Yoga in Practice

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Item Code: NAF965
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: David Gordon White
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9788121512725
Pages: 409
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 inch X 6.5 inch
Weight 820 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

Yoga is a body of practice that spans two millennia and transcends the boundaries of any single religion, geographic region, or teaching lineage. In fact, over the centuries there have been many “yogas”-yogas of battlefield warriors, of itinerant minstrels and beggars, of religious reformers, and of course, the yogas of mind and body so popular today. Yoga in Practice is an anthology of primary texts drawn from the diverse yoga traditions of India, greater Asia, and the West. This one-of a-kind source book features elegant translations of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and even Islamic yogic writings, many of them being made available in English for the very first time. Collected here are ancient, colonial, and modern texts reflecting a broad range of genres, from an early medical treatise in Sanskrit to Upanishadic verses on sacred sounds; from a Tibetan catechetical dialogue to funerary and devotional songs still sung in India today; and from a 1930s instructional guide by the grandfather of contemporary yoga to the private papers of a pioneer of tantric yoga in America.

Emphasizing the lived experiences to be found in the many worlds of yoga, Yoga in Practice includes David Gordon White’s informative general introduction as well as concise introductions to each reading by the book’s contributors.

About The Author

David Gordon White is the J.F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religion at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include The Alchemical Body, Sinister Yogis, and Tantra in Practice.


Over the past decades, yoga has become part of the Zeitgeist of affluent western societies, drawing housewives and hipsters, New Agers and the old-aged, and body culture and corporate culture into a multibillion-dollar synergy. Like every Indian cultural artifact that it has embraced, the West views Indian yoga as an ancient, unchanging tradition, based on revelations received by the Vedic sages who, seated in the lotus pose, were the Indian forerunners of the flattummied yoga babes who grace the covers of such glossy periodicals as the Yoga Journal and Yoga International.

In the United States in particular, yoga has become a commodity. Statistics show that about 16 million Americans practice yoga year. For most people, this means going to yoga center with yoga mats, yoga clothes, and yoga accessories, and practicing in groups under the guidance of a yoga teacher or trainer. Here, yoga practice comprises a regimen of postures (asanas) –sometimes held for long periods of time, sometimes executed in rapid sequence-often together with techniques of breath control (pranayama). Yoga entrepreneurs have branded their own styles of practice, from Bikram’s superheated workout rooms to studios that have begun offering “doga,” practicing yoga together with one’s dog. They have opened franchises, invented logos, packaged their practice regimens under Sanskrit names, and marketed a lifestyle that fuses yoga with leisure travel, healing spas, and seminars on eastern spirituality. “Yoga celebrities” have become a part of our vocabulary, and with celebrity has come the usual entourage of publicists, business managers, and lawyers. Yoga is mainstream. Arguably India's greatest cultural export, yoga has morphed into a mass culture phenomenon. Many yoga celebrities, as well as a strong percentage of less celebrated yoga teachers, combine their training with teachings on healing, spirituality, meditation, and India's ancient yoga traditions, the Sanskrit-language Yoga Sidra (YS) in particular. Here, they are following the lead of the earliest yoga entrepreneurs, the Indian gurus who brought the gospel of yoga to western shores in the wake of Swami Vivekananda's storied successes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

But what were India's ancient yoga traditions, and what relationship do they have to the modern postural yoga (Singleton 2010) that people are practicing across the world today? In fact, the yoga that is taught and practiced today has very little in common with the yoga of the YS and other ancient yoga treatises. Nearly all of our popular assumptions about yoga theory date from the past 150 years, and very few modern-day practices date from before the twelfth century. This is not the first time that people have "reinvented" yoga in their own image. As the contributions to this volume demonstrate, this is a process that has been ongoing for at least two thousand years. Every group in every age has created its own version and vision of yoga. One reason this has been possible is that its semantic field-the range of meanings of the term "yoga"-is so broad and the concept/of yoga so malleable, that it has been possible to morph it into nearly any practice or process one chooses.

