It’s a kind of magic: The powers of yoga and their interpretation

Speaker: Dr Angelika Malinar
Date: October 30, 2006
Time: 10:15

Majewski Lecture

Flying through the air, the remembrance of former existence, being insensitive to pain – all these phenomena are known as the ‘power’ of Yogins and are usually regarded as signs of a successful practice of Yoga. Already in the oldest texts, such as the Mahabharata (400 BCE- 400 CE) and the Yogasutra (4th-5th century, CE), they are called bala (power), siddhi (achievements) or vibhuti (manifestation of might). In academic contexts these powers were rather neglected since they have often been interpreted as an expression of ‘magical thinking’. The discussion of some of these academic views will be followed by an analysis of the description and interpretation of Yogic powers in the Yogasutra and the Mahabharata. It will be shown that the authors of these texts used their own philosophical framework for explaining the ‘conquest’ of the objects of Yogic practice.