The Language of Yoga

The distinction between “Vedic Sanskrit,” which is anything but pure and precise, is different to the later, refined Classical Sanskrit, which itself has multiple layers. This is the reason why scholars can show how various sections of texts were likely composed and inserted later, as the language used is identifiably different.

If the reader is curious, here is some of the original “language of Yoga,” which one could apply some sort of intersectional critical deconstructionist literary theory.

Below are portions of three Vedic poems, the translations are provided by Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton. The first excerpt is taken from the eleventh poem of the second “book” of the Ṛgveda. It clearly shows the virtues extolled in getting drunk, excited, and tending to a clear culture of “toxic masculinity,” which anticipates accumulating wealth, power, and prestige through success in battle.

The twelfth poem of the third book reveals an ancient colonial expansionist delight in causing trauma through again getting Indra and Agni drunk so that they might destroy, through arson, essentially, 90 fortified encampments of the poet’s enemies. The Dāsas were an indigenous group that the Vedic Aryans conquered in their period of “smash and grab” settler-colonialism.

In the thirty-second poem from the first book, Indra’s “heroic deeds” are again extolled. These poems are all about hyping up Indra while filling him with liquor to get him to help destroy one’s enemies. Indra’s toxic masculinity is celebrated, though he assaults marginalized invalids who cannot defend themselves.

Finally, it is worth pointing out the confusion, particularly amongst stewards, relating to mislocating the Ṛgveda as the source the seminal “Yoga orthodoxy,” idea of the paramātman (universal soul) and jīvātman (individual soul). These ideas emerge in later upaniṣads — the Bṛhadāraṇyaka and the Kaṭha. The issue is that, doctrinally speaking, these two upaniṣads are respectively linked to the Śatapathabrāhmaṇa/Śuklayajurveda and the Kṛṣṇayajurveda. Neither are linked to the Ṛgveda, even though some might say. This is a clear example of an academic losing sight of the yoga mats from the yoginīs. Who needs pesky details when one is too busy honoring Yoga’s roots?

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