Yoga Body, a book by Mark Singleton---Add "dharma"

mkapstei at UCHICAGO.EDU mkapstei at UCHICAGO.EDU
Thu Mar 10 14:21:26 UTC 2011

Some of those who are interested in the substantive
question of the evolution of the asana system
(and not the quibble about the use of the word
"homonym") may wish to take a look at the documentary
film "Yogis of Tibet." This includes a striking scene
of a monk performing the physical yoga taught
in connection with the "Six Dharmas of Naropa."

Of course, one cannot affirm that this practice, in
the form now known, strictly repeats 10th-11th century
Indian Buddhist practice, as is claimed. But it
should be noted that the textual record about it in
Tibet does trace back at least to the 12th c., so
there is no reason to imagine that it is a very recent
invention, though it may have undergone some changes
over time.

What is notable is that, although it does involve poses
that also are practiced in Hatha Yoga as we know it today,
it resembles the latter practice not at all. It is 
far more dynamic. 

I am not sure that it allows us to draw any firm conclusions
about the evolution of the asana system, but it does,
in my view, add a small bit to the evidence in favor
of Singleton's essential argument (which is not, as 
some have pointed out, the silly question about whether
"yoga" has become a homonym or not). I am convinced
that he is correct to hold that modern gymnastic yoga
emerged under the raj, and that the physical practices
of earlier Hatha Yoga were quite different.

Matthew T. Kapstein
Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies
The University of Chicago Divinity School
Directeur d'études
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris

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