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Coping With "Karmayoga" in Late Nineteenth Century Interpretations of the Bhagavadgita


· Angelika Malinar University of Zurich, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies (Zurich, Switzerland)


07/26 | 16:30-16:50 UTC+2/CEST


By the end of the 19th century interpretations of the Bhagavadgītā (BhG) had become a site of religious and political entanglements and were tied into the larger debates about of colonial-modern regimes of power. Interpretations of the text were also negotiating current ideas about the relationship between religion and politics. In this connection, the expression “karmayoga” famously became a catch-word for a certain mode of (political) engagement inspired by ancient Hindu religion. Often in rather abstract ways, the BhG was acknowledged as the source of the catch-word and of the newly emerging figure of the “karmayogin”. But the actual interpretation of the compound as used in the BhG complicated matters for contemporary interpreters due to the semantic polyvalence of “karma” and “yoga” and to the various interpretive perspectives attached to them. The talk deals with such complications in interpretations of the BhG by Swami Vivekananda and Annie Besant.