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Andrea JainSelling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture

Oxford University Press, 2014

by Kristian Petersen on May 13, 2015

Andrea Jain

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Is yoga religious? This question has not only been asked recently by the broader public but also posed in the courts. Many argue that of course it is. The story of yoga in the popular imagination is often narrated as an ancient wisdom tradition that informs contemporary postural movements which are intricately connected and indivisible. Others contend that  contemporary yoga is simply a set of health practices that have nothing to do with religion. In Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture (Oxford University Press, 2014), Andrea Jain, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, helps us navigate the recent history of yoga in the west and the debates surrounding its 'religious' nature. Overall, what we find is that while yoga has been mediate through an emerging global consumer market and branded for strategic purposes it can still be seen to serve the function of a body of religious practice for many practitioners. In our conversation we discussed Hindu, Buddhist, Jain variations of yogic practice, Ida Craddock's Church of Yoga, legal definitions, Iyengar Yoga, Siddha Yoga, and Anusara Yoga, Theosophists and Transcendentalists, Swami Vivikenanda's Vedanta Society, counterculture yogis, consumer culture and the mass market, Christian Yogaphobia, the Hindu American Foundation, and the politics of yoga.

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John K. NelsonExperimental Buddhism: Innovation and Activism in Contemporary Japan

May 7, 2015

In his recent book, Experimental Buddhism: Innovation and Activism in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawaii Press, 2013), John K. Nelson delves into the historical circumstances that have led to the declining fortunes of Japanese Buddhism and explores recent and ongoing attempts by Japanese Buddhist clerics to render Buddhism relevant to Japanese society once again. Based […]

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Stuart YoungConceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China

April 25, 2015

In Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China (University of Hawai'i Press, 2015), Stuart Young examines Chinese hagiographic representations of three Indian Buddhist patriarchs–Aśvaghoṣa (Maming), Nāgārjuna (Longshu), and Āryadeva (Sheng tipo)–from the early fifth to late tenth centuries, and explores the role that these representations played in the development of Chinese Buddhism's self-awareness of its own position […]

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Janet GyatsoBeing Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet

April 24, 2015

Janet Gyatso's new book is a masterfully researched, compellingly written, and gorgeously illustrated history of medicine in early modern Tibet that looks carefully at the relationships between medicine and religion in this context. Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2015) looks carefully at the "double […]

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Two new books have recently been published that will change the way we can study and teach Tibetan studies, and Gray Tuttle and Kurtis Schaeffer were kind enough to talk with me recently about them. The Tibetan History Reader (Columbia University Press, 2013), edited by Tuttle and Schaeffer, is a chronologically-organized set of essays that […]

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Agnieszka Helman-WaznyThe Archaeology of Tibetan Books

March 21, 2015

Agnieszka Helman-Wazny’s new book is a fascinating contribution to both book history and Tibetan studies, bringing these fields together through careful attention to the physicality of print and manuscript materials. The Archaeology of Tibetan Books (Brill, 2014) explores a wide range of printed works and manuscripts in Tibetan, focusing especially on the nearly 50 Tibetan […]

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Tanya StorchThe History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography: Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka

March 18, 2015

Tanya Storch’s recent book, The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography: Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka (Cambria, 2014), focuses on the development of Chinese Buddhist catalogs from their first appearance in the third century to the eighth century, when printed editions of the canon took over the catalog’s role of identifying and delimiting the Chinese […]

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Meir Shahar and John Kieschnick, eds.India in the Chinese Imagination: Myth, Religion, and Thought

February 11, 2015

In India in the Chinese Imagination: Myth, Religion, and Thought (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), eleven scholars (including editors John Kieschnick and Meir Shahar) examine the Chinese reception of Indian ideas and myth, and address Chinese attempts to recreate India within the central kingdom.  Beginning with Victor Mair’s argument that it was Buddhist theories about […]

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Charlotte EubanksMiracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan

February 6, 2015

In Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan (University of California Press, 2011), Charlotte Eubanks examines the relationship between Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtras and the human body, using Japanese tale literature (setsuwa) as a lens through which to understand this particular aspect of Buddhist textual culture and the way in which text and body […]

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R. Keller KimbroughWondrous Brutal Fictions: Eight Buddhist Tales from the Early Japanese Puppet Theater

January 23, 2015

In his recent book, Wondrous Brutal Fictions: Eight Buddhist Tales from the Early Japanese Puppet Theater (Columbia University Press, 2013), R. Keller Kimbrough provides us with eight beautifully translated sekkyō 説経 and ko-jōruri 古浄瑠璃 (“old” Japanese puppet theatre) pieces from the seventeenth century.  Sekkyō was a type of publically-performed Buddhist storytelling that focused on the […]

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