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Brown Bag Series: The Ethics of Yoga: - Walt Whitman’s Spiritual Democracy

The yoga world has been rocked by a number of scandals in recent years. It seems that many teachers of yoga have not heeded the basic ethical guidelines found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, especially the imperative to practice ahimsa, non-harming of others. One might be excused in wondering if yoga has any ethics at all. I believe that yoga can represent an important contribution to contemporary conversations about ethics.
by Rob Peeler Dec 14, 2016
When Feb 02, 2017
from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Where 133 Sparks Building, University Park, PA 16802
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**Please note that this event originally was scheduled for December 2, 2016. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, this talk had to be rescheduled for February 2, 2017 at 12 p.m.**

Registration is required for this event. Register here.

Presented by Jeremy Engels, Sherwin Early Career Professor and Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences.

The yoga world has been rocked by a number of scandals in recent years. It seems that many teachers of yoga have not heeded the basic ethical guidelines found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, especially the imperative to practice ahimsa, non-harming of others. One might be excused in wondering if yoga has any ethics at all. I believe that yoga can represent an important contribution to contemporary conversations about ethics. To understand this contribution, however, we must approach yoga historically, studying its evolution over time.

This semester I have begun a new book project in which I plan to describe how the ethics of yoga comes alive through the interpretations of philosophers, gurus, and practitioners in the United States. I plan, in short, to offer a genealogy of how Americans from the early nineteenth century up to the present have conceptualized yoga and its relationship to political and ethical conduct. In this presentation, I offer a brief overview of my genealogy and then I will perform a close reading of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, published in 1855. I argue that this poem is a helpful model of how we might understand the ethics of yoga. This poem is also representative of what I call “spiritual democracy”—a form of politics that pursues the common good through the recognition of shared divinity as manifested in everyday, commonplace moments of human conversation and interaction.

*Note: This event is not approved SARI@PSU participation credit.