(University of Lausanne, Switzerland)


Sāṃkhya Interpretation in a Transnational Perspective: Śrī Anirvāṇa and Lizelle Reymond

The biographies of Śrī Anirvāṇa (Bengali author, 1896-1978) and Lizelle Reymond (a Swiss orientalist, disciple and translator of Anirvāṇa’s writings, 1899-1994) illustrate in a paradigmatic way the tight connections between India and Europe in the modern interpretation of yoga. In this presentation, the dynamics and mechanics of their encounter will be analyzed from the perspective of the ‘connected history’, seen as an antidote to euro-centred or nationalistic histories. Anirvāṇa belongs to a class of Bengalis that is impregnated by composite cultures and characteristic of his time. Steeped in local traditions (Baul), he has a classical training (Sanskrit) and is interested in modern science and works with authors reflecting the confluence of cultures; he translated, for instance, the work of Aurobindo into Bengali. Lizelle Reymond is an orientalist who introduced, together with Jean Herbert (she was his first wife), Europe to the spiritualities of India in the first half of the 20th century, founding the book series that later became Les spiritualités vivantes (Albin Michel, publisher). The writings of the two authors will be analyzed with regard to their descriptions of the concepts of puruṣa and prakṛti, and their biographies compared, with a view to determine the importance of transnational biographies as vectors to understand the modern history of yoga.