over the past three decades (see 'Yoga Scholarship' below, p. xxii).
The yoga whose roots we are identifying is that which prevailed in India on the eve of colonialism, i.e. the late eighteenth century. Although certainly not without its variations and exceptions, by this time there is a pervasive, trans-sectarian consensus throughout India as to what constitutes yoga in practice. One of the reasons for this is the rise to predominance of the techniques of hathayoga,which held a virtual hegemony across a wide spectrum of yoga-practising religious traditions, including the Brahmanical traditions, in the pre-colonial period." The texts included in this collection reflect this historical development. As well as delimiting what would otherwise be an unmanageable amount of material, focusing on yoga as it was most commonly understood helps to reflect the actual practices of a majority of traditions in which yoga was undertaken. Such a focus can also help shed light on the immediate predecessors of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century yogis who helped disseminate yoga around the world.
The material represented here is largely practical in nature, not philosophical. In general, we do not include passages on metaphysics unless they are directly related to practice (e.g. meditation on the elements (tattvas)). Although traditional yoga rarely, if ever, occurs outside of particular religious and doctrinal contexts, these contexts vary considerably, while yoga itself retains essential theoretical and practical commonalities.'? We therefore focus mainly on the practice of yoga and not on the philosophical systems that may underpin this practice in its specific sectarian settings. In addition, a distinction needs to be drawn between yoga as practice, as found across a wide range of Indian traditions, and Yoga as a doctrinal or philosophical system rooted in traditions of exegesis (i.e. textual interpretation) that developed from the Patanjalayogasastra. Notwithstanding the popular notion that the Patanjalayogasastra is the fundamental text of yoga, and fully recognizing its enormous impact on practical formulations of yoga throughout history (in particular hathayoga, with which It is some- times identified in texts),'! it is in fact a partisan text, representing an early Brahmanical appropriation of extra-Vedic, Sramana techniques of yoga, such as those of early Buddhism (on which, see below p. xiii). Its long exegetical tradition is not one of practice I of philosophy. Although this exegesis is vital to understanding 1 development of metaphysical speculation in South Asia, particularly in orthodox contexts, it is not our focus here, in that it does not significantly contribute to a history of yoga practices. The interested in the philosophical traditions associated with the Patanjalayogasastra should consult Philipp Maas's forthcoming sourcebook of yoga's 'classical dualist philosophy'.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that this is not a manual yoga practice. It is a work of scholarship documenting a wide range of yoga methods, a few of which' may cause injury or illne and some of which may even lead to physical and/or cognitive 'death', if practised successfully. The reader undertakes the practices described in this book entirely at his or her own risk.
Prior to about 500 BCE there is very little evidence within SOl Asian textual or archaeological sources that points to the ex
tence of systematic, psychophysical techniques of the type which the word 'yoga' subsequently came to denote. Passages in the 0ld est Sanskrit text, the fifteenth- to twelfth-century BCE Rg Veda (the earliest of the four 'Vedas', the textual foundation of orthodox, 'Vedic' Hinduism) indicate the use of visionary meditation and its famous hymn to a long-haired sage (10.136) suggests mystical ascetic tradition similar to those of later yogis. The somewhat later Atharva Veda (c. 1000 BCE), in its description the Vratya, who, like the long-haired sage, exists on the fringe mainstream Vedic society, mentions practices which may be forunners of later yogic techniques of posture and breath-retention (on the latter, see 4.1), and the Jaiminiya Upanisad Brahma (c. 800-600 BCE) teaches mantra-repetition, together with control of the breath. But it is entirely speculative to claim, as several popular writers on yoga have done," that the Vedic corpus Provides any evidence of systematic yoga practice.
