Here you can read a short introduction into the themes of the lectures. So you can prepare yourself and better participate. At the end of each 45 min lecture there will be 15 minutes for discussion.

Dr. Christèle Barois: On the Five Subsidiary Bodily Winds and the Process of Dying

Sunday, Sep 19 12:30-01:30 PM

The list of five principal bodily winds (prāa, apāna, udāna, vyāna, and samāna) is well attested in classical Indian medicine and Vedic Upaniṣads (Bhadārayaka Upaniad, Chāndogya Upaniad). Their role in stimulating the various bodily organs and parts is often mentioned in these ancient texts and has been scholarly addressed and studied by indologists (see, in particular, the two articles of Kenneth Zysk 1993 and 2007, on the bodily winds in Ancient India).

To these principal five bodily winds were later added a set of five other winds, transmitted in the tradition of Tantric yoga as early as the 6th-7th centuries. We so far know very little about the early history or about the bodily functions of these subsidiary winds, which spread through the Tantric yoga texts from the end of the first millennium, and then through the haṭhayoga texts.

Owing to the new material provided by the Dharmaputrikā Sahitā, an early text on yoga, it is now possible to have a more precise idea of ​​the role of each of these five subsidiary bodily winds within the framework of the practice of ancient yoga.

In this lecture, I propose to introduce the teaching of the Dharmaputrikā Sahitā regarding the subsidiary bodily winds named: nāga, kkara, kūrma, devadatta, and dhanañjaya, and to specify their role in the final process of the meditation of the yogin.


Dr. Jason Birch: Yoga across Sectarian and Lingual Divisions: The Complex Āsanas of Mohanadāsa, Śivānandasarasvatī and the Baḥr al-Ḥayāt

Sunday, Sep 19 09:00-10:00 AM

In the conference 'Yoga in Transformation' at Vienna University 2013, I presented my research on an unpublished manuscript of a late-sixteenth century Sanskrit compilation on yoga called the Yogacintāmaṇi.

This work contains names and descriptions of many unique yoga postures (āsana), six of which occur in a Persian work from the same era, known as the Baḥr al-Ḥayāt. These āsanas were attributed to a Mohanadāsa, whom I was unable to identify at the time.

In this paper, I will present recent findings on a collection of twenty-three āsanas attributed to a Mohanadāsa in an unpublished medieval Hindi work on prognostication and nasal dominance (svarodaya). All of these postures correspond to those in the Baḥr al-Ḥayāt and both works teach them in a similar order.

This Hindi work provides clues on the identity of Mohanadāsa and the provenance of this extraordinary collection of āsanas.


Prof. Gudrun Bühnemann: In the Presence of Patañjali: Two Samādhi Shrines in South India

Saturday, Sep 18  09:30-10:30 AM

In recent decades the figure of Patañjali has emerged as a powerful symbol of Yoga.

Like no one else, the Indian Yoga guru Swami (or Baba) Ramdev (b. 1965) has popularized Patañjali’s name as an authority on Yoga and Āyurveda throughout India. He adopted the name for a line of products marketed as Patanjali® and Patanjali Ayurved®.

In addition, he named a network of educational institutions in India after Patañjali, including Patanjali Yogpeeth, Patanjali Ayurvedic College and the University of Patanjali outside of Haridwar in the state of Uttarakhand, North India.

A large Patañjali statue was installed on the premises of Patanjali Yogpeeth (Phase I) in ca. 2006. It is only one of the several statues of Patañjali placed in public spaces in contemporary India, the Patañjali shrine in the Dhyānaliṅga temple complex at the Isha Yoga Centre (approx. 30 km west of Coimbatore in South India) inaugurated in 1999 perhaps being the oldest.

Several places in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have claimed to be sites where the sage was born, and some have erected signs marking the spot. Currently, two South Indian temples are believed to house jīvasamādhis on their premises, that is, tombs where the siddha and yogī Patañjali is said to have left his body voluntarily in deep meditationand is believed to be eternally present. One samādhi is located in a shrine in the Ramanathaswamy temple on Rameshwaram Island. The other is housed in the 

Brahmapureeshwarar temple in the village of Tirupattur located about 30 km from Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) in Tamilnadu. Both samādhi shrines appear to be later additions to the two temples.

