[INDOLOGY] Gerry Larson

David and Nancy Reigle dnreigle at gmail.com
Mon Apr 29 20:32:08 UTC 2019

Gerald Larson did something after retiring that was very inspiring to me,
and will no doubt be inspiring to others. Freed from teaching duties, day
after day for twelve years he worked persistently on a new translation of
Vācaspati-miśra’s Tattva-vaiśāradī commentary on the Yoga-sūtra and bhāṣya.
He regarded this commentary as crucial for understanding the Sāṃkhya-Yoga
tradition, and he felt that the two old translations of it (by Rāma Prasāda,
1910, and by James Haughton Woods, 1914) needed to be updated. His
translation was published in 2018 as *Classical Yoga Philosophy and the
Legacy of** Sāṃkhya, with Sanskrit Text and English Translation of
Pātañjala Yogasūtra-s, Vyāsa Bhāṣya and Tattvavaiśāradī of Vācaspatimiśra*.
The fact that so many scholars die with their work unfinished did not deter
him, and what he accomplished after retirement is an inspiration to us all.

As is well known, Gerald Larson was a specialist in the joint Sāṃkhya-Yoga
tradition. He and his longtime mentor Ram Shankar Bhattacharya together
produced two volumes of the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Volume 4. S
āṃkhya: A Dualist Tradition in Indian Philosophy (1987); and Volume 12.
Yoga: India's Philosophy of Meditation (2008). For many years he taught
classes on Sāṃkhya and Yoga combined, attracting hundreds of students
(including myself) by the word Yoga, and then introducing them to Sāṃkhya
as the underlying philosophical basis of Yoga.

Personal reminiscences often show less-known sides of a person. My
first-year Sanskrit class at University of California, Santa Barbara,
taught by Nandini Iyer, consisted of mostly former students of the
Maharishi International University (this was in 1978). They were strongly
interested in the Vedas, and implored Gerald Larson to teach Vedic
Sanskrit. Although this was not his personal interest, he kindly agreed to
do so. He had studied it briefly at Columbia University, I think from a
pupil of Vedic specialist W. Norman Brown. Despite not being particularly
interested in it, he not only agreed to do it, but the enthusiasm that he
brought to it in order to help his students was memorable.

Best regards,

David Reigle
Colorado, U.S.A.

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