Muddying the waters is the fact that later yoga texts composed in Brahmanical milieus incorporate Vedic motifs, such as the attainment of immortality. Similarly, the word yoga itself appears in the Rg Veda, but generally with reference to the chariot of war to which horses were yoked - 'yoke' being an English cognate of the Sanskrit yoga. This Vedic usage of the word is still in evidence a millennium later in the Mahabharata, where dying heroes travel through the sun and onwards to heaven by means of their 'yoga chariot'. Although the Mahabharata also incorporates extensive instructions on yogic practice, and the Vedic image of yoking evolves into a metaphor of the stereological method (i.e. a method which leads towards salvation or liberation), it would be wrong to read this backwards as proof of a similar understanding within the Vedas themselves. Similarly, the famous 'proto-Siva' seals from the Indus Valley civilization (which developed from around 2800 BCE in modern-day Punjab and Sindh), in spite of their popular currency, offer no conclusive evidence of an ancient yogic culture."
Around 500 BCE we see the rise of new groups of renouncing ascetics in India, sometimes collectively referred to as Sramanas ('strivers'), and identified by Johannes Bronkhorst as originating in the 'Greater Magadha' region, the area east of the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in modern-day Allahabad in northern India." These groups, which probably developed independently of the Brahmanical Vedic traditions, but were influenced by them to varying degrees, included Buddhists, Jains and the lesser-known Ajivakas. They were concerned with finding ways to bring an end to the cycle of rebirth samsara) and the karma-driven suffering that characterizes human existence, and they developed techniques of meditation (dhyana) to this end. The goal itself was known as nirvana ('extinguishing') or moksa ('liberation'), and entailed the complete eradication of karmic traces, including the cessation of personal identity, in a kind of permanent ontological suicide (i.e. the irreversible destruction of one's very being). These ideas make their first appearance among the Sramana traditions, and are only later incorporated into Vedic teachings. The Sramanas did not refer to their practices as 'yoga' until later, and in fact the first mentions of dhyanayoga ('yoga [by means of] meditation' or 'the discipline of meditation') appear in the Brahmanical Mahabharata (third century BCE to third century CE), with explicit reference to practices associated with Buddhism and jainism." Subsequently, the term yoga would become increasingly adopted among Buddhists themselves, and rather later among Jains, to indicate these meditational practices.
As well as meditational techniques, our early sources speak of ascetics within both the Sramana and Vedic traditions engaged in arduous practice known as tapas (a singular noun which literally means 'heat', but which is translated in this book as 'austerities'). For the ascetics of the Vedic tradition, the aim of these austerities i usually to win a boon - often a protection or a special power from the gods, while within the Sramana traditions their purpose is said to be the tilling of the mind or the annihilation of past karma. In the Mahabharata practitioners of tapas are referred to synonymously as yogins, and their practices are frequently also termed yoga. Some scholars have attempted to draw a distinction between the early yoga of the non-Vedic Sramanas and the this worldly, power-oriented tapas of the Vedic sages, asserting that even though the latter may be called yoga, it is not really yoga, because it is not concerned with liberation (moksa) However, the texts of this period show that ascetics of all traditions engaged in austerities - the Buddha himself says that he tried various mortifying technique (see 4.3) - and that, in addition to liberation, the acquisition of supernatural powers, whether desirable or not, could result from these practices. It is clear that methods which might be differentiated as yoga and tapas were complementary parts of early ascetic practice, and this continues to be the case for Hindu ascetic yogis today." Tapas is identified as a necessary preliminary for yoga practice in the Patanjalayogasastra (see below and 1.2.2) and one of yoga's key practices, pranayama (breath-control), has long been identified as tapas (e.g. Manavadharmasastra (4.5)). Textual teachings on extreme physical methods of tapas as practised by ascetics, such as the ancient urdhvabahu ('raised arm') austerity, in which one or both arms are held up for years on end so that they atrophy, are not found, but the seals (mudras) and postures (asanas) of hathayoga, which are first taught in texts from the beginning of the second millennium CE, appear to derive from some of the early Sramana methods, and the word hatha itself has overt connotations of asceticism, as we will see. Many textual teachings on yoga can best be understood as attempts to instruct non-ascetics in techniques which emerged in ascetic milieus.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
for saving your wish list, viewing past orders, receiving discounts, and lots more...
Email a Friend