6. Lay Sāṃkhyayoga Practices in Contemporary India

Embodied Reception - South Asian Spiritualities in Contemporary Contexts - Henriette Hanky

Knut A. Jacobsen [+-]
University of Bergen
Knut A. Jacobsen is Professor in the Study of Religions at the University of Bergen. His most recent publications include the Routledge Handbook of South Asian Religions (2021), Handbook of Hinduism in Europe (2020) and Yoga in Modern Hinduism (2018). He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the six-volumed Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Brill, 2009–2015).


This chapter presents some of the practices of the Kāpil Maṭh monastic institution founded in early 20th century that subscribe to the teaching of the Yoga and Sāṃkhya systems of religious thought with Pātañjalayogaśāstra and Sāṃkhyakārikā as the foundation texts. The chapter argues that their practice is based on an understanding that all is suffering which is stated prominently not only in the Yogasūtra but also in the Sāṃkhyakārikā. Suffering is because of a basic disharmony at the foundation of the material creation (prakṛti) and the avoidance of pain means the avoidance of the uniting of the subject (puruṣa) and the object (prakṛti) (Yogasūtra 2.17) and when this union ends, the cycle of rebirth also ends. The followers of the Kāpil Maṭh realize that it will take many lifetimes to attain this. What is attainable in this life is the improvement of their karmāśaya and vāsanās. In the Kāpil Maṭh one important way of influencing the vāsanās is repeating the teaching of Sāṃkhyayoga every day in ritual recitation of stotras that state the teaching and goals of Sāṃkhyayoga. This recitation creates a state of mind that leaves an impression, a saṃskāra and forms a behavioral tendency, a vāsanā and prepares for a Sāṃkhyayoga practice that will continue over many lives. This understanding that no practice of Sāṃkhyayoga is lost but shapes tendencies over many lives is an essential aspect of the yoga tradition of the Kāpil Maṭh. The teaching of Sāṃkhyayoga is here closely connected to conceptions of rebirth and does not make sense without the doctrine of repeated embodiment.

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Jacobsen, Knut. 6. Lay Sāṃkhyayoga Practices in Contemporary India. Embodied Reception - South Asian Spiritualities in Contemporary Contexts. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2024. ISBN 9781800503540. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44425. Date accessed: 03 Feb 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44425. Oct 2024

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