While these two samādhi sites must be viewed in the larger context of the ubiquitous jīvasamādhi shrines of siddhas found all over Tamilnadu, they are places of pilgrimage for Yoga practitioners in particular, having likely been built in the wake of the global popularity of Yoga.

This paper focuses on the layout and function of the two samādhis. In particular, it discusses visual representations of Patañjali at these shrines in the broader context of the development of the iconography of the sage.


Prof. Shaman Hatley: From Wheel of Channels (nāḍīcakra) to Jeweled Lotus (maṇipūra): A Brief History of the Navel (nābhi) in Tantric Yoga

Sunday, Sep 19 10:00-11:00 AM

Despite enormous contemporary interest in tantric conceptions of the body, especially cakras and kuṇḍalinī, there has been relatively little historical research on the subject.

Building upon articles written for the Tāntrikābhidhānakośa (“A Dictionary of Technical Terms from Hindu Tantric Literature”), this presentation takes up the navel (nābhi) as the locus for diachronic study of the yogic body, from classical yoga and early Śaiva tantras to sources of the mid-second millenium.

Virtually all ways of conceiving of the yogic body assign importance to the navel—as the hub, for instance, from which all the body’s channels (nāḍī) radiate, as the site of a granthi or knot, as the source of the central channel (suṣumnā), as the locus for various visualizations and the placement of mantra (nyāsa), or as the site of a lotus called maṇipūra (“full of gems”).

Early Śaiva tantras present multiple views and systems of practice, which shift and further diversify in the early-second millennium, particularly with the development of Haṭhayoga.

Questions this presention explores include: 

  • How did the bodily plexii of yoga come to be called “wheels” (cakra)?
  • Why do second-millennium Śaiva-Śākta traditions envision the vital force arising from the base of the torso, when prominent Indo-Tibetan systems of yoga envision it blazing upwards from the navel?
  • How did the navel come to be “full of jewels” (maṇipūra)—a designation first appearing in Kaula tantras of the Paścimāmnāya tradition?
  • In what ways do Haṭhayogic sources re-envision the navel of yoga?
  • Modern understandings of the tantric body have been indellibly shaped by the Ṣaṭcakranirūpaṇa of Pūrṇānandagiri’s Tattvacintāmaṇi, a ritual manual composed in sixteen-century Bengal. What were his own scriptural sources, however; how did this particular vision of the maṇipūra lotus come to be, and what accounts for its popularity?

Gazing upon the navel with such questions in mind affords new insights into how tantric meditational systems and conceptions of the body were adapted to new practices and cultic contexts.


Prof. Dr. Catharina Kiehnle: How a Yogī Should Die According to the Jñāneśvarī

Sunday, Sep 19 11:30-12:30 AM

In 2005 I published an article on 'The Secret of the Nāths: The Ascent of Kuṇḍalinī according to Jñāneśvarī 6.151-328.

There are two similar, though less extensive passages in Jñāndev's Old Marāṭhī Bhagavadgītā commentary, namely 8.47-137, and 18.1031-1037.

The latter is a short summary of Kuṇḍalinī yoga without any new aspects added. The former deals with the last moments before death and how a yogī should spend them as stated in Bhagavadgītā 8.1-15, where methods of meditation and bhakti are recommended.

Especially in stanzas 10-14 there are several points Jñāndev connects in his commentary with Kuṇḍalinī yoga.

In my paper I shall discuss this interpretation and the practical relevance of the passage.


Corinna Lhoir, M.A.: Ātman vs. Jīvā: Of Self and Soul in the Yoga of Jainism with Reference to the Yogapradīpa, a Medieval Jain text on Yoga

Saturday, Sep 18 05:00-06:00 PM

This paper will introduce the audience to one aspect of my PhD research. My PhD thesis examines the question of origin and philosophical heritage of a Jain medieval text by the name of Yogapradīpa with the aim of preparing a critical edition with an annotated translation. This paper presentation will focus on a part of this text which describes the Self (ātman/jīva).

