South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - The Guru and the Mantra: Transcending Time in the Philosophy and Practice of Yoga

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Marigold, New Building

Yoga is one of the six classical darśanas or philosophies that originated in India around the turn of the first millennium CE. As defined in its founding text, Patañjali’s Yoga-sūtra, yoga aimed at citta-vṛtti-nirodha or cessation of external sense perceptions towards accessing a certain integral (yuj) state of inner consciousness. In later traditions, reflected in texts like  Siddha-Siddhānta-Paddhati (c.11th-13th century), Haṭha-Yoga-Pradīpikā (c.15th century), and Mantra-Yoga-Saṃhitā (18th century), its practice came to be aligned with another esoteric praxis, Tantra, and the latter’s bodily cosmology.


These texts and spiritual traditions were centrally concerned with two questions: how is this state of integral consciousness to be achieved? And how is this knowledge to be transmitted? This paper will argue that their answers were organised around the concepts of guru (preceptor) and mantra (word-formula). These concepts not only facilitated a continuous living tradition (paramparā), still extant in the form of the Gorakhnath cult, but, significantly, threw up a complex relationship with kāla (time/death). This is reflected in three related aspects of Yoga that this paper will discuss -- the guru, who is not bound by time, yet manifests himself in human form across eons; the dīkṣā (initiation) which facilitates access to the entire spiritual lineage, regardless of the passage of centuries; and the mantra that induces that special state of inner consciousness where time ceases. Yoga sādhanā (practice) thus entails a flexible and limitless temporality that ultimately culminates in transcendence of time. 

Tarinee Awasthi

Cornell University, United States

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2 - The Guru and the Mantra: Transcending Time in the Philosophy and Practice of Yoga



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