Ian Whicher is a Canadian and earned his Ph.D from the University of Cambridge, England. A long-time practitioner of meditation, Dr. Whicher is a Professor in the Department of Religion at the University Of Manitobain Winnipeg Canada. He specializes in Hinduism and the Yoga tradition and is the author of scholarly books and numerous articles and chapters for edited volumes including. The Integrity of the Yoga Dargana (State University of New York Press) and co-editor of Yoga: The Indian Tradition (Routledge Curzon). He has given numerous academic and public talks around the world.
This book consists of five essays that have been revised from previous writings and include recent work of mine on Classical Yoga. Throughout these essays, I have challenged the often held radically dualistic and isolationistic interpretations of Yoga and suggest that as classically envisioned Yoga does not lead to the condemnation, abandonment or mere transcendence of embodied and material life, but to an enhanced engagement with the world, an engagement that enriches human interactions within the world. Rather than approach Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra from the perspective of dualistic metaphysical assumptions (often derived from classical Samkhya), I have pursued a reading of the Yoga-Sutra that privileges the experience of yoga over metaphysical abstractions. Drawing from the classical tradition, these essays explore how Yoga can culminate in a balanced integration of the spiritual, ethical, and material dimensions of life that incorporate a clarity of awareness with the integrity of being and action.
An earlier version of Chapter 1 was published in Journal of Indian Philosophy 25. 1 (1997): 1-67. An earlier version of Chapter 2 was published in Sambhasa (Nagoya Studies in Indian Culture and Buddhism) 28 (2010): 1-81. An earlier version of Chapter 3 was published in Asiatische Studien/Etudes Asiatiques LIII 3 (1999): 779-798. An earlier version of Chapter 4 was published in Journal of Indian Philosophy 33. 5 and 6 (2005): 601-630. Much of the material in Chapter 5 was presented at an International Seminar at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, April 2015, and will be published in Thinking with the Yoga-Sutras: Translation, Interpretation, eds. Ana Fumes and Tracy Sachs, Idaho Falls: Lexington Books (expected 2019). Earlier versions of material presented in Chapters 1, 2 and 4 appeared in The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998).
I am grateful to Motilal Banarsidass for establishing a monograph series on Classical Systems of Indian Philosophy that facilitates and enhances research on Yoga for both the field of scholarship and the general public. This present work aims to present a fresh, critical and nuanced approach that enriches our understanding of Yoga and its global significance today.
This book centers on the thought of Patanjali (ca. second-third century CE), the great exponent of the authoritative and classical Yoga school (darana) of Hinduism and the reputed author of the Yoga-Sutra. What is classical Yoga philosophy and how can it enrich our understanding of human nature? What is the relationship between self-understanding, knowledge, morality, and spiritual emancipation in Patatijali's thought? As a response to these questions I will argue that Pataiijali's philosophical perspective has, far too often, been looked upon as excessively "spiritual" or isolationistic to the point of being a world-denying philosophy, indifferent to moral endeavor, neglecting the world of nature and culture, and overlooking the highest potentials for human reality, vitality, and creativity. Contrary to the arguments presented by many scholars, which associate Patafijali's Yoga exclusively with asceticism, mortification, denial, and the renunciation and abandonment of "material existence" (prakrti) in favor of an elevated and isolated "spiritual state" (purusa) or disembodied state of spiritual liberation, I suggest that Patafijali's Yoga can be seen as a responsible engagement, in various ways, of "spirit" (purity/ = Self, pure consciousness) and "matter" (prakrti = the source of psychophysical being, which includes mind, body, nature), resulting in a highly developed, transformed, and participatory human nature and identity, an integrated and embodied state of liberated, yet engaged selfhood (jivanmukti).
I have attempted a careful textual, historical, and interpretive study that, it is hoped, results in a plausible and innovative reading of the "intention" of the Yoga-Sutra, namely, that it does not advocate the abandonment of the world for the successful yoga practitioner, but supports a stance that enables the yoga practitioner to live more fully in the world without being enslaved by worldly identification.
In doing so I have tried to present a sustained argument for the above on the basis of a close (and cumulative) textual study within the tradition of classical Yoga itself. In this study I have endeavoured to clarify the thought of Vyasa (ca. fifth-sixth century CE), who’s commentary on the Yoga-Sutra entitled, the Yoga-Bhdsya, illuminates our understanding of Patanjali’s thought.
Thus I challenge and attempt to correct conclusions about classical Yoga philosophy drawn by traditional and modern interpretations of Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra. From a critical perspective, it is necessary to make efforts to integrate theories of reality and knowledge per se with hermeneutical reflection and human motivation within which the theories were devised. There is a crust of preconceived ideas surrounding Patanjali’s Yoga and to unfreeze the Yoga-Sutra from the traditional reception that it has encountered in the Western world since the nineteenth century is no easy task. Millions of people today both in the East (i.e., in India) and the West practice some form or forms of Yoga influenced by or derived from Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra. I have attempted to reinterpret a central feature of the Yoga-Siara, namely, the objective of cittavrttinirodhah or the cessation of mistaken identity (the misidentification with the modifications of the mind), and provide a fresh vision of the spiritual potential present in this seminal text, thereby contributing to our understanding and reception of Yoga thought and spirituality. In order to do this I have felt it necessary to develop a comprehensive perspective in which the relation of identity and selfhood to the world is not severed due to a radical withdrawal from the world but is seen to be participatory in/with the world, allowing the yoga practitioner full access to the world through a mode of non afflicted action.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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