Kenji Takahashi – Physiological Teachings of Yoga as Found in the Mahābhārata

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The ancient Indian epic Mahābhārata (circa BC 2C~ AD 4C), especially in its didactic parts, contains many intriguing early teachings of Yoga before the establishment of classical doctrines. Although the majority of these teachings are focused on theoretical matters such as meditation, analysis of human minds, creation of the world and others, we find several accounts that deal with physiological descriptions of human beings and physical Yogic practices. The present talk features the doctrines of bodily channels and embryology in the Vārṣṇeyādhyātma, one of the textual units poorly studied in the previous research. A closer look at the text reveals that the author/authors of those parts of the text attempted to integrate into his/their doctrines the system of Āyurveda tradtion that emerged around the same time as the composition of the Mahābhārata. I would like to analyze how the Yoga teachings in the epic contributed to the development of Sāṃkhya-Yoga and Haṭha-Yoga.

Kenji Takahashi is an assistant professor affiliated with the graduate school of humanities and sociology, the University of Tokyo. His current research interest includes early Sāṃkhya-Yoga philosophy, didactic discourses in the Mahābhārata and history of Śaivism.