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Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy

Stephen H. Phillips
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 368
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    Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth
    Book Description:

    For serious yoga practitioners curious to know the ancient origins of the art, Stephen Phillips, a professional philosopher and sanskritist with a long-standing personal practice, lays out the philosophies of action, knowledge, and devotion as well as the processes of meditation, reasoning, and self-analysis that formed the basis of yoga in ancient and classical India and continue to shape it today.

    In discussing yoga's fundamental commitments, Phillips explores traditional teachings of hatha yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and tantra, and shows how such core concepts as self-monitoring consciousness, karma, nonharmfulness ( ahimsa), reincarnation, and the powers of consciousness relate to modern practice. He outlines values implicit in bhakti yoga and the tantric yoga of beauty and art and explains the occult psychologies of koshas, skandhas, and chakras. His book incorporates original translations from the early Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutra (the entire text), the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and seminal tantric writings of the tenth-century Kashmiri Shaivite, Abhinava Gupta. A glossary defining more than three hundred technical terms and an extensive bibliography offer further help to nonscholars. A remarkable exploration of yoga's conceptual legacy, Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth crystallizes ideas about self and reality that unite the many incarnations of yoga.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51947-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Setting an Intention (or, Enlivening an Intention Already Set)
    (pp. 1-8)

    The consciousness traditions of ancient India constitute the roots of yoga teaching. Buddhism carried yoga eastward, and all Eastern spiritual traditions—including the martial arts—have common background with the yoga traditions of India. Some have argued that Christianity too is influenced by yoga, perhaps in the figure of Jesus himself. Clearly Sufism is. In India, traditions of yoga practice include or overlap with Vedantic, Jaina, Buddhist, Sikh, Vaishnavite, and Shaivite teachings. These are multidimensional complexes of ideas and culture, and are in large part the origins of yoga training programs that have spread all over the world.

    There is,...

  5. 1 Theory and Practice
    (pp. 9-40)

    Insofar as yoga practice is a form of bodily movement (and sometimes effortful absence of bodily movement), it does not require much theoretical knowledge. Although yoga is not mere exercise, intellectually it’s often only a matter of knowing the meaning of words that refer to basic body parts and motions, like lifting your arms and holding your palms together. A yoga teacher conveys skills, mastery of the body, breath, and so on from his or her own first-person point of view. It’s “knowledge how” rather than “knowledge that,” like how to ride a bicycle or to swim as opposed to...

  6. 2 Yoga and Metaphysics
    (pp. 41-78)

    All yoga practice and all Yoga philosophy presuppose a monitoring consciousness, though of course details vary with different theories. It is also presupposed that consciously, willfully locating one’s attention in the witness produces certain desirable results, such as, most dramatically and uncontroversially, an increased ability to withstand pain. It is also claimed that eventually the practice leads to supernal bliss. Be this as it may, at even a beginner’s level it is crucial to learn to observe steadily a bodily sensation without trying to alter it. But it will alter just by being witnessed, normally for the better. Recent philosophic...

  7. 3 Karma
    (pp. 79-109)

    Despite a widespread interpretation of “karma” as a kind of fatalism, just the opposite is at the heart of the notion: conscious shaping of natural desire, moral responsibility, and freedom. Karma (karman in Sanskrit) is a rich concept, having ramifications for ethics, epistemology, and philosophical psychology as well as metaphysics, according to practically all the schools of classical India. Through Buddhism, karma theory is also developed in Tibetan and Chinese philosophy. For our contemporary Yoga, the sense of “karma” in “karma yoga,” the yoga of action, is particularly important, since it is central to the Gita and other early yogic...

  8. 4 Rebirth
    (pp. 110-139)

    Before the materialist wave broke in the universities, the topic of reincarnation was of considerable interest to philosophy professionals. Pro-arguments by the great nineteenth-century British idealist, J.M.E. McTaggart, were widely discussed. C. J. Ducasse, President of the American Philosophical Association in the 1950s, defended the possibility in a well-crafted work of metaphysics.¹

    Ducasse’s theory goes as follows. A human being consists of personality and individuality (a psychic element). Only the latter could survive, Ducasse argues, since there is a physical and bodily component to personality. Individuality, however, is entirely psychological, consisting of “instincts, dispositions, and tendencies” formed by choices and...

  9. 5 Powers
    (pp. 140-162)

    This chapter addresses the goal, or goals, of yoga, particularly the tantric turn to harmony, integration, and transformation as yogic goal. The tantric ideal contrasts with but also is supposed to include spiritual transcendence. My aim is to connect Yogic ideas about this and other results of yoga practice—especially psychic powers, siddhis—with contemporary ideas about health and well-being. Yoga need not be one-sided, should not be one-sided, I shall argue while exploring first siddhi teachings in connection with the idea of enlightenment (samadhi), then views about emotional well-being through bhakti and the yoga of art, and finally the...

  10. APPENDIX A. Select Yogic Passages in the Upanishads
    (pp. 163-176)
  11. APPENDIX B. Yogic Passages in the Bhagavad Gita
    (pp. 177-204)
  12. APPENDIX C. The Yoga Sutra
    (pp. 205-226)
  13. APPENDIX D. Selections from (Tantric) Kashmiri Shaivite Texts
    (pp. 227-240)
  14. APPENDIX E. Selections from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika
    (pp. 241-250)
  15. GLOSSARY Sanskrit Words and Sanskrit-Derived Anglicizations
    (pp. 251-266)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 267-330)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 331-346)
  18. Index
    (pp. 347-358)