Narratives selves and embodied conditioning: Advaitin techniques for waking up within the saṃsāric story (HT17)

Location: Trinity College
Speaker: Dr James Madaio
Date: March 2, 2017
Time: 2.00-3.00

The phenomenon of experience is ambiguous, even chaotic, outside of explanatory models or narrative frameworks that saturate the world with meaning. In this hermeneutical context, I explore the relationship between the nature of the Advaita Vedāntin soteriological framework, egoity (ahaṃkāra) and embodied conditioning (vāsanā) in the work of the Advaita Vedāntin Vidyāraṇya (14th century) and his preeminent advaitic source text, the (Laghu-)YogaVāsiṣṭha. I argue that the nexus between conditioned ways of being in the world and interpretative frameworks is central to the ‘vertical’ movement of Advaita Vedāntin soteriology. In doing so, I pursue the synergistic intersection between Vidyāraṇya’s account of ahaṃkāra, articulated in his praxeological discussion of yogic inwardness, and his employment of pedagogical stories, or ‘narrative hooks’, as a means of drawing personae into the Advaita Vedāntin soteriological story and out of frameworks that concretize dualism and valorize objects. I conclude the paper with exploratory remarks about the nature of liberation-while-living (jīvanmukti) or ‘waking up’ within the interpretative story.

Dr. James Madaio is a fellow at the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. He received his PhD from the Religions and Theology department at the University of Manchester and has held research positions at New Europe College in Bucharest and at the University of Maryland, USA.