The main theme of the Yogapradīpa is to see the Self (ātman) in the body by means of meditation. The goal of liberation requires following an eightfold path, thus demonstrating great similarity with the eightfold path presented by Patañjali in Classical Yoga.

However, in contrast to the sequence of the limbs listed in the Patāňjalayogaśāstra, the Yogapradīpa lists dhyāna rather than samadhī as highest member, thus assigning to the term an importance compared to the standing of dhyāna in other traditions such as Buddhism.

Focusing on verses and textual evidence drawn directly from the text and from relevant other Jain sources on yoga, this paper will elucidate how the Yogapradīpa describes the Self and then will compare the findings with descriptions of the Self in earlier Jain Yogic texts and discuss their relevance for karma and salvation: Does the point of view presented in this text reflect the traditional Jain perspective?


Nils Liersch B.A.+ M.A.: The Tattvayogabindu of Rāmacandra and its Fifteen Medieval Yogas

Friday, Sep 17 04:45-05:45 pm

In this talk I will summarize the most important findings of my ongoing Dissertation project, which is the constitution of critical edition and annotated translation of the Tattvayogabindu. 

The Tattvayogabindu is among a larger group of medieval Yoga texts that have been printed once, based on an arbitrary and now unkown ms. This first and only printed edition of 1905 is accompanied by a Hindi translation, but presented in the title as “binduyoga as part of the rājayoga”. No information on the source(s) is given and there are important discrepancies to the manuscripts that have already been checked.

Composed—according to the colophon—by one Rāmacandra in the 17th century, the text deserves attention, mainly because it provides a highly differentiated taxonomy of types of Yoga. It names and describes fifteen types of Yoga, which are presented as subtypes of rājayoga.

The whole text is a yogic compendium written mostly—verses are not indicated in the printed version—in prose, where different topics are introduced in sections introduced by recognisable phrases (idānīṃ … kathyate). Sections often deal with subtypes of Yoga and their effects, but also cover topics like yogic physiology.

Jason Birch has briefly described the text in the context of the “fifteen medieval Yogas”, which is a list shared by Nārāyaṇatīrtha’s Yogasiddhāntacandrikā, where these Yogas are however subjected to the Pātañjala Yoga. There are further connections to other descriptions of types of Yoga, as for instance Sundardās’ Sarvāṅgayogadīpikā (17th century), and the text is intimately connected to the Yogasvarodaya, which is, however, known only through quotations in the Prāṇatoṣinī. 

Thus the Tattvabinduyoga seems to be an important independent source for the fifteen medieval Yogas and thus a representative of a pre-modern conceptualization of Yoga just before its colonial reconfiguration.

The text is written in a simple, almost textbook style Sanskrit and was more likely nearer to the milieu of lesser educated practitioners than to Pandit theoreticians of Yoga. It provides materials and attests to an awareness in yoga circles of specific health effects of certain types of Yogas, a topic that is greatly expanded in modern Yoga.

A certain Yoga is said to cure incurable (asādhya) diseases, and in another practice one has to imagine in oneself from head to toe a bright light of different colours, which removes all diseases.

The text also has a lengthy passage on the importance of Guru worship, which is an important feature even into modern Yogic groups, but not sufficiently documented in the more well-known, high-brow Yoga texts.

Dr. Philipp Maas: Benevolence, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Detachment in Pātañjala Yoga and Early Buddhism

Saturday, Sep 18 03:30-04:30 PM

This presentation initially introduces a Buddhist meditation by which the meditating nun or monk creates benevolence, compassion, sympathetic joy and detachment, i.e., emotions for which the relevant Sanskrit sources use the terms “divine states of abiding” (brahmavihāra-s) and “immeasurables” (apramāṇa-s).

The earliest literal attestations of this meditation occur in early Buddhist literature that was composed many centuries before Patañjali created the Yogasūtra and its auto-commentary around 400 CE (i.e., the Pātañjalayogaśāstra). Literary references also abound in later Buddhist literature such as the Buddhist Yoga Manual, which illustrates the contents of the Brahmavihāra-Apramāṇa-Meditation in a lively metaphorical language.

