Dharma ain’t what it used to be
"What if, rather than revealing ‘true selves’ with ‘true purpose’, modern ideas about dharma project and reinforce the alienated modern self they seek to save?"
We are told that dharma is eternal and unchanging. It pervades, orders and structures our lives, our communities, the universe itself. However, modern ideas about dharma have their own peculiar history, and have taken this ancient concept in some strange new directions. A long-time keyword in globalised yoga, dharma has also become a reference point in the self-help industry, popular psychology, career counselling, and even ‘enlightened’ business practice. It is claimed that it will help you find your True Path, your True Purpose, and even your True Self: alluring promises indeed in our ‘post-truth’ world. But what if, rather than revealing ‘true selves’ with ‘true purpose’, modern ideas about dharma project and reinforce the alienated modern self they seek to save? What if, instead of showing us what we really are, modern conceptions of dharma in fact tell us something vital about what we are becoming—as individuals and as a society? And what if, instead of the solution to the ills of modern life, dharma is just one more symptom of the problem?
What can people expect?
Talk, Philosophy, Theory
Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati: A Precursor to Modern Yoga
Film Seminar & Panel with Mark Singleton, Jacqueline Hargreaves, Jason Birch & Ruth Westoby.
The Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati is one of the ten Sanskrit texts that is to be critically edited and translated as part of Haṭha Yoga Project (HYP), a 5- year ERC research project hosted at SOAS, University of London. The Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati extends our knowledge of Haṭhayoga in India prior to the arrival of British colonialism as it locates moving and strenuous āsanas within a premodern tradition. Another striking innovation is the categorisation of āsanas into groups with the notion of sequences. This panel will begin with an introduction by Jason Birch and Mark Singleton, followed by a video re-construction of an āsana section along with Sanskrit recitation. A Q&A session will conclude the panel.
Mark Singleton’s research interests lie in the intersection of tradition and modernity in yoga. He was a research assistant at the Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research, University of Cambridge, in 2002-3, and went on to complete a Ph.D at Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity on the modern history of yoga. During this time he also began the formal study of Sanskrit. He taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses at St. John’s College (Santa Fe, New Mexico) between 2006 and 2013.
He has been a senior long-term research scholar at the American Institute of Indian Studies, based in Jodhpur (Rajasthan, India), and was a consultant and catalogue author for the 2013 exhibition ‘Yoga: The Art of Transformation’ at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.. He served as co-chair of the Yoga Consultation at the American Academy of Religions from 2012 to 2015. He is co-manager of the Modern Yoga Research website.
His books include Yoga in the Modern World (Routledge 2008, ed. with Jean Byrne); Yoga Body, The Origins of Modern Posture Practice (Oxford University Press 2010); Gurus of Modern Yoga (Oxford University Press 2014, ed. with Ellen Goldberg); and Roots of Yoga (Penguin Classics, January 2017, with Dr. James Mallinson). He has also written articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries on yoga.
His work in the Haṭha Yoga Project focuses primarily on the history of physical practices that were incorporated into or associated with yoga in pre-colonial India. He is collaborating with partners at the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, on a history of the yogic art and manuscript collections there (from the reign of Maharaja Man Singh, 1803-1843). He is also involved in the critical editing of three of the project’s core texts (the Yogacintāmaṇi, Haṭhasaṃketacandrikā and Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati).
Dr. Singleton was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Secret History of Yoga’ available here.