Yoga Body, a book by Mark Singleton

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 8 14:48:47 UTC 2011

Yes, this is exactly what came to my mind too.  There are three appearences
of yuj in the dhātupāṭha, in fact:

   - 4.68, yuja samādhau
   - 7.7, yujir yoge
   - 10.264, yuja ... saṃyamane

accounting for yujyate, yunakti, and yojayati respectively, with slightly
different meanings.  In contrast to Nārāyaṇakaṇṭha, cited by Dominic, yoga
commentators like Bhoja derive yoga- (as in the Yogasūtra) from 4.68, thus
undermining, or even opposing, the "yoga means union" view.  Indeed, yoga is
sometimes glossed as "viyoga," i.e., separation (of, e.g., puruṣa and
prakṛti).  Clearly, the word is used from before the Mokṣadharma onwards in
many related but different senses.  Where semantic drift (as opposed to
historical phonological discreteness) becomes homonymy is of course
debatable.  But the fact that the grammarians distinguish three roots
suggests that the Sanskrit tradition internally sensed the word yoga as
being at least three homonyms.

However, there's a more important point.  I've just looked up the passage
about homonyms that has exercised George Thompson, and I think George has
missed the point that Singleton is making.  See the snippet
Google Books; and the relevant pages 15 and 16 from Singleton's book
attached to this email.  After a passage addressing the issue of partisan
ownerships of the word and idea of yoga, Singleton suggests that it might be
helpful to consider the English word "yoga" as a homonym of the Sanskrit
word *yoga*.  He doesn't quite put it like that, but it's clear enough that
that's what he means.  The point of this suggested strategy is to disconnect
the modern English use of the word from essentializing arguments about the
meaning and history of the Sanskrit word.  Singleton isn't actually arguing
that "yoga" in Sanskrit is a series of homonyms.

Dominik with a k.

On 8 March 2011 05:23, Dominic Goodall <dominic.goodall at> wrote:

> Dear List,
> Is this not just a reflection of the old idea that the form yoga can be
> derived from what have long been judged to be different verbal roots ?
> Commentators tend to defend their view of what yoga really is by quoting
> (from the Dhātupāṭha) either
> yujir yoge
> or
> yuja samādhau.
> Theistic commentators tend to favour the former (e.g. the tenth-century
> Kashmirian Nārāyaṇakaṇṭha commenting on Mṛgendratantra, yogapāda 2) .
>  Historical linguists may not believe these to be properly separate roots,
> but the view that yoga and yoga can be homophones appears to be quite an old
> one.
> Dominic Goodall
> École française d'Extrême-Orient,
> 19, rue Dumas,
> Pondicherry 605001
> On 08-Mar-2011, at 9:00 AM, George Thompson wrote:
> > Dear List,
> >
> > On another list there is a discussion of an interesting book with this
> title
> > written recently  by Mark Singleton.  In this book Singleton argues,
> > provocatively,  that modern hatha yoga practices are bearly a 100 years
> old,
> > and that they have been heavily influenced by early 20th century European
> > gymnastic regimens.   As far as I am concerned there is nothing
> > controversial about Singleton's interesting new claims.
> >
> > But early on in his book, Singleton tries to suggest that the term yoga
> in
> > classical Sanskrit is not just one term.  He claims that it is a series
> of
> > homonyms  \that mean different things in the Upanisads, the Gita, the
> Yoga
> > Sutras, the Shaiva Tantras, etc.
> >
> > But, in my view this is a very embarrassing error for any Sankrit scholar
> to
> > make.  In English "to," and "two," and "too," are homonyms.  Also,
> "threw"
> > and "through" are homonyms.  Aso, in some dialects of English, "marry,"
> > "merry," and "Mary," are all also homonyms.
> >
> > But in Sanskrit, there is is only one word, "yoga," which has only one
> form
> > but any meanings.  There are no homonyms of "yoga" in Sanskrit.  There is
> > just that single  word.  Singleton obviously has no idea what he is
> talking
> > about here when it comes to the notion of homony,m.  That's bad enough.
>  But
> > he is young, and maybe he can be excused for this slight error.  But in
> her
> > review of his otherwise good book Doniger repeats the same linguistic
> error:
> > the Sanskit terrn "yoga" consists, in her view, of several so-called
> > homonyms.
> >
> > This of course is very bad linguistics.
> >
> > I don't know what to think.  Should we just be silent about such small
> > errors?  Or should we call them out?
> >
> > George Thompson
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