From an analysis of these sources materials, the following picture of the historical development of the Brahmavihāra-Apramāṇa-Meditation within the Buddhist milieu emerges. Initially, the meditation was based on the conception of protective magic. It then developed into a particular method of attaining spiritual liberation (nirvāṇa) by expanding the meditator’s ego-conception to encompass the whole universe, before it was finally relegated to a means of securing a favourable rebirth.

The Buddhist Brahmavihāra-Apramāṇa-Meditation in its later development shares its expedient character with a mediation that is introduced in Yogasūtra 1.33 (and referred to at several further instances throughout Patañjali’s work) that aims at generating the same emotions as the Buddhist meditation, which it designates with identical Sanskrit terms.

Starting with Èmile Senarts article “Bouddhisme et Yoga” (1900), the terminological parallel between Buddhism and Pātañjala Yoga was noticed several times throughout the history of Indological research. Still, the exact relationship between Patañjali’s yogic meditation and the Buddhist Brahmavihāra-Apramāṇa-Meditation was never investigated in any detail.

Accordingly, several pressing questions concerning the history of Yoga, the connection of Pātañjala Yoga and Buddhist thought and the structure of yogic meditations remain open.

How is the meditation involving thecreation of socially relevant mental attitudes in Patañjali’s work historically and conceptually related to its Buddhist equivalent?

How was the Brahmavihāra-Apramāṇa-Meditation conceived in pre-modern South Asian culture outside the circles of Yoga and Buddhism?

And what is its relevance for yogic spiritual practice, meditation in general, and more specifically for attaining liberation (apavarga) or autonomy (kaivalya) through a unique meditation-derived insight?

This presentation will preliminarily address these and related questions and sketch the way leading to solid conclusions in future research.


Dr. James Mallinson: The Arrival of Physical Yoga in India

Friday, Sep 17 03:30-04:30 pm

About a thousand years ago the practice of yoga changed fundamentally. Prior to this period the only physical methods undertaken by yoga practitioners in India, apart from techniques of breath-control, involved mortifying the body by holding difficult positions for long periods, sometimes years on end. These methods, identified as physical techniques of tapas, continue to be practised by ascetics in India today.

The new methods, in contrast to these techniques of body-mortification, are techniques of cultivating the body, of nourishing and enhancing its vital energies in order to use them to bring about mystical states.

Some of the basic principles were already found in some texts, in particular the notion of the vital energy, usually understood as the breath, rising up the body's central channel. But the metaphysical principles and physical practices that appear in texts from about a thousand years ago are completely innovative.

In my presentation I shall briefly outline the evidence for physical yoga methods prior to this period before turning to the corpus of texts on haṭhayoga, i.e. yoga in which physical methods predominate, and charting the formalisation of these new yoga techniques.

This analysis will be complemented by art-historical materials that provide concrete corroboration for the sudden appearance of complex yoga postures in the textual sources. The sources that I will focus on include the Amṛtasiddhi, the Amaraugha, the Dattātreyayogaśāstra, the Gorakṣaśataka, the Vivekamārtaṇḍa and the Haṭhpradīpikā.

How and why these new teachings appeared is uncertain. I have some theories derived from my work on the Amṛtasiddhi, the earliest text to teach the practices and principles of haṭhayoga.

There are many parallels between the inner alchemy that is the dominant metaphor of its yoga teachings and the inner alchemy or neidan taught in Chinese texts in the centuries preceding its composition and it seems likely that China is the source of some of the Amṛtasiddhi’s teachings (in a similar way to how the practice of external alchemy in India is likely to owe its origin to Chinese teachings).

I find no parallels in Chinese sources for the practices of haṭhayoga, however, and I hope that we might explore possibilities for their origin in the discussion after my presentation.


Prof. Andrew Nicholson: Yogic Discipline for the Worldly King: Meditation and Self-Mastery in Sanskrit Manuals of Statecraft

Saturday, Sep 18 10:30-11:30 AM           

Is yoga practice appropriate for everyone, or is it only for monks and renouncers? What benefits of yoga might there be for those who are not seeking liberation in their current life from the cycle of death and rebirth?