When seeking to define a tradition, it is useful to begin by defining one's terms. It is here that problems arise. "Yoga" has a wider range of meanings than nearly any other word in the entire Sanskrit lexicon. The act of yoking an animal, as well as the yoke itself, is called yoga. In astronomy, a conjunction of planets or stars, as well as a constellation, is called yoga. When one mixes together various substances, that, too, can be called yoga. The word yoga has also been employed to denote a device, a recipe, a method, a strategy, a charm, an incantation, fraud, a trick, an endeavor, a combination, union, an arrangement, zeal, care, diligence, industriousness, discipline, use, application, contact, a sum total, and the Work of alchemists. But this is by no means an exhaustive list.

So, for example, the ninth-century Netra Tantra, a Hindu scripture from Kashmir, describes what it calls subtle yoga and transcendent yoga. Subtle yoga is nothing more or less than a body of techniques for entering into and taking over other people's bodies. As for transcendental yoga, this is a process that involves superhuman female predators, called yogin is, who eat people! By eating people, this text says, the yoginis consume the sins of the body that would otherwise bind them to suffering rebirth, and so allow for the "union" (yoga) of their purified souls with the supreme god Siva, a union that is tanta- mount to salvation (White 2009: 162-63). In this ninth-century source, there is no discussion whatsoever of postures or breath control, the prime markers of yoga as we know it today. More troubling still, the third- to fourth-century CE YS and Bhagavad Gila (BhG), the two most widely cited textual sources for "classical yoga," virtually ignore postures and breath control, each devoting a total of fewer than ten verses to these practices. They are far more concerned with the issue of human salvation, realized through the theory and practice of meditation (dhyana) in the YS [Larson] and through concentration on the god Krsna in the BhG [Malinar].

Indian Foundations of Yoga Theory and Practice Clearly something is missing here. There is a gap between the ancient, "classical" yoga tradition and yoga as we know it. In order to understand the disconnect between then and now, we would do well to go back to the earliest uses of the term yoga, which are found in texts far more ancient than the YS or BhG. Here I am referring to India's earliest scriptures, the Vedas. In the circa fifteenth-century BCE Rg Veda, yoga meant, before all else, the yoke one placed on a draft animal-a bullock or warhorse-to yoke it to a plow or chariot. The resemblance of these terms is not fortuitous: the Sanskrit "yoga" is a cognate of the English "yoke," because Sanskrit and English both belong to the Indo- European language family (which is why the Sanskrit matr resembles the Eng- lish "mother," sueda looks like "sweat," udara-"belly" in Sanskrit-looks like "udder," and so forth). In the same scripture, we see the term's meaning ex- panded through metonymy, with "yoga" being applied to the entire conveyance or "rig" of a war chariot: to the yoke itself, the team of horses or bullocks, and the chariot itself with its many straps and harnesses. And, because such chariots were only hitched up (yukta) in times of war, an important Vedic usage of the term yoga was "wartime," in contrast to ksema, "peacetime."

The Vedic reading of yoga as one's war chariot or rig came to be incorporated into the warrior ideology of ancient India. In the Mababbarata, India's 200 BCE-400 CE "national epic," we read the earliest narrative accounts of the battlefield apotheosis of heroic chariot warriors. This was, like the Greek Iliad, an epic of battle, and so it was appropriate that the glorification of a warrior who died fighting his enemies be showcased here. What is interesting, for the purposes of the history of the term yoga, is that in these narratives, the warrior who knew he was about to die was said to become yoga-yukta, literally "yoked to yoga," with "yoga" once again meaning a chariot. This time, however, it was not the warrior's own chariot that carried him up to the highest heaven, reserved for gods and heroes alone. Rather, it was a celestial "yoga," a divine chariot, that carried him upward in a burst of light to and through the sun, and on to the heaven of gods and heroes.

Warriors were not the sole individuals of the Vedic age to have chariots called "yogas."The gods, too, were said to shuttle across heaven, and between earth and heaven on yogas. Furthermore, the Vedic priests who sang the Vedic hymns related their practice to the yoga of the warrior aristocracy who were their patrons. In their hymns, they describe themselves as "yoking" their minds to poetic inspiration and so journeying-if only with their mind's eye or cog- nitive apparatus-across the metaphorical distance that separated the world of the gods from the words of their hymns. A striking image of their poetic journeys is found in a verse from a late Vedic hymn, in which the poet-priests describe themselves as "hitched up" (yukta) and standing on their chariot shafts as they sally forth on a vision quest across the universe.

