I always smile whenever I hear people refer to themselves as “yogis” or “yoginis”. Especially when the person is a bit of a self-promoter to begin with. So I found it interesting to read the following passage from a recent essay by David Gordon White: my instinctive reaction does have a historical basis!
From Yoga in Practice pages 11-12:
Here it is helpful to introduce the difference between “yogi practice” and “yoga practice”, which has been implicit to South Asian thought and practice since the beginning of the Common Era, the period in which the terms “yogi” and “yogi perception” first appeared in the Indian scriptural record. On the one hand, there is “yoga practice,” which essentially denotes a program of mind-training and meditation issuing in the realization of enlightenment, liberation, or isolation from the world of suffering existence. Yoga practice is the practical application of the theoretical precepts of various yogic soteriologies, epistemologies,and gnoseologies presented in analytical works like the YS and the teachings of the various Hindhu, Buddhist, and Jain philosophical schools. Yogi practice, on the other hand, concerns the supernatural powers that empower yogis to take over other creatures’ bodies and so forth. Nearly every one of the earliest narrative descriptions of yogis and their practice underscore the axiom that the penetration of other bodies is the sine qua non of yoga.
The cleavage between these two more or less incompatible bodies of theory and practice can be traced back to early Buddhist sources, which speak of a rivalry between meditating “experimentalists” (jhayins) and “speculatives” (dhammayogas). … The gulf between yoga practice and yogi practice never ceased to widen over the centuries, such that, by the time of the British Raj, India’s hordes of yogis were considered by India’s elites to be little more than common criminals, with their fraudulent practices — utterly at odds with the true “science” of yoga, which, taught in the YS, was practiced by none — save perhaps a handful of isolated hermits living high in the Himalayas.
Here are (holiday) gift suggestions for your yoga teacher. You’ll notice that the titles I’ve chosen lean towards the academic (history, anthropology) side — I am after all, an ex-academic.
History of Yoga
Kirtan and World Music recording artist Dave Stringer on his home base:
People come to Hollywood with all kinds of expectations — fortune, fame, self-fulfillment of a certain kind — and are generally greeted with nil. … You try to control the timing of things, and you simply have to wait. In the face of all your attachments and desires, the universe says “no”, and you spend a tremendous amount of time staring at the void.
… The doors of Hollywood open sometimes to those who are more or less desire-less, and also to those people who are incredibly driven and ruthlessly ambitious. Ultimately, of course, there’s a price. But so you spend a lot of time staring at the void, at emptiness and disillusionment and ultimately you start to ask those questions again: “What am I here for? What does it all mean?” There are a lot of people dealing with that in Los Angeles and I think this is one reason why yoga is so popular there, why it is one of the epicenters of things yoga right now.
… People have a lot of time on their hands, often with more money than not. Or even without money, it’s a place where you really have stare at yourself and ask what all this means. So many of the things Hollywood offers turns out to be specters, mayas, illusion, and you have to contend with that, and also, in turn, yourself. So there are a lot spiritual opportunities there, underneath the surface. And I have met many, many, very spiritual people in Hollywood, all trying to come to grips with this paradox of seeing beyond illusion. But at the same time they’re working to create it. That’s the paradox.
Source: The Yoga of Kirtan
Heart and Soul recently invited 3 scholars to talk about the Gita: Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University; Julius Lipner, Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion and Fellow of Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge; and Jessica Frazier, Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Lecturer in Religious Studies at Regent’s College, London.
The result is a very accessible 30 minute discussion on a text beloved by seekers and Yogis throughout the world. Audio below: