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Buddhist Roots of Pātañjala-yoga

The speaker does not subscribe to the traditional views such as (1) The three Patañjalis, viz. the authors of Yogasūtra, Vyākaraṇamahābhāṣya and Carakasaṁhitā are identical and (2) the texts Yogasūtra and Yogabhāṣya are prior to the Buddha. He subscribes to the view of some modern scholars which ascribes the period of Yogasūtra to the latter half of the fourth century CE. The speaker, however, does not treat Yogasūtra and its earliest commentary, Yogabhāṣya, as constituents of a single text called Pātañjalayogaśāstra as done by some modern scholars.

The scholars like Frauwallner, La Vallee Poussin and Gerald Larson have already noted the influence of Buddhism on Pātañjala-yoga, the speaker takes a few steps further.

The speaker holds that the relation between Brahmanical and Buddhist theories of meditation was mutual, rather dialectical. The Bodhisattva Gautama learnt the meditational practices available in his time, experimented with them, developed over them and also introduced new forms of meditation by transcending them. Buddhists developed this theory of meditation in terms of Abhidharma categories. It was this Buddhist theory of meditation in its details which was influential in shaping the Yoga system of Patañjali.

It will be pointed out that many concepts and doctrines of Patañjali’s Yoga such as abhyāsa, vairāgya, antarāya, praṇidhāna, four bhāvanās, prajñā, dhyāna, samāpatti, vitarka, vicāra, kleśa and dharmamegha can be traced to the Buddhist texts such as Abhidharmakośa and its Bhāṣya by Vasubandhu and Yogācārabhūmi by Asaṅga.

It will be argued that although Patañjali adopts so many inputs from the Buddhist theory of suffering and emancipation, he tries to situate them in the realist and eternalist framework of Sāṅkhya.

Pradeep P. Gokhale, Former Professor of Philosophy, presently Honorary Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies of SP Pune University, Pune (India). Has authored monographs on Nyāya and Buddhist Logic, Lokāyata/Cārvāka system and Yoga of Patañjali. Other research areas include Buddhism, moral-social philosophy and philosophy of religion.

#SoasCentreOfYogaStudies #SOASCYS # PremodernHistory #Hinduism #Buddhism #Philology

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Organiser SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies

Organiser of Pradeep Gokhale

SOAS is leading the way in the new field of yoga studies, which is growing rapidly around the globe. We host the Hatha Yoga Project, a research initiative funded by the European Research Council, which will chart the history of physical yoga practices, and we are one of only four universities in the world to offer an MA in Yoga and Meditation. The Centre of Yoga Studies is a hub for scholars, students and all those interested in yoga and hosts lecture series, seminars and workshops in order to share our work, learn from that of others and develop new collaborations.

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