The earliest extant systematic account of yoga and a bridge from the earlier Vedic uses of the term is found in the Hindu Katbaka Upanisad (KU), a scripture dating from about the third century BCE. Here, the god of Death reveals what is termed the "entire yoga regimen" to a young ascetic named Naciketas. In the course of his teaching, Death compares the relationship between the self, body, intellect, and so forth to the relationship between a rider, his chariot, charioteer, etc. (KU 3.3-9), a comparison which approximates that made in Plato's Phaedrus. Three elements of this text set the agenda for much of what constitutes yoga in the centuries that follow. First, it introduces a sort of yogic physiology, calling the body a "fort with eleven gates" and evoking "a person the size of a thumb" who, dwelling within, is worshiped by all the gods (KU 4.12; 5.1, 3). Second, it identifies the individual person within with the universal Person (purusa) or absolute Being (brahman), asserting that this is what sustains life (KU 5.5, 8-10). Third, it describes the hierarchy of mind-body constituents-the senses, mind, intellect, etc.-that comprise the foundational categories of Samkhya philosophy, whose metaphysical system grounds the yoga of the YS, BhG, and other texts and schools (KU 3.10-11; 6.7-8). Because these categories were hierarchically ordered, the realization of higher states of consciousness was, in this early context, tantamount to an ascension through levels of outer space, and so we also find in this and other early Up a- nisads the concept of yoga as a technique for "inner" and "outer" ascent. These same sources also introduce the use of acoustic spells or formulas (mantras), the most prominent among these being the syllable OM, the acoustic form of the supreme brahman. In the following centuries, mantras would become progressively incorporated into yogic theory and practice, in the medieval Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Tantras, as well as the Yoga Upanisads.

Following this circa third-century BCE watershed, textual references to yoga multiply rapidly in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist sources, reaching a critical mass some seven hundred to one thousand years later. It is during this initial burst that most of the perennial principles of yoga theory-as well as many elements of yoga practice-were originally formulated. Toward the latter end of this period, one sees the emergence of the earliest yoga systems, in the YS; the third- to fourth-century scriptures of the Buddhist Yogacara school and fourth- to fifth-century Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosa; and the Yogadrstisamuccaya of the eighth-century Jain author Haribhadra. Although the YS may be slightly later than the Yogacara canon, this tightly ordered series of aphorisms is so remarkable and comprehensive for its time that it is often referred to as "classical yoga." It is also known as patanjala yoga ("Patanjalian yoga"), in recognition of its putative compiler, Patanjali.

The Yogacara ("Yoga Practice") school of Mahayana Buddhism was the earliest Buddhist tradition to employ the term yoga to denote its philosophical system. Also known as Vijnanavada ("Doctrine of Consciousness"), Yoga- cara offered a systematic analysis of perception and consciousness together with a set of meditative disciplines designed to eliminate the cognitive errors that prevented liberation from suffering existence. Yogacara's eight-stage meditative practice itself was not termed yoga, however, but rather "calmness" (samatha) or "insight" (vipasyana) meditation (Cleary 1995). The Yogacara analysis of consciousness has many points in common with the more or less coeval YS, and there can be no doubt that cross-pollination occurred across religious boundaries in matters of yoga (La Vallee Poussin, 1936-1937). The Yogavasistha ("Vasistha's Teachings on Yoga")-a circa tenth-century Hindu work from Kashmir that combined analytical and practical teachings on "yoga" with vivid mythological accounts illustrative of its analysis of consciousness [Chapple]-takes positions similar to those of Yoga car a concerning errors of perception and the human inability to distinguish between our interpretations of the world and the world itself.

The Jains were the last of the major Indian religious groups to employ the term yoga to imply anything remotely resembling "classical" formulations of yoga theory and practice. The earliest Jain uses of the term, found in Umasvati's fourth- to fifth-century Tattvarthasutra (6.1-2), the earliest extant systematic work of Jain philosophy, defined yoga as "activity of the body, speech, and mind." As such, yoga was, in early Jain parlance, actually an impediment to liberation. Here, yoga could only be overcome through its opposite, ayoga ("non-yoga," inaction)-that is, through meditation (jhana; dhyana), asceticism, and other practices of purification that undo the effects of earlier activity. The earliest systematic Jain work on yoga, Haribhadra's circa 750 CE Yoga- drstisamuccaya, was strongly influenced by the YS, yet nonetheless retained much of Umasvati's terminology, even as it referred to observance of the path as yogacara (Qvarnstrom 2003: 131-33).

