This online course will introduce students to the interconnections between the classical Yoga of Patañjali and the systems of mind-body practice that are described in Buddhist texts of the same period. In particular, we will consider early Buddhist expressions of Yogācāra (Discipline of Yoga) and some key schools of Buddhist Abhidharma from the early first through fifth centuries CE.
The presence of Buddhist terms, ideas, and practices in the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (the Yogasūtra and its Commentary, the Bhāṣya) has long been noted and discussed by scholars and practitioners of yoga. Over four weeks, we will pull together key strands of scholarship and also dive into close readings of passages in early Hindu (i.e. Brahmanical) and Buddhist texts on meditation and the discipline of yoga. In particular, we will look comparatively at the parallels between the Pātañjalayogaśāstra, Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, and Asaṅga’s Yogācārabhūmiśāstra.
Some familiarity with the Yogasūtra of Patañjali will be useful. No Sanskrit is required; some key glossaries will be provided to students.
Module 1 — Buddhist ideas in the Pātañjalayogaśāstra
Module 2 — Pātañjala Yoga and Abhidharma
Module 3 — Key ideas and sources in early Yogācāra
Module 4 — Pātañjala Yoga and the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra
Students Will Receive:
- 4 Pre-recorded Video + Audio lectures (90 min)
- 4 Pre-recorded Q&A sessions (90 min)
- 4 YS Credits
- 12 Hours of CE credit with YA
- Course Syllabus (PDF)
- Weekly Readings (PDF)
- 4 Multiple Choice Quizzes
- Yogic Studies Certificate (PDF)
- Access to the private Community Forum
Dr. Karen O'Brien-Kop
Lecturer in Asian Religions and Ethics at the University of Roehampton, London, UK
Karen O’Brien-Kop is Lecturer in Asian Religions and Ethics in the Department of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Roehampton, London, UK. She received her PhD from SOAS University of London, is a specialist in the historical study of meditation and yoga within Asian religious traditions, and analyses early Hindu and Buddhist meditation manuals in Sanskrit.
She has taught on the MA Traditions of Yoga and Meditation at SOAS University of London, and at the University of Roehampton she has designed a new BA module 'Yoga, Meditation and Health'. Since 2018, she has served on the committee for the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies, an academic research and teaching centre focused on public engagement. In the American Academy of Religion, Karen is a committee member for the Yoga in Theory and Practice Unit and co-chair of the Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit. She has published peer-reviewed articles in Religions of South Asia and Journal of Indian Philosophy and is co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies (2020), an interdisciplinary volume of 34 chapters from global contributors. Karen is currently working on a book project on rethinking classical yoga in relation to Buddhism.
"The Buddhist (Yogācāra) influence on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali is significant, and YS 109 lays it out in detail. Dr. O'Brien-Kop is a superlative scholar and lecturer who welcomes students' inquiries. I look forward to following her research on Indian philosophy for a long time to come!"
— YS 109 Student
"Dr. Karen O'Brien-Kop is an excellent lecturer who has a great grasp of her material and is a very accommodating and helpful tutor. I would heartily recommend her course to those interested in the linkages between classical yoga and Buddhism."
— Michael Chow, Sydney, Australia
"YS 109 introduces some intriguing connections between Patañjali's Yoga Sūtras and what was happening in contemporaneous Buddhist thought. Dr. Karen O'Brien-Kop expertly guides the student through the technical details, and provides much food for thought concerning the historical milieu in which Patañjali composed his text. If you've ever wondered about the similarities between the Yoga Sūtras and Buddhist doctrine, this course is for you!"
— Jeff Berry, PhD, Salt Lake City, UT USA
"Classical Yoga and Buddhism is an excellent introduction to the complex field of study of the intertextual connections between both traditions. Dr. O'Brien-Kop's course is an excellent introduction of the background of the Yoga Sūtra and Buddhism intersections, combined with in depth case studies based on the main texts. The brilliant pedagogical structure of the course makes it possible for even the "not initiated" to build an accurate understanding of the course topics. The dedication of Dr. O'Brien-Kop in order to help clarify student's doubts and difficulties, suggest further bibliography, etc. in the Q&A sessions and on the community forum platform is invaluable. Thank you Yogic Studies!"
— YS 109 Student
"Dr. Karen O'Brien-Kop has delivered an excellent course! I have been a yoga practitioner for over forty years and have been involved with Buddhism (mostly Tibetan) over those years. Generally the divisions between Yoga and Buddhism are emphasised, not the positive comparisons. Dr. O'Brien-Kop has had the difficult task of marrying two parallel but (in the modern tradition) often rival traditions (not helped by the fact that both Yoga and Buddhism have each splintered into a million paths). This means she is tilling a no-man's land which has been left fallow for too long - and it has not been an easy task for her to open up this territory - but she has done it. I have been greatly impressed by Dr. Karen O'Brien-Kop's scholarly impartiality in delivering this course. I loved the way she encouraged questions from participants and handled all enquiries with respect. I have learnt much and am still learning. Many many thanks!
— YS 109 Student
This course is eligible for 12 hours of Continued Education (CE) credits with Yoga Alliance
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