Yoga with headache

It is in this period of Brahmin decline that the Mahabharata began to take form. Even if the Mahabharata was written by Brahmins, it reflected the issues and lives of the Kshatriyas (warrior nobility) and the urban elites. And judging from the stories in the Mahabharata, it seems that in these strata there was great interest in and knowledge about liberation discourses like yoga and Samkhya. We are here talking about the first milieu of yoga sympathisers -upper class strata driven by their fascination of the yoga sign. It seems that for them, like the first Jain proto-yogis, yoga often was a part of cultural practices and rituals related to dying and after death experiences. The yoga sign was not about turning their accumulated capital (their yoga knowledge) into a profession. Of course there would have surfaced yoga professionals who taught and assisted the sympathisers. But this was not the main issue for the upper classes. We can also see that some Kshatriyas were fascinated by yoga’s supernatural powers – the symbolic capital -, which legitimised and strengthened the power of the upper classes.

There might have been an oral and practical milieu consisting of mainly amateurs among the urban and state elites. This stratum however did not leave much written trace of yoga and other liberation discourses. Such a milieu of yoga sympathisers could have been both householders and people who left their households and joined the Sramana institution, maybe late in life, to live as ascetic vagrants seeking liberation. Many former warrior nobles would probably have found the ethical lifestyle and non-violence attitude of the Buddhists and Jains unacceptable, loathsome and scandalous. This milieu chose not to join the Buddhist and Jain orders but alternatively frequented Sramana milieus where alternative discourses like yoga and Samkhya were on the agenda. As we witness in the Mahabharata, such a milieu of mainly amateurs (non-professionals) could have developed the various advanced liberation discourses,.

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