The Poorna Study Group

At Poorna, we have decided to focus on the “plurality” abound in Indian thought and study multiple philosophical perspectives that have historically coexisted across the subcontinent but in time been obscured and eclipsed by the more dominant schools of orthodoxy. Today, the popular notion is that Indian philosophy is fundamentally religious, mystical, or rooted in myth. When in fact, a large portion of Indian darsanas (philosophies) are based on rationalism and phenomenology, and in fact accommodate a variety of oppositional perspectives on the idea of God: the materialists outright reject it, the realists choose to remain silent or indifferent to it, for Patanjali iswara (object of worship or God) is categorically optional, and the Shaiva schools render it poetically abstract. It is only the traditional religious orthodoxy that views it as Absolute, i.e. creator, cause and above all a moralising judge.

The texts we hope to study—mainly translations but in close reference to the original—will broadly belong to the canons of Samkhya, Nyaya, Buddhism, the Upanishads, Yoga, Tantra, including the poetics of Kashmir Shaivism and the linguists of Panini and Bhartrihari.  We plan to also approach these readings from the perspective of women and subaltern studies and freely incorporate the modern critical analysis of historians, anthropologists, philosophers, literary critics, philologists, poeticians and aestheticians.  
We base this ostensibly ambitious undertaking on two informed-presumptions, a) that the ancient texts, at least some of them, are not as complex or inaccessible as they are made out to be, and b) that even their first-hand “surface” reading would yield significant insights into the text, but more importantly the position it holds, the assumptions it makes, its affiliations, postulations, speculations, as well as the modes, methodologies, and practices it advocates or idealises. We feel that this information is critical to both understanding and verifying the ideas of the body that are culturally abound and which not only directly inform our embodied practices of yoga and dance, but govern our psyches and subliminally prescribe our understanding and relationship with our bodies. Thus, the main purpose of our “first-hand” reading is to skirt the various commentaries of these texts which can often be skewed as they may be coloured by prevalent or dominant doctrines. 

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