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The Oxford History of HinduismHindu Practice$
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Gavin Flood

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198733508

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198733508.001.0001

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Haṭhayoga’s Early History

Haṭhayoga’s Early History

From Vajrayāna Sexual Restraint to Universal Somatic Soteriology1

Chapter:
(p.177) 7 Haṭhayoga’s Early History
Source:
The Oxford History of Hinduism
Author(s):

James Mallinson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198733508.003.0008

In India physical methods have been used for religious ends since at least 1000 bce. For two millennia these methods were simple techniques of privation in which the body was mortified, usually by holding a particular posture for long periods, in order to acquire tapas, ascetic power. The details of their performance were not transmitted in texts but, we must assume, passed on orally within lineages of renouncer ascetics. In the early part of the second millennium ce, a somatic soteriology whose physical methods are body-affirming appears in textual sources; some of its practices are depicted soon after in the material record. In certain Sanskrit texts these methods of yoga were classified as haṭha, which means “force”; haṭhayoga means “yoga by means of force”. In this chapter I shall analyse the history of the codification of haṭhayoga techniques up to the composition of the c. 1400 ce Haṭhapradīpikā, which became haṭhayoga’s locus classicus.

Keywords:   yoga, haṭhayoga, body, tapas, asceticism

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