This lecture will explore the ascetic background of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra passage that deals with āsana (2.46-2.48) and offer a new interpretation of that passage. It will argue that Patañjali participates in an earlier discourse on overcoming the hardships of prolonged meditation and ascetic life in the wilderness by using meditative techniques to suffuse one’s body with a pleasant feeling or bliss (sukha) that cancels out the pain (duḥkha) which might otherwise be felt. Such a discourse linking āsana, sukha, and meditation is found primarily in the early Buddhist literature.
Valters Negribs studied social anthropology, study of religions, and traditions of yoga and meditation at SOAS (University of London) before coming to Oxford to work on a doctoral thesis “Ascetic teachings for householder kings in the Mahābhārata”. Valters joins the OCHS as a visiting fellow while waiting for his viva. After a successful defence of the doctoral thesis he will begin a Leverhulme postdoctoral fellowship with Groupe de Recherches en Etudes Indiennes (Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3/ EPHE), working on “Ascetic literature in early Hindu, Buddhist, and Jaina traditions”.