Eastern Oregon University
College of Arts and Sciences
Course Syllabus

Number of Course:  REL 323

Name of Course: Yoga Philosophy

Credit Hours:  2

Instructor: David Komito, Ph.D.; email: david.komito@eou.edu


Course Description:  
Yoga is a Sanskrit term meaning “to join;” in this case, joining the person to God.  One of the six classical schools of Indian Philosophy, Yoga is known for its sophisticated articulation of philosophy and its methods of meditation to test that philosophy.  This course will examine the origins of Yoga in Neolithic India, its literature and basic concepts, its relationship with Samkhya (another of the six classical schools of Indian Philosophy) and its enduring influence on Asia (though the Buddhist adoption of many principles of Yoga).

The contemporary cultures of India have been shaped by a 4,000 year old religious heritage.  Central in this heritage, and thus a key to understanding India and its myriad cultures, is the philosophy and practice of the classical school of Yoga. Often misunderstood as simply a physical discipline, Yoga is a philosophy which articulates the nature of the person and God, their relationship and the various methods for both proving Yoga’s philosophical assertions and for actually uniting the person with God – the main method being meditation.

By tracing the origins of Yoga philosophy and practice, its classic medieval formulations and some of its recent expressions, this course will enable students to understand a differing mode of thought than the western, as well a radically different culture with differing values, and a radically different notion of the self than anything to be found in the Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment traditions which have shaped contemporary America.

Course Requirements:
Students must attend the entire Friday and Saturday classroom sessions to receive credit for this course.  They also must read all the online lectures and primary texts. There will be one online objective examination to evaluate whether or not students have completed the assignments as well as assess their understanding of the material in the assignments. This exam will be available only during a 48 hour period of following the classroom sessions (see details below as dates change from term to term).

Textbook (bring to the class meetings, but read this after the classroom meeting): How to Know God - The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali – Translated by Prabhavananda and Isherwood;  ISBN 0874810418

There will be additional required readings posted online.

Time, place and duration of the course:
This is a typical weekend college type of course with a classroom meeting and online activities, as follow.  

Unit 1 The week before our classroom meeting April 6 - 10 Read online lectures
Unit 2 Friday and Saturday in classroom

April 11, 6 PM – 9 PM and April 12
9 AM – 5 PM in Portland.

Classroom meetings
Unit 3 The two weeks following our meeting. Read online lectures, read primary texts, take online un-proctored multiple choice exam on the Friday and Saturday two weeks after the week of the course meeting.

Means of Assessment:

1) Students are assessed for their participation in classroom discussion; this will represent 30% of the grade. Details of assessment standards will be available during the first classroom meeting, but in general students are expected to participate in discussions with fellow students as well as to share their views and opinions with the instructor when asked to do so.

2) Performance on the objective exam will demonstrate acquisition and understanding of factual and conceptual material, such as the names of key figures, the definitions and interrelationships of key concepts, etc. This will represent 70% of the grade.

Grading Policies:

  1. Final grade: 90% = A, 80% = B, 70% = C, 60% = D, below 60% = Fail.

  1. The online multiple choice exam will be available on the course Blackboard site during the Friday and Saturday two weeks following the weekend in-peson meeting. Students typically will have only one opportunity to take the online examination. Upon exception, and with the emailed permission of the instructor, the exam may be taken late as a result of student illness or work or family responsibilities. “Technical failures” are typically not accepted as a reason for repeating the exam.  

Learning Outcomes:
Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to define and describe the main philosophical concepts and the practices in the Yoga school of philosophy, their interrelationship in the description and experience of the characteristics of the person and God, their relationship with philosophical concepts in the Samkhya school of philosophy and describe the process of the historic integration of these concepts and practices into a coherent and synthetic system of theory and practice.  

Assignments: Yoga Philosophy

Unit 1: Online readings to be completed before the Friday and Saturday course meetings

Overview and context for studying Yoga Philosophy

  • Lecture: The Perennial Philosophy
  • Lecture: Introduction to the study of Religion and Philosophy in India
  • Lecture: Agricultural cultures and nomadic invasions: the dynamic tension in the history of Asian philosophies and religions
  • Here is a piece from a New York Times op-ed section (October 2, 2011: How Yoga Won the West) which offers the context for what we will be doing in this course, at least in regard to the relationship of physical yoga and "mental" yoga, or meditation and its goals.  You will note that all the translations used in this course are made by Swami Prabhavananda, the spiritual director of the Hollywood Vedanta Center referenced in this article, and a disciple of Swami Vivekananda.
  • Lecture: The Katha Upanishad. If you find this material difficult to understand, do not worry about that. I will be explaining this scripture and its underlying philosophy Friday night of our weekend meeting. I give it to you to read at this time so you can be a little familiar with it before we meet.

Unit 2: Lecture and discussion topics for the Friday and Saturday course meetings

  • Getting to know one another, organization of the course, the Blackboard site, exams.
  • Geography and early history of "India"
  • Indus Valley religions and invasions from Central Asia
  • Overview of Indian religious-philosophical thought with a focus on key concepts as articulated in the Upanishads and the Samkhya Religious-Philosophical system
    • The Katha Upanishad is a prime scripture for understanding part of the context of Patanjali's teachings about Yoga. It is in the nature of a revelation to a young practitioner of meditation. By contrast, Samkhya Philosophy is a more systematic formulation of the context or framework for Patanjali's description of the technique or practice of Yoga as described in his Yoga Sutras (or "Aphorisms").. In other words, Samkhya is theory, while Yoga is practice.  Yet, they fully intertwine, as the theory developed out of meditation practice and visionary experience, and meditation practice is articulated as a method for testing and proving theoretical formulations about what is Real.  Thus the visionary encounter with Death, as described in the Katha Upanishad, could be considered the type of seed experience from which Samkhya developed, and the practice of Yoga could be considered a technique for inducing that sort of visionary experience.  For such a yoga practitioner, Samkhya explains WHY they are doing what they are doing, and the goals of the practice.

      Thus, for us, as critical explorers of philosophies and religions, it is important to understand Samkhya if we are to understand one of the enduring traditions of India. Here is an excellent summary of Samkhya Philosophy by Swami Prabhavananda.
  • Introduction to Patanjali’s Yoga Aphorisms and detailed discussion of the aphorisms (stanzas of instruction).

Unit 3: Online and textbook readings to be completed after the Saturday course meeting

  • This lecture is a brief comment on a key point in Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms. You will find additional supporting materials on the course Blackboard site, including audio recordings of key lectures given by the instructor over the weekend. We will have discussed the Aphorisms during the weekend. You should take this time to study them in preparation for the online exam, which comes two weeks after the conclusion of the weekend in-person meeting.
  • Take online exam on the course Blackboard site.

Syllabus prepared: March 29, 2014