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SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies

Jürgen Hanneder – Early Manuals of Meditation

About this event

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies was delighted to host Jürgen Hanneder, Professor at Philipps-Universität Marburg and principal investigator of the Light on Haṭha project, for a lecture entitled “Early Manuals of Meditation.” This is a recording of the event which took place on Monday, 10th June 2024 in the KLT at SOAS University of London.


Meditational practices are ubiquitous in Indian religions. In Buddhism meditation ranks among the most important practices, in many other religions within Hinduism it seems to occur in a bewildering multitude of forms.

Quite contrary to this Indologists would be hard pressed to produce many manuals of meditation that go beyond a typical form of name dropping. We do find many texts with stages of meditation, sub-stages and other scholastic differentiations, but these are usually based on or even merely consist of listings of doctrinal terms and their definitions. In frustration about this some Indologists have asked whether such texts were the product of scholastic philosophers with no practical knowledge of meditation.

So why not read the lesser known old texts? In this lecture Prof. Hanneder is intending to introduce two texts (Sanskrit and Tibetan) that for my taste do not fall into this category, but are not widely known. One describes a practice that has become, or perhaps remained, one of the preferred entry level techniques in Zen meditation, the other claims to capture the meditation technique of famous meditator, who is otherwise shrouded in mystery.


Jürgen Hanneder is Professor of Indology at Philipps-Universität Marburg (University of Marburg). Prof. Hanneder researches the languages, cultures and history of the Indian cultural area. He is the Principal Investigator of the Light on Haṭha project, which is a three-year research project that aims to bring together arts and humanities researchers in the UK and Germany to conduct outstanding joint research. The project recently published a digital critical edition and English translation of the Haṭhapradīpikā, authored by Svātmārāma in the early 15th century, which is arguably one of the most widely cited and influential texts on physical yoga, and is instrumental for the flourishing of haṭhayoga on the eve of colonialism.

Prof. Hanneder has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for his project “K-S-H-Raksa”, which is dedicated to preserving the Kashmiri Sanskrit heritage. He is receiving 2.5 million euros in funding over five years. The Kashmiri literary heritage has recently come under threat, not least due to political conflicts such as the expulsion of the Hindus in 1989. Recent research shows that the manuscript heritage of Kashmiri Sanskrit literature, which is scattered around the world and is no longer being catalogued in Kashmir itself, contains spectacular works. These include the largest picture poem known to date in world literature, recently published by Jürgen Hanneder.


Dr Karen O’Brien-Kop is a lecturer in Asian Religions at King’s College London. She researches early South and Central Asian Sanskrit texts and culture on meditation, philosophy of mind, and mind-body practices – in particular exploring the interconnections of Hinduism and Buddhism. Her books include Rethinking “Classical Yoga”: Meditation, Metaphor, Materiality and, along with Dr Suzanne Newcombe, she co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies. She is co-convenor of the Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions and a co-editor at the Religions of South Asia journal.

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies

Jason Birch – The Amaraugha and the Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga

About this event

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies was honoured to host a book launch for The Amaraugha and the Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga by Jason Birch (University of Oxford). This is a recording of the lecture, which took place on Monday, 19th February, 2024.

This book introduces, critically edits, and translates one of the earliest texts of the Haṭhayoga tradition, namely the Amaraugha of Gorakṣanātha.

In this talk, Dr Birch will discuss the historical importance of the Amaraugha (12th century), the earliest known work to teach a paradigm that combined Haṭha and Rājayoga. These two yogas represent the basic dichotomy of physical and mental praxis that became a salient feature of medieval yoga traditions and is still something of a touchstone for many practitioners of modern yoga. A close reading of certain passages reveals how physical methods of yoga from a tantric Buddhist tradition were adapted for Śaivas and shifted the emphasis from celibacy to moving kuṇḍalinī.

The Amaraugha was one of the main sources of the Haṭhapradīpikā, which created a template for Haṭhayoga that was widely accepted after the fifteenth century. By looking through the lens of the Haṭhapradīpikā, it is possible to see how the practice of Haṭhayoga evolved after the Amaraugha, and to appreciate the contribution of this early work to traditions of Haṭhayoga in the early modern period.


Jason Birch was awarded his doctorate at the University of Oxford and is a Senior Research Fellow of the Light on Hatha project, hosted at University of Oxford and the University of Marburg, which recently published an online critical edition of the Haṭhapradīpikā (2024). He is co-Director of the Yogacintāmaṇi project at the University of Massachusetts Boston and an Associate Researcher of the Suśruta project at the University of Alberta. His publications include The Amaraugha and the Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga (2024), a co-authored book on plastic surgery in the Nepalese version of the Suśrutasaṃhitā (2023), and numerous articles in academic journals on the history of Haṭha and Rājayoga. From 2015 to 2020, he was a Post-doctoral Research Fellow of the ERC-funded Haṭha Yoga Project at SOAS University of London. He is a founding member of the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies and the peer-reviewed Journal of Yoga Studies.

The Amaraugha and Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga

The Amaraugha and Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga is available for purchase via the EFEO Pondicherry. (Collection: Collection Indologie, Collection’s number: 157, Edition: EFEO, Institut français de Pondichéry (IFP), Publication date: 2024, Language: English and Sanskrit, Print length: 175 pages.)

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