This is not to say that between the fourth century BCE and the second to fourth century CE, neither the Buddhists nor the Jains were engaging in practices that we might today identify as yoga. To the contrary, early Buddhist sources like the Majjhima Nikaya-the "Middle-length Sayings" attributed to the Buddha himself-are replete with references to self-mortification and meditation as practiced by the Jains, which the Buddha condemned and contrasted to his own set of four meditations (Bronkhorst 1993: 1-5,19-24). In the Anguttara Nikaya ("Gradual Sayings"), another set of teachings attributed to the Buddha, one finds descriptions of jhayins ("meditators," "experientialists") that closely resemble early Hindu descriptions of practitioners of yoga (Eliade 2009: 174-75). Their ascetic practices-never termed yoga in these early sources-were likely innovated within the various itinerant sramana groups that circulated in the eastern Gangetic basin in the latter half of the first millennium BCE.

Even as the term yoga began to appear with increasing frequency between 300 BCE and 400 CE, its meaning was far from fixed. It is only in later centuries that a relatively systematic yoga nomenclature became established among Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. By the beginning of the fifth century, however, the core principles of yoga were more or less in place, with most of what followed being variations on that original core. Here, we would do well to outline these principles, which have persisted through time and across traditions for some two thousand years. They may be summarized as follows:

1. Yoga as an analysis of perception and cognition. Yoga is an analysis of the dysfunctional nature of everyday perception and cognition, which lies at the root of suffering, the existential conundrum whose solution is the goal of Indian philosophy. Once one comprehends the cause(s) of the problem, one can solve it through philosophical analysis combined with meditative practice.

At bottom, India's many yoga traditions are soteriologies, doctrines of salvation, concerning the attainment of release from suffering existence and the cycle of rebirths (samsara). The problem of suffering existence and the allied doctrine of cyclic rebirth emerges about five centuries before the beginning of the common era, in the early Upanisads as well as the original teachings of the Jain founder Mahavira and the Buddhist founder Gautama Buddha. The same teachings that posit the problem of suffering existence also offer a solution to the problem, which may be summarized by the word "gnosis" (jnana or prajna in Sanskrit; panna in Pali). As such, these are also to be counted among the earliest Indian epistemologies, philosophical theories of what constitutes authentic knowledge. Gnosis-transcendent, immediate, non-conventional knowledge of ultimate reality, of the reality behind appearances-is the key to salvation in all of these early soteriologies, as well as in India's major philosophical schools, many of which developed in the centuries around the beginning of the Common Era. As such, these are gnoseologies, theories of salvation through knowledge, in which to know the truth (i.e., that in spite of appearances, one is, in fact, not trapped in suffering existence) is to realize it in fact. The classic example of such a transformation is that of the Buddha: by realizing the Four Noble Truths, he became the ''Awakened'' or "Enlightened" One (Buddha), and so was liberated from future rebirths, realizing the extinction of suffering (nibbana; nirvana) at the end of his life.

In all of these systems, the necessary condition for gnosis is the disengagement of one's cognitive apparatus from sense impressions and base matter (including the matter of the body). An important distinguishing characteristic of all Indian philosophical systems is the concept that the mind or mental capacity (manas, citta) is part of the body: it is the "sixth sense," which, located in the heart, is tethered to the senses of hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, and smelling, as well as their associated bodily organs. What this means is that Indian philosophy rejects the mind-body distinction. In doing so, however, it does embrace another distinction. This is the distinction between the mind- body complex on the one hand, and a higher cognitive apparatus-called buddhi ("intellect"), antahkarana, vijnana (both translatable as "consciousness"), etc.-on the other. In these early sources, the term yoga is often used to designate the theory and practice of disengaging the higher cognitive apparatus from the thrall of matter, the body, and the senses (including mind). Yoga is a regimen or discipline that trains the cognitive apparatus to perceive clearly, which leads to true cognition, which in turn leads to salvation, release from suffering existence. Yoga is not the sole term for this type of training, however. In early Buddhist and Jain scriptures as well as many early Hindu sources, the term dhyana (jhana in the Pali of early Buddhist teachings,jha1Ja in the Jain Ardhamagadhi vernacular), most commonly translated as "meditation," is far more frequently employed. So it is that Hindu sources like the BhG and YS, as well as a number of Buddhist Mahayana works, frequently use yoga, dhyana, and bhavana ("cultivation," "contemplation") more or less synonymously, while early Jain and Buddhist texts employ the term dhyana in its various spellings exclusively. Both the YS and the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism also employ the term samadhi ("concentration") for the culminating stage of meditation (Sarbacker 2005: 16-21). At this stage, all objects have been removed from consciousness, which thereafter continues to exist in isolation (kaivalyam), forever liberated from all entanglements. Kaivalyam is also employed in Jain soteriology for the final state of the fully purified liberated soul.

