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Sinister Yogis$
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David Gordon White

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226895130

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226895154.001.0001

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Ceci N'est Pas Un Yogi

Ceci N'est Pas Un Yogi

(p.38) Two Ceci N'est Pas Un Yogi
Sinister Yogis
University of Chicago Press

Surveying the history of both Indian and Western interpretations of yoga, one is struck by the absence of reflection on the cognitive dissonance that appears to be operative when the primary sense of the term “yoga” itself—which means “union,” “joining,” “junction”—is interpreted to mean its opposite, viyoga, which means “separation,” “disunion,” “disjunction.” The prime sources for this reading are the 200–400 CE Bhagavad Gītā of the Mahābhārata and commentaries on the 350–450 CE Yoga Sūtras, the “Aphorisms on Yoga” attributed to Patañjali. This chapter deconstructs a number of the modernist assumptions that have undergirded the great majority of colonial and postcolonial accounts of the history of yoga. It has been the equation of yoga with meditation or contemplation that has been most responsible for the skewed interpretations that have dominated the historiography of yoga for much of the past 100 years. The cross-legged “lotus position,” one of the archetypical yoga poses, was also mark of royal sovereignty.

Keywords:   yoga, yogis, viyoga, Bhagavad Gītā, Mahābhārata, Yoga Sūtras, meditation, contemplation, lotus position, royal sovereignty

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