Sponsored By: Infinity Foundation

Yoga, Free Will and the Purusa-Prakrti Problem

Yoga, Free Will and the Purusa-Prakrti Problem
by Amy Donahue

This paper was written by a student at the University of Hawaii as part of an Infinity Foundation sponsored project.

It hardly makes sense to talk of a Yoga mind-body problem, since this problem, as we know it in the West, is loaded with peculiarly Western ontological assumptions. Nonetheless, Yoga’s dualist ontology, as presented by Pataòjali in the Yoga-Sutra-s, with its causally conservative guna-metaphysics, seems to leave no room for free, conscious, non-causally determined will. Insofar as this is the case, there would also seem to be no place for moral action within its soteriology. Therefore, though Yoga does not face a mind-body problem, it faces a comparable difficulty, namely a purusa-prakrti problem, and this strikes at the heart of the tradition’s moral theory.

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About the Author

Amy Donahue received an AB from Colgate University with concentrations in Philosophy and Political Science in 1994, and an MA in Philosophy of Religion from King’s College London in 1997. She returned to her formal philosophy studies in 2002, after working in finance in South Asia for a few years. She is now working toward her PhD in Comparative Philosophy at the University of Hawaii, and was awarded an Infinity grant during 2002/2003. Amy’s primary academic interests are in South Asian epistemology, metaphysics and moral psychology.