The BhG, the philosophical charter of "mainstream" Hindu theism, uses the term yoga in the broad sense of "discipline" or "path," and teaches that the paths of gnosis (jnana-yoga) and action (karma-yoga) are inferior to the path of devotion (bhakti-yoga) to an all-powerful and benevolent supreme being. However, here as well, it is the constant training of the cognitive faculties-to meditatively concentrate on God in order to accurately perceive Him as the source of all being and knowledge-that brings about salvation. In this teaching, revealed by none other than the supreme being Krsna himself, the devotee whose disciplined meditation is focused on God alone is often referred to as a yogin. The BhG is possibly the first but by no means the last teaching to use the term yoga preceded by an adjective or modifier (karma-, jnana-, bhakti-), thereby acknowledging-but also creating-a variety of yogas. 2. Yoga as the raising and expansion of consciousness. Through analytical inquiry and meditative practice, the lower organs or apparatus of human cognition are suppressed, allowing for higher, less obstructed levels of perception and cognition to prevail. Here, consciousness-raising on a cognitive level is seen to be simultaneous with the "physical" rise of the consciousness or self through ever-higher levels or realms of cosmic space. Reaching the level of consciousness of a god, for example, is tantamount to rising to that deity's cosmological level, to the atmospheric or heavenly world it inhabits. This is a concept that likely flowed from the experience of the Vedic poets, who, by "yoking" their minds to poetic inspiration, were empowered to journey to the farthest reaches of the universe. The physical rise of the dying yoga-yukta chariot warrior to the highest cosmic plane may have also contributed to the formulation of this idea.

Another development of this concept is the notion that the expansion of consciousness is tantamount to the expansion of the self to the point that one's body or self becomes coextensive with the entire universe. The 289th chapter of the twelfth book of the Mahtibhtirata concludes with a description of just such an expansion of a yogi's self [Fitzgerald], and one finds a similar description in the Jain Umasvati's fourth- to fifth-century Prasamaratipra- karana. Several Mahayana Buddhist sources contain accounts of enlightened beings whose "constructed bodies" (nirmanakaya) expand to fill the universe; and the BhG's description of the god Krsna's universal body (visvarupa), through which he displays his "masterful yoga," is of the same order (White 2009: 167-97).

Also in this regard, it should be noted that attention to the breath is a feature of the theory and practice of meditation from the earliest times. Mindfulness of one's breathing is introduced in such early sources as the Majjhima Nikaya as a fundamental element of Theravada Buddhist meditation. In early Hindu sources as well, controlling and stilling the breath is a prime technique for calming the mind and turning it inward, away from the distractions of sensory perception. Atman, the term for the "self" or "soul" in the classical Upanisads and later works, is etymologically linked to the Sanskrit verb an, "breathe," and it is via breath channels leading up from the heart-channels that merge with the rays of the sun-that the self leaves the body at death to merge with the Absolute (brahman) at the summit of the universe. These descriptions of the breath channels also lie at the origin of yogic or "subtle" body physiology, which would become fleshed out in great detail in India's medieval Tantric scriptures. In these and later works, the breath-propelled self's rise through the levels of the universe would become completely internalized, with the spinal column doubling as the universal axis mundi and the practitioner's own cranial vault becoming the place of the brahman and locus of immortality.

