Yoga to height

Tradition construct gurus’ – an exercise in simulation

We certainly saw that the yoga discourse field struggled to refine and sophisticate its theoria and praxis. Yoga clearly lacked the institutional framework allowing a tradition and what that entails to emerge. Instead of building on the back of the old – with which it constantly lost touch – it mutated like wildfire, when the circumstances changed. The Tantric revolution, the colonial renaissance and modernist commercialism are clear examples of how the yoga discourse field was and is able to speed through significant processes of transformation and mutation. More conservative minded observers claim that these mutations of the yoga DNA are so significant that we should instead talk about new non-yogic species. However this leaves the contemporary yoga sympathiser to choose between an extinct past that cannot be reproduced and a present practice that cannot be approved by dogma.

Why has the yoga discourse maintained that it constituted a tradition’? Inherent in the notion of the yoga tradition is the claim that the present is an exact clone of the past. This claim has then been advanced to gain authenticity, truth and authority. Tradition’ is a sign loaded with ideology and power. In pre-modern, religious and romanticist discourses truth and value is most often placed in the past. Certain groups – the orthodox – then claim access to and monopoly of the past due to their inheritance of the tradition. The tradition’ implicitly establishes them as experts in a high-valued past loaded with truth. In this way they – the yoga gurus – accumulate symbolic capital in the present. Due to the sign tradition, the gurus are perceived to embody the cultural memory of yoga. However, we realise that the guru’ sign does not equal the tradition’ sign – the guru’ is in this respect a simulation: a sign which pretends to point to a given historical reality, but which instead only is pointing to another sign with no referent (no reality).

This has all the hallmarks of a power discourse. Yoga discourse through most of its history in one way or the other was a vivid power discourse.


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