Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Nathan Katz

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Andrea Seidel

Third Advisor's Name

Steven Heine


īśvara, ishvara, God, Patañjali, yogasutra, theism, Hinduism, Yoga, īśvarapraṇidhāna, archetype

Date of Defense



The mere presence of the term īśvara in Patañjali’s Yogasūtra has come to affect the meaning of both the path and the goal of Classical Yoga as well as the meaning of the term Yoga itself. The frequent translation of the term īśvara as God leads to the system of Classical Yoga to be labeled as theistic, particularly obscuring the interpretation of īśvarapraṇidhāna, a functional component of the system, as well as perpetuating a syncretic trend that has led to the popular understanding of Yoga as ‘union with the divine’. From identifying problematic hermeneutical trends and their underlying causes, as well as understanding the term within the constraints of the original text in its original Sanskrit, the term īśvara emerges as the archetype of an ultimate reality functioning as a practical and experiential tool providing the yogi with a direct glimpse of its true nature.





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