Ruth Westoby will review the history of yoga to situate us in the centuries following the turn of the millennium. The session will focus first on the Bhagavad Gītā and second on Sāṃkhya.
The Bhagavad Gītā dramatically sets sublime spiritual teachings against the backdrop of an horrific and devastating war. The god Kṛṣṇa and the warrior Arjuna stand amidst armies arrayed for destruction and discuss how best to live in this imperfect world. Kṛṣṇa interweaves key spiritual teachings on yoga to counsel correct understanding, skilful action, the discipline of yoga, righteous violence and devoted love. The Gītā has been an essential source text for the Vedāntic school of philosophy/theology, it has been presented as the Hindu bible, and it’s teachings have been called upon by spiritual seekers and teachers of yoga.
Sāṃkhya is the philosophical school or darśana which is most closely associated with the Pātañjalayogaśāstra. Sāṃkhya presents a metaphysics of the individual in the world and of psychology and experience. The world and our experience of it are set out as categories interwoven with the guṇas or strands of material nature or experience. Sāṃkhya teaches that the world exists to set us free. Early Sāṃkhya teachings are entwined in the Bhagavad Gītā, it provides the metaphysical backdrop for Classical Yoga, and forms the structural bedrock upon which Tantra is built.
This is the second in a series of five seminars on the history and philosophy of yoga which can be taken individually or collectively. Whilst each session will build on the material presented in earlier sessions a recap will be given to enable students to attend individual sessions. Each session will open with chanting sections of texts relating to the subjects of study. The lecture will be accompanied with rich visual images. Primary sources, key concepts and further reading suggestions will be given. There will be plenty of time for contemplation and discussion. Whilst there will be sitting practices there will be no postural practice. The best text to accompany these sessions is James Mallinson and Mark Singleton’s Roots of Yoga, published by Penguin in 2017.