Yoga and Māyā in the Bhāgavata-purāṇa

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Gopal Gupta
Date: February 3, 2011
Time: 14:00 to 15:00

Among Puranic literature, the Bhagavata Purana has been most influential, both in intellectual circles and in popular Hinduism. The Bhagavata offers a unique form of yoga that is indebted to earlier texts, such as the Mahabharata and Patañjali’s Yoga-sutra, but is nevertheless distinct from them in an important way—the Bhagavata blends its characteristic emotional bhakti with the otherwise staid practice of yoga. This paper argues that the shift from the normative bhakti of the Mahabharata to the emotional bhakti of the Bhagavata is made possible primarily through the concept of yoga-maya. The paper examines the relationship between yoga, the yogi, yoga-maya, and yogesvara in the two texts, and shows that without maya, the intensity of the emotional yoga between the devotee and Krsna found in the Bhagavata cannot take place. While non-dualist Vedanta philosophy often sees maya as a negative force, this paper argues the Bhagavata affirms just the opposite – the devotee’s place under the veil of maya is a desirable situation as it allows for the experience of intimate love. Gopal Gupta is currently pursuing a D.Phil. in Hindu Studies at the University of Oxford.