Quick Questions for David Gordon White

drishti-detailDavid Gordon White is the J. F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religion at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he focuses on “delineating the parameters of Tantra as the most perennial and pervasive ‘great tradition’ of South Asia.”

His books include Yoga in Practice (Princeton), Sinister Yogis, and, most recently, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography, which Library Journal calls “a fascinating presentation of the rise, fall, and rediscovery of the Yoga Sutra [that] will appeal to those looking to expand their knowledge.”

Now, on to the questions!

What inspired you to get into your field?

A high school history teacher who had been to India showed us slides of the country and spoke with great emotion about the people and culture there. At about the same time, the Beatles began sporting beads and Nehru collars, picked up during their stay with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh.


These non-fiction subjects have been as magical and wondrous as anything that surrealist or magical realist authors have ever produced.


What would you have been if not a professor of comparative religion?

I long fancied myself as a novelist, and do have a completed novel, written in the 1980s, sitting in a drawer. Graduate school stifled my creative writing mojo, although I do work very hard at making my academic writing readable and enjoyable for a non-specialist readership. I hope to get back to writing fiction at some point, although it must be said that the non-fiction subjects I have written on over the past decades (Hindu alchemy, the lives of yogis, the mythology of dog-headed men, tantric sex, etc.) have been as magical and wondrous as anything that surrealist or magical realist authors have ever produced.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing a biography of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali?

Apart from the period between about 700 and 1200 CE, no one in South Asia was interested in the Yoga Sutra until the twentieth century. Other works, such as the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Yajnavalkya, and Yoga Vasistha, were the principal guides to yoga.

Who do you see as the audience for the book?

Any practitioner of yoga who is curious about the origins and history of their practice.

What is your next project?

A book on the spread of demonology along the Silk Road, in which one finds Buddhist demons in Manichean sources, Roman demons in Indian sources, and so forth. Demons and the spells and charms used against them were far more portable than gods or theological doctrines. Working title: Demons are Forever.

 


David is the author of:

bookjacket The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography
David Gordon WhiteHardcover | 2014 | $24.95 / £16.95 | ISBN: 9780691143774
296 pp. | 4 1/2 x 7 1/2 | 1 table.
eBook | ISBN: 9781400850051
Reviews
Table of Contents
Chapter 1[PDF]
Bibliography
Notes

It’s Time To Re-Center Your Round-Up

A lot of people look at the holidays as a time to decompress, re-center themselves, and re-energize for the new year. Plus with New Year’s Resolutions flying  around, it’s the perfect time to read some books about how to better yourself both inside and out. No, I’m not saying you need to read a self-help book and cry into a pint of ice cream over your failures, but maybe you could get in touch with your spiritual, creative, mellow side with some poetry, yoga, and a bottle of Chardonnay.

Listed below we have six of our titles that we think will be perfect for helping you relax amongst the crazy and find a little inner peace . Plus, depending on how much of that wine you’ve had, you might even learn some interesting things to apply to your everyday life. Enjoy!

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Yoga in Practice

Edited by David Gordon White
Yoga is a body of practice that spans two millennia and transcends the boundaries of any single religion, geographic region, or teaching lineage. Yoga in Practice is an anthology of primary texts drawn from the diverse yoga traditions of India, greater Asia, and the West. Emphasizing the lived experiences to be found in the many worlds of yoga, Yoga in Practice includes David Gordon White’s informative general introduction as well as concise introductions to each reading by the book’s contributors.

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The Undiscovered Self: With Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams

By: C. G. Jung, Translated by R.F.C. Hull
“The Undiscovered Self” is a plea for Jung’s generation–and those to come–to continue the individual work of self-discovery and not abandon needed psychological reflection for the easy ephemera of mass culture. Only individual awareness of both the conscious and unconscious aspects of the human psyche will allow the great work of human culture to continue and thrive. Jung’s reflections on self-knowledge and the exploration of the unconscious carry over into the second essay, “Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams,”. Describing dreams as communications from the unconscious, Jung explains how the symbols that occur in dreams compensate for repressed emotions and intuitions.

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Self-Fulfillment

By: Alan Gewirth
Cultures around the world have regarded self-fulfillment as the ultimate goal of human striving and as the fundamental test of the goodness of a human life. The ideal has also been criticized, however, as egotistical or as so value-neutral that it fails to distinguish between, for example, self-fulfilled sinners and self-fulfilled saints. Alan Gewirth presents here a systematic and highly original study of self-fulfillment that seeks to overcome these and other arguments and to justify the high place that the ideal has been accorded by developing an ethical theory that ultimately grounds the value of self-fulfillment in the idea of the dignity of human beings.

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The Brain and the Meaning of Life

By: Paul Thagard
Why is life worth living? What makes actions right or wrong? What is reality and how do we know it? This book draws on research in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to answer some of the most pressing questions about life’s nature and value. Paul Thagard argues that evidence requires the abandonment of many traditional ideas about the soul, free will, and immortality, and shows how brain science matters for fundamental issues about reality, morality, and the meaning of life. The ongoing Brain Revolution reveals how love, work, and play provide good reasons for living. Thagard shows how brain science helps to answer questions about the nature of mind and reality, while alleviating anxiety about the difficulty of life in a vast universe.

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The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

By: Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird
This book presents practical, lively, and inspiring ways for you to become more successful through better thinking. The idea is simple: You can learn how to think far better by adopting specific strategies. Brilliant people aren’t a special breed–they just use their minds differently. By using these straightforward and thought-provoking techniques, you will regularly find imaginative solutions to difficult challenges, and you will discover new ways of looking at your world and yourself–revealing previously hidden opportunities. Whenever you are stuck, need a new idea, or want to learn and grow, this book will inspire and guide you on your way.

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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition

Roland Greene, editor in chief
Over more than four decades, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics has built an unrivaled reputation as the most comprehensive and authoritative reference for students, scholars, and poets on all aspects of its subject: history, movements, genres, prosody, rhetorical devices, critical terms, and more. Now the book has been thoroughly revised and updated for the twenty-first century. Compiled by an entirely new team of editors, the fourth edition reflects recent changes in literary and cultural studies, providing up-to-date coverage and giving greater attention to the international aspects of poetry, all while preserving the best of the previous volumes.