Yoga yamas

Buddhist and Jain meditation discourses

Tranquillity and insight meditation in Buddhism

By comparing Buddhist literature with Brahmin literature (the Mahabharata, Yoga Sutra etc.) – a task pioneered by E. Senar in the beginning of the 20 century – it is generally agreed by most scholars that the similarities are more than striking191: concepts, practices, processes, goals, and arguments are often almost identical. We will hear more about this as we study the Yoga Sutra. Some authoritative scholars like F. Heiler and G. Oberhammer even maintain that there is a common substratum of proto-yoga’ from which yoga and Buddhism developed. Today most scholars will probably agree with L.C. Cousins (1973 & 1992) and E. Crangle (1994) that the two traditions developed in close mutual interaction – maybe even to a degree that we today project differences between them into the past, which were never there.

So in this early period around the time of Buddha, it is often impossible to distinguish where ideas emerged first – within Buddhism, among other Sramanas, among Brahmins, or maybe even among Kshatriyas. Sociologically, we are witnessing a sub-culture of competing often semi-divine specialists competing for social status and economical survival. This is what is called a cultural field. In order to survive in a cultural field the loser has to copy the winner or invent even more powerful new strategies to which others have to relate, as in contemporary soccer where we see winning strategies being copied or refined by other teams, forcing re-adjustments on everybody else – and so the wheel turns in a system of dynamic adaptation. To reconstruct in detail 2000 years later what actually happened in such a process is almost impossible! However, let us have a brief look at the Buddhist competitors and see if that can tell us more about the emergent yoga discourse.

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