Yoga is a spiritual discipline aiming at the final knowledge of the ultimate truth which results in liberation from impermanent forms of life. Its first formulation is the Buddha’s eightfold path (5th century BCE) and its classical form described in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra (c. 4th century CE). Alongside the spiritual practice of yoga there developed its physical aspect involving bodily and breathing exercises, although textual evidence for it started appearing late (c. 5-6th century). Tantric elements linking spirituality to creative power present in man as sexual potency are attested since earliest times, first by archaeology (from 3,000 BCE), then by references in the R.g Veda (1,500-1,000 BCE) and subsequently by numerous literary sources.
Th e lecture will describe, with illustrations, the historical phases and forms of yoga practice and world view up to the modern time when it will focus on the penetration of yoga behind the iron curtain and the part the speaker played in it. It will finish with an assessment of the contemporary fragmented yoga scene and pose a question if yoga in its pure form as the liberating spiritual discipline is at all feasible.
Karel Werner, born in 1925 in Czechoslovakia, studied philosophy, history, Indology and Sinology at the Universities of Brno and Olomouc. He became the lecturer of Sanskrit and Indian Civilisation in Olomouc (1947). Aft er the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968), he immigrated to England and was appointed Spalding Lecturer in Indian Philosophy and Religion in Durham University (1969-90). He held guest professorships in Universities in Sri Lanka, India (1975-76) and Korea (2002-07). He was also a visiting professor in Brno University (1993-98). Presently he is an honorary professorial research associate at SOAS, University of London. His publications deal with Vedism, Buddhism, Yoga and the history of religions.
In association with Th e Temenos Academy