If at the time of Buddha we could have asked the individual yoga adept what is the purpose of practising yoga, we would probably have had different answers depending of the respondents’ position in society. Some Kshatriyas would have pointed to the benefits of the supernatural powers of yoga, either in this life or in the otherworld. Some conservative Brahmins would have pointed to yoga’s capacity to restore or accumulate caste purity – its ability to create and legitimise social difference. Finally specialists within the embryonic cultural field of moksha (liberation)- and here we find a great variety of social groups -would all have pointed at yoga’s ability to release their soul from re-birth.
What do we mean by a cultural field like the field of liberation? Liberation is a cultural field as are for instance sport, linguistics, law, medicine, art, philosophy and literature. Within a cultural field there are professional specialist who struggle among themselves about who can define the categories of the field: its subjects, themes, truth, value, boundaries, methods, and priorities. Through their discourses and interaction with the surrounding society these specialists have enforced – through a power discourse – acceptance as the experts of the field and recognition as the people who can define and further develop the knowledge of the field. The knowledge of the field becomes a resource, which they accumulate and control. It becomes cultural capital, which they as professionals can exchange with society.
Within the cultural field of liberation in pre-modern India we find constantly that there is strong competition about who can occupy and define this field. Initially Jains and Buddhists dominated it, but soon groups like Kshatriyas and Brahmins – who came up with the umbrella sign yoga’ – were moving in. Each group in the field tried to enforce its sign systems and ways of categorisation. Within each group specialists further competed with each other about the right to define liberation, its signification and its paths. There was no agreement, no established and generally accepted rules, methods, truths, signs and so on. However there were at this point two dominant polarities within the field of liberation mirroring two different and opposing discourses, historical epochs and their inherent power discourses (codes’ ). So despite all the disputes we can define two conflicting underlying power discourses or codes making liberation possible. They are the subject of this contemplation.
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