Professor Harunaga Isaacson Lecture: Yoga in the Buddhist Yoginītantras


Professor Harunaga Isaacson will lecture on "Yoga in the Buddhist Yoginītantras" on Wednesday, November 15, at 7:00 pm at the Movement Center, 1021 NE 33rd Avenue, Portland, Oregon. All are invited. 

Professor Dr. Harunaga Isaacson is a world-renowned Sanskritist with exceptional expertise in the fields of Vajrayāna Buddhism, classical  Sanskrit poetry, classical Indian philosophy, Purāṇic literature, and manuscript studies. In 1995 he was awarded the doctorate by Leiden University for his work on materials of the Vaiśeṣika system of philosophy. For the next five years he worked with Professor Alexis Sanderson as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the University of Oxford. From 2002 to 2006 he was Assistant Professor in the Department of South Asia Studies in the University of Pennsylvania; and from 2006 until the present he has been Professor of Classical Indology in the University of Hamburg. In the field of Indian Vajrayāna Buddhism, on which he will be giving his lecture, he is undoubtedly the world’s leading authority, exploring its vast unpublished literature in Sanskrit and Tibetan and bringing to bear on it a degree of rigorous scholarship that has rarely been seen in classical Indology and never before in this branch of it.


Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California at Berkeley

Professor Alexis Sanderson delivered a lecture on Khmer Śaivism and gave a three-day extensive reading and explanation of the introductory section of Abhinavagupta’s Tantrāloka for an audience of doctoral researchers and colleagues at the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, October 2016.

Here is Professor Sanderson's description of his Lecture on Khmer Śaivism:

Of Śaivism, Pāñcarātrika Vaiṣṇavism and Mahāyāna Buddhism, the three Indic religions that flourished among the ruling and priestly élites of the Khmers up to the 14th century, Śaivism was predominant. We see this in the śaivization of the land through the creation of a large number of local Śivas bearing the names of Indian prototypes (a phenomenon not seen in the other two traditions), in the role of the Śiva Bhadreśvara of Vat Phu as a national deity and protector of the monarch, in evidence of the institutionalization of Śaivism as the religion of the state, and in traces of Śaiva inroads into Khmer Vaiṣṇavism and Buddhism.

Indian Śaivism was not static or homogeneous and Khmer Śaivism reflects some at least of this diversity and development over time. We see Pāśupata Śaivas of the Atimārga in the inscriptions of the seventh century and when the epigraphic record returns from the late ninth to the fourteenth we find that they have given way to Śaivas of the Mantramārga practising the Saiddhāntika and Vāma ritual systems. The evidence among the Khmers for all of these traditions, and also for that of the lay Śivadharma, will be considered, as will the evidence for the granting of Saiddhāntika Śaiva initiation to the Khmer monarch. It will also be shown that the Khmers’ importation of Śaivism was not continuous. It did not keep up with developments in India but preserved in the case of the Mantramārga an archaic form belonging to its earliest Indian phase, a form soon abandoned in India itself. This lack of continuous contact during the most creative phase of the Indian Mantramārga also explains the absence from the Khmer epigraphic and material evidence of large parts of the mature Mantramārga, most notably the cults of Bhairava and the Śākta Śaiva cults of goddesses. In line with developments in Sumatra and Java Khmer Buddhism seems to have maintained a more continuous line of communication, adopting, for example, elements of the late Tantric Buddhism that was the reflex of the Śākta Śaivism lacking among the Khmers.

The relationship between the Śaivism of initiates in both the Atimārga and the Mantramārga with the lay Śaivism of the uninitiated will also be considered. It will be argued that the differences between the Atimārga and the Mantramārga had little perceptible effect on the public aspects of the religion as embodied in the iconographic range of Śiva forms and ancillary deities in Śiva's temples. That iconographic program, which concerns the laity, has no place in either the Atimārga or the Mantramārga. It has its own history, which neither system did much to modify. The richness of the Khmer iconic and epigraphical evidence is in this as in other respects highly instructive not only for the student of the nature of Indic culture beyond India but also for those seeking to clarify the history of religion in India itself.

Finally, I shall consider some evidence that the Khmer version of Indian Śaivism includes some elements that appear to have no Indian prototypes.

A Hidden Yogic Tradition: Karaṇa and Mudrā as Means of Enlightenment in Vidyāpīṭha Śaivism

Professor Alexis Sanderson delivered a lecture by invitation on September 14, 2016, in All Souls College in the University of Oxford, entitled "A Hidden Yogic Tradition: Karaṇa and Mudrā as Means of Enlightenment in Vidyāpīṭha Śaivism." This lecture was part of the Sanskrit Texts on Yoga Workshop,  held from the 12th to the 16th at September, 2016, by the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and All Souls College, Oxford, in The Hatha Yoga Project (2015-2020).

The Hatha Yoga Project is  a five-year research project to map the history of physical yoga practices using philology and ethnography.  The team consists of Dr James Mallinson, Dr Mark Singleton, Dr Jason Birch and Dr Daniela Bevilacqua (SOAS), together with Dr Viswanath Gupta (Institut français d’Indologie, Pondicherry, India).  The project’s outputs will include ten critical editions and translations of key texts on haṭha yoga, and four monographs. Professor Alexis Sanderson is on the Advisory Council for the Project.

The project, whose full title is The Hatha Yoga Project: Mapping Indian and Transnational Traditions of Physical Yoga through Philology and Ethnography, is based at SOAS, University of London, and is funded by a €1.85m European Research Council Consolidator Grant.

The audio of Professor Sanderson's lecture is available here.