3. Yoga as a path to omniscience. Once it was established that true perception or true cognition enables a self's enhanced or enlightened consciousness to rise or expand to reach and penetrate distant regions of space--to see and know things as they truly are beyond the illusory limitations imposed by a deluded mind and sense perceptions-there were no limits to the places to which consciousness could go. These "places" included past and future time, locations distant and hidden, and even places invisible to view. This insight became the foundation for theorizing the type of extrasensory perception known as yogi perception (yogipratyaksa), which is in many Indian epistemological systems the highest of the "true cognitions" (pramanas), in other words, the supreme and most irrefutable of all possible sources of knowledge. For the Nyaya-Vaisesika school, the earliest Hindu philosophical school to fullyanalyze this basis for transcendent knowledge, yogi perception is what permitted the Vedic seers (rsis) to apprehend, in a single panoptical act of perception, the entirety of the Vedic revelation, which was tantamount to viewing the entire universe simultaneously, in all its parts. For the Buddhists, it was this that provided the Buddha and other enlightened beings with the "buddha-eye" or "divine eye," which permitted them to see the true nature of reality. For the early seventh-century Madhyamaka philosopher Candrakirti, yogi perception afforded direct and profound insight into his school's highest truth, that is, into the emptiness (sunyata) of things and concepts, as well as relationships between things and concepts (MacDonald 2009: 133-46). Yogi perception remained the subject of lively debate among Hindu and Buddhist philosophers well into the medieval period.

It was a widely held precept among ascetic traditions that extrasensory in- sight into the ultimate nature of reality, a sort of omniscience, could be attained through meditative practice. Here, there were two schools of thought concerning the attainment of such insight. The Jains and a number of Hindu and Buddhist schools asserted that the soul, self, or mind was luminous by nature and innately possessed of perfect perception and insight, and that the path to liberation simply comprised the realization of one's innate qualities and capacities. Others, including Theravada and Sarvastivada Buddhists, maintained that the path of asceticism and the practice of meditation were necessary to purge cognition of its inborn defilements, and that only once this difficult work had been completed could yogi perception and omniscience arise (Franco 2009, 4-5). In the former case, meditation was the means to realizing the divine within, one's innate Buddha nature, to see the universe as Self, and so forth. In the latter, the resulting extrasensory insight allowed the ontologically imperfect practitioner to clearly see and truly know a god or Buddha that nonetheless remained Wholly Other. Through such knowledge one could, in the parlance of many of the dualist Hindu Tantric schools, "become a god in order to worship god"-but one could never become god, which is what the non-dualist schools maintained.

4. Yoga as a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multiple bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments. The classical Indian understanding of everyday perception (pratyaksa) was similar to that of the ancient Greeks. In both systems, the site at which visual perception occurs is not the surface of the retina or the junction of the optic nerve with the brain's visual nuclei, but rather the contours of the perceived object. This means, for example, that when I am viewing a tree, a ray of perception emitted from my eye "con-forms" to the surface of the tree. The ray brings the image of the tree back to my eye, which communicates it to my mind, which in turn communicates it to my inner self or consciousness. In the case of yogi perception, the practice of yoga enhances this process (in some cases, establishing an unmediated connection between consciousness and the perceived object), such that the viewer not only sees things as they truly are, but is also able to directly see through the surface of things into their innermost being. For non-Buddhists, this applies, most importantly, to the perception of one's own inner self as well as the selves or souls of others. From here, it is but a short step to conceiving of the viewer possessed of the power of yogi perception-texts often call him a yogi-as possessing the power to physically penetrate, with his enhanced cognitive apparatus, into other people's bodies (White 2009: 122-66). This is the theory underlying the Tantric practice of "subtle yoga" described at the beginning of this introduction. But in fact, the earliest references in all of Indian literature to individuals explicitly called yogis are Mahabharata tales of Hindu and Buddhist hermits who take over other people's bodies in just this way; and it is noteworthy that when yogis enter into other people's bodies, they are said to do so through rays emanating from their eyes. The epic also asserts that a yogi so empowered can take over several thousand bodies simultaneously, and "walk the earth with all of them." Buddhist sources describe the same phenomenon with the important difference that the enlightened being creates multiple bodies rather than taking over those belonging to other creatures. This is a notion already elaborated in an early Buddhist work, the Samannaphalasutta, a teaching contained in the Digha Nikaya (the "Longer Sayings" of the Buddha), according to which a monk who has completed the four Buddhist meditations gains, among other things, the power to self-multiply. Several of the key terms found in this text reappear, with specific reference to yoga and yogis, in the 100 BCE-200 CE Indian medical classic, the Caraka Samhita [Wujastyk].

