Embodied Ascent, Meditation, & Yogic Suicide

in Sinister Yogis

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226895130
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226895154 | DOI:
Embodied Ascent, Meditation, & Yogic Suicide

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A set of actors, through their esoteric knowledge of the true nature of the self as well as of powerful spells, were empowered to reach the world of brahman (brahmaloka). These actors' knowledge-based soteriology especially carried forward the legacy of the yoga of the vedic poets. Even as the old paradigm of “going” was yielding to one of “knowing,” the language of yoga was retained in a fossilized form, with early puranic soteriologies postulating that throngs of still-embodied beings—called “yogis,” “great yogis,” “masters,” or “great masters”—inhabited a sort of antechamber to the highest realm of fully liberated beings. This chapter first describes embodied ascent and liberation in the early Upanisads and then turns to journeys into inner and outer space according to the Maitri Upanisad. It also discusses visionary ascent in the Bhāgavata Purāna and in early Śaiva scriptures, two-tiered soteriologies and the Prakrtilayas, and “yogic suicide” in the Tantras.

Keywords: yoga; yogis; embodied ascent; visionary ascent; Upanisads; brahman; liberation; Maitri Upanisad; Bhāgavata Purāna; yogic suicide

Chapter.  16751 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Hinduism

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