AW: [INDOLOGY] Yoga Body, a book by Mark Singleton

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Tue Mar 8 18:41:56 UTC 2011

Alex Michaels writes:

> A homonym is generally a word with the same spelling (homograph) and  
> the same
> prononciation (homophon), but different meanings. In this sense yoga  
> (Skt.) and
> yoga (Engl.) might be regarded as homonyms. I think it is this what  
> Singleton
> meant. But only if both "yogas" really mean something different, and  
> this
> remains disputed.

The claim that there are manifold "yogas" - and not just two - isn't  
new and isn't in dispute among serious yoga historians. E. Washburn  
Hopkins' was already talking about multiple "yogas" in his classic  
1901 study, "Yoga-Technique in the Great Epic," in JAOS, which can be  
read in full here:

Hopkins introduced the term 'yogas' himself on p. 348. The work covers  
a lot of linguistic ground beyond the Mahabharata, in which multiple  
senses of the word 'yoga' and cognate terms are manifold, as Hopkins  
pointed out at length.

David Gordon White also often makes the same point, most recently in  
his long discussion of the evolution of premodern ambiguities in the  
term in _Sinister Yogis_ (2008).  White cites here among things Peter  
Schreiner's observation that the term shows up nearly 900 times in the  
Mahabharata, with manifold senses, many in conflict, traced earlier by  

White's book in press on the reception of the _Yoga Sutras_ (including  
its commentarial traditions) also reportedly deals with the same topic  
in later medieval eras.

In other words, "The same name or word used to denote different  
things," as the primary definition of 'homonym' has it in the OED.

What recent yoga historians including Elizabeth De Michelis, Joseph  
Alter, David Gordon White, Mark Singleton, and others are trying to  
unwind in medieval and modern times are all these multiple senses,  
just as Hopkins was doing in his classic study of ancient uses of the  
term over 100 years ago.

Steve Farmer

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