© 2019 by Shyam Ranganathan

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YOGA, The Philosophy

Quite accidentally, while working on my PhD dissertation on ethics, the philosophy of language and translation theory, I translated Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra  from Sanskrit, in light of the challenge of translation I was working on.  The Yoga Sūtra  changed my life. 

There are many orientalist myths about eastern spirituality and Yoga. But the central focus of Yoga is not mysticism, but the challenge of personal freedom that comes by way of being reasonable, which involves distinguishing thought from various propositional attitudes that we might have. To be free is to control thought, as we do when we formulate an argument. To be in a state of bondage is for thoughts to control and influence us by way of our attitudes. In this case, we identify with our thoughts, and do not treat them as mere tools of public engagement that we are responsible for.  

Discipline, Yoga, involves taking a deflationary approach to representation (not believing it) but using it to track objects of inquiry and disagreement in a public world. 

The implications are numerous. For starters, it shows, like other Indian philosophies of meditation, that being a good person and reasoning are not different exercises: both involve getting over your own propositional attitudes that index the world selfishly to your perspective. Both awaken us to a public and objective world, which includes objectivity in reason (such as deductive validity).  

Second, it explains inquiry not as an exploration of propositional attitudes, but a practice ---a discipline, a yoga---that we can use to compare observations from differing perspectives to isolate objects of inquiry. 

Third it explains thinking externally: as a matter of meaningful behavior in accordance with disciplinary considerations. This not only solves problems of translation, but it explains why real learning is not a matter of cultural competence, but discipline. There can hence be many disciplines, individuated by their practices,  and correlatively differing objects of inquiry that play the role of accounting for disagreements relative to different disciplines. There's nothing exclusively human about thought so understood. Animals and Earth can be shown to think (and be persons) on this account. 

Fourth it helps understand that philosophy is a most general disciplinary practice, concerned with isolating our thoughts and concepts. 

Truth, what we come to understand after taking on disciplinary practice characterizes our veridical thinking about objects of inquiry. We come to participate in the public facts as we transcend our own partiality and selfishness. 

My translation of the Yoga Sūtra.

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In light of the importance of Yoga to help us overcome problems of Westernization, I have created Yoga Philosophy, a scholar-practitioner initiative. Yoga Philosophy helps people break barriers, master themselves, and move from a past of suppression to a freer future.