To begin to explore such questions, in this presentation I will examine techniques of self-mastery, such as meditation and the “conquering of the senses” (indriya-jaya), described in manuals of advice to kings. I will make particular reference to Nāgārjuna’s “Precious Garland” (Ratnāvalī, circa 2nd. c. CE) and Kāmandaki’s “Essence of Statecraft” (Nītisāra, circa 6th c. CE).

            Texts on kingship in pre-modern India have often been stereotyped as amoral, anti-religious, or even “Machiavellian.” This barely disguised disdain among scholars, however, overlooks important features of these texts. Here we can find a specifically masculine ideal of perfection where the roles of “warrior” and “yogi” are blurred, such as the Mahāyāna Buddhist monk Nāgārjuna’s inclusion of “vigor” or “warriorhood” (vīrya) as one of the six virtues that a bodhisattva-kingmust cultivate.

Although Kāmandaki understands the goal of the king to be power, not spiritual liberation, the means he prescribes may often serve both ends. Such advice offered to kings presents insights that are relevant to the lives of householder yogis in the 21st century.


Dr. Karen O´Brien: Śāstras on Yoga and Yogācāra: Connected Concepts of Meditation between Early Hinduism and Buddhism in South Asia and Central Asia

Saturday, Sep 18 02:30-03:30 PM

This talk will address the interconnections between Pātañjala yoga and the early Buddhist meditative discipline of yogācāra, or yoga discipline. I will discuss examples from an extensive South Asian fourth-century CE treatise, Asaṅga’s Yogācārabhūmiśāstra, and a fragmentary text, the ‘Qizil Yoga Fragment’, found in Central Asia and dated to the c. fourth-sixth centuries CE.

By laying out the historical development of a systematised yoga discipline called yogācāra in Buddhism in the second to third centuries, we can assert that yogācāra was not merely a generic idea or term among Buddhists in this period (as Silk argued), but rather refers to a specific status and approach for Buddhist monastics.

Such knowledge of yogācāra circulated widely and most likely had some influence on the composition of Patañjali’s yogaśāstra in the c. fourth century CE. Through comparative reading, we can find textual evidence for shared thinking between Pātañjala yoga and Buddhist yogācāra – and this talk will highlight passages from selected books of the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra (the Śrāvakabhūmi, the Bodhisattvabhūmi and the parts of the Bhāvanāmayī Bhūmiḥ).

We will then turn to consider descriptions of yogic meditation as outlined in a short practice manual (another self-labelled yogaśāstra) found at Qizil on the Silk Road (and critically edited by Schlingloff in 1964).

Although the adept in this text is referred to as a yogin, these Buddhist meditation practices contain some elements that are bizarre or unusual in the South Asian contexts.

We will consider the arguments for accepting that these early Buddhist texts on yogācāra are relevant for a rounded understanding of yoga in the early common era and that engaging with these śāstras that can enhance our understanding of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra.


Prof. Dominik Wujastyk: The Path to Liberation through introversion (nivṛtti) in Early Ayurveda

Saturday, Sep 18 12:00-01:00 PM

In 2012, I published a paper “The Path to Liberation through Yogic Mindfulness in Early Ayurveda,”1 in which I explored the earliest Ayurvedic writings on the topic of yoga. That exploration revealed that probably a century or two before Patañjali, structured notions of a yogic path to liberation were circulating amongst physicians, and were integrated into their view of the philosophy of medicine.

In the present contribution, I will take this exploration of yoga-in-medicine a step further by discussing another passage about yoga and liberation that occurs in the same treatise, the Compendium of Caraka (Ca.śā.5).

This passage analyses the Puruṣa or “inner person” in the context of the Upaniṣadic concept of the two possible directions of a life: turned outward to the world, or turned inward towards self-examination, detachment and ultimate freedom.

[1]  Wujastyk, Dominik (2012) The Path to Liberation through Yogic Mindfulness in Early Ayurveda, in David G. White (ed.), Yoga in Practice, pp. 31–42 (Princeton University Press). Available at https://academia.edu/3216968.