The ability to enter into and control the bodies of other creatures is but one of the supernatural powers (iddhis in Pali; siddhis or vibhutis in Sanskrit) that arise from the power of extrasensory perception (abhinna in Pali; abhijna in Sanskrit). Others include the power of flight, clairaudience, telepathy, invisibility, and the recollection of past lives-precisely the sorts of powers that the yogis of Indian legend have been said to possess.

Here, it is helpful to introduce the difference between "yogi practice" and "yoga practice," which has been implicit to South Asian thought and practice since the beginning of the Common Era, the period in which the terms "yogi" and "yogi perception" first appeared in the Indian scriptural record. On the one hand, there is "yoga practice," which essentially denotes a program of mind- training and meditation issuing in the realization of enlightenment, liberation, or isolation from the world of suffering existence. Yoga practice is the practical application of the theoretical precepts of the various yogic soteriologies, epistemologies, and gnoseologies presented in analytical works like the YS and the teachings of the various Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain philosophical schools. Yogi practice, on the other hand, concerns the supernatural powers that empower yogis to take over other creatures' bodies and so forth. Nearly every one of the earliest narrative descriptions of yogis and their practices underscore the axiom that the penetration of other bodies is the sine qua non of yoga.


Contents by Traditionvii
Contents by Countryix
Introduction - David Gordon White1
Note for Instructors - David Gordon White24
Foundational Yoga Texts29
1The Path to Liberation through Yogic Mindfulness in Early31
Ayurveda Dominik Wujastyk
2A Prescription for Yoga and Power in the Mahabharata43
James L. Fitzerald
3Yoga Practices in the Bhagavadgita Angelika Malinar58
4Patanjala Yoga in Practice Gerald James Larson73
5Yoga in the Yoga Upanisads: Disciplines of the Mystical OM Sound Jeffrey Clark Ruff97
6The Sevenfold Yoga of the Yogavasistha Christopher Key Chapple117
7A Fourteenth-Century Persian Account of Breath Control and Meditation Carl W. Ernst133
Yoga in Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu Tantric Traditions141
8A Digambara Jain Description of the Yogic Path to Deliverance Paul Dundas143
9Saraha's Queen Dohas-Roger R. Jackson162
10The Questions and Answers of Vajrasattva Jacob P. Dalton185
11The Six-Phased Yoga of the Abbreviated Wheel of Time Tantra204
(Laghukalacakratantra) according to Vajrapani Vesna A. Wallace
12Eroticism and Cosmic Transformation as Yoga: The Atmatattva223
of the Vaisnava Sahajiyas of Bengal Glen Alexander Hayes
13The Transport of the Hamsas: A Sakta Rasalila as Rajayoga in242
Elighteenth-Century Benares Somadeva Vasudeva
Yoga of the Nath Yogis255
14The Original Goraksasataka James Mallinson257
15Nath Yogis, Akbar, and the "Balnath Tilla" William R. Pinch273
16Yogic Language in Village Performance: Hymns of the289
Householder Naths Ann Grodzins Gold and Daniel Gold
Yoga in the Colonial and Post-Colonial Periods307
17The Yoga System of the Josmanis Sthaneshwar Timalsina309
18Songs to the Highest God (Isvara) of Samkhya-Yoga Knut A. Jacobsen325
19Yoga Makaranda of T.Krishnamacharya Mark Singleton, M. Narasimhan, and M.A. Jayashree337
20Theos Bernard and the Early Days of Tantric Yoga in America Paul G. Hackett353
21Universalist and Missionary Jainism: Jain Yoga of the Terapanthi365
Tradition Olle Qvarnstrom and Jason Birch
Glossary of Foreign Terms383
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    A. All returns must be postmarked within seven (7) days of the delivery date. All returned items must be in new and unused condition, with all original tags and labels attached. To know more please view our return policy
  • Q. Do you offer express shipping ?
    A. Yes, we do have a chargeable express shipping facility available. You can select express shipping while checking out on the website.
  • Q. I accidentally entered wrong delivery address, can I change the address ?
    A. Delivery addresses can only be changed only incase the order has not been shipped yet. Incase of an address change, you can reach us at
  • Q. How do I track my order ?
    A. You can track your orders simply entering your order number through here or through your past orders if you are signed in on the website.
  • Q. How can I cancel an order ?
    A. An order can only be cancelled if it has not been shipped. To cancel an order, kindly reach out to us through
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