This lecture will explore a body of non-systematic beliefs about the death and afterlife of virtuous persons in the Sanskrit epics. Many epic passages depict a Brahmin or warrior sage who exists after death in a luminous form in heaven, as a star, having entered the sun, or flying around in a luminous vimāna (flying palace-chariot). In the Sanskrit epics this usually happens to highly virtuous characters who have purified themselves through such practices as tapas or the observance of dharmic conduct. The lecture will sketch a possible historical development, noting that in the majority of epic passages the luminous afterlife of sages is not associated with yoga, whereas in some passages that are likely to be later the means of extracting a luminous self (ātman) from the body are portrayed as yogic techniques.
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”.