(University of Vienna, Austria)


Some Problematic Yoga Sūtras and their Buddhist Background

In this paper, I discuss a small selection of sūtras from the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (PYŚ) that are sometimes misunderstood, or mistakenly considered problematic, by contemporary interpreters and even some of the earliest commentators. Some of these interpretative difficulties arise out of a lack of specific historical knowledge, especially of the language and content of early Buddhist literature. Several of the interpretations I shall present are not entirely new to indological studies, but their importance has been overlooked by some recent interpreters. The pioneering study by Émil Senart published in 1900 argued compellingly that the Pātañjalayogaśāstra and the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka contained passages and concepts that were either parallel or even conceptually identical. De La Vallée Poussin (1937) continued Senart’s work, and revealed further strong influences of Buddhism discernible in the PYŚ. With this background, I shall clarify some points of interpretation and discuss selected sūtras from the point of view of their value as diagnostic tests for the quality of scholars’ understandings and translations of early yoga texts. I shall give special attention to the historical background to the technical terms dharmamegha, asaṃpramoṣa, and anantasamāpatti.