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

Axel Michaels axel.michaels at YAHOO.DE
Tue Mar 8 16:43:04 UTC 2011

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. 

Axel Michaels

Von: FRITS STAAL <fritsstaal at BERKELEY.EDU>
Gesendet: Dienstag, den 8. März 2011, 21:51:17 Uhr
Betreff: Re: [INDOLOGY] Yoga Body, a book by Mark Singleton

BUT: "the English word "yoga" is NOT a homonym of the Sanskrit word *yoga*.

> 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
> are
> 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

Frits Staal

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