Mr. Liersch, you have been doing your doctorate on “The Tattvabinduyoga of Rāmacandra” at the University of Marburg for a year.

If you search for it on Google, only one result appears.

Sarah Obertreis

Editor in business.

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    The Tattvabinduyoga is a South Indian yoga text that was probably written in the 17th century, but has hardly been researched.

    It is particularly interesting because it lists 15 different types of yoga at once.

    In earlier writings there are mostly four yogas.

    It is not only about the individual yogas, but also about yogic physiology.

    The scholars at the time imagined that the elements of the external universe - sun, moon and earth - also existed in one's own body.

    Many interesting yoga practices have emerged from this thought.

    And with your doctoral thesis, are you ensuring that interested yoga fans will also find something on Google in the future?

    My job is first of all to collect all the manuscripts from the text and to compare them with one another, word for word, letter by letter.

    So we are trying to find out which text was the original one from Rāmacandra.

    It's pretty difficult: if people spent hours copying a script, there would be a lot of mistakes every time.

    There are still twenty manuscripts of Tattvabinduyoga that are stored in various corners of India.

    A critical edition with an annotated translation is to be published in three years, including digitally.

    At the same time you are still working on a project that is dedicated to Hathapradīpikā.

    Here it looks completely different: The Hathapradīpikā even has a Wikipedia entry.

    The Hathapradīpikā is a conglomerate of everything that was previously there in yoga texts.

    This is one of the reasons why yoga practitioners should know them.

    At least if you are interested in the philosophy and the background.

    When it was published in the middle of the 15th century, yoga became mainstream in India: it was no longer just wandering ascetics who practiced yoga, but members of all social classes and religions - householders, Hindus, Buddhists, even Muslims.

    Are there big differences between the way yogis practiced 600 years ago and how we do yoga?

    Yes, yoga was very different back then than we know it today from the studios and YouTube.

    Equating yoga with the practice of yoga postures is a modern view that has only developed in the last hundred years.

    The oldest yoga texts mainly teach sitting postures for meditation.

    Like the lotus position where you cross your feet and place them on your thighs?


    In a lotus, the spine is automatically straight.

    That means: No matter what state you are in, you cannot fall over.

    So one can devote oneself to the primary task of yoga practice: to control the breath and to concentrate in order to reach deeper and deeper meditative states, which should lead to a mystical experience.

    In the Middle Ages, yogis even believed that they could achieve immortality through a certain way of breathing and tensing their muscles.

    German Indology actually has a very good reputation.

    But it has been more and more forgotten in the past few decades.

    I believe the yoga boom is of great help to Indology.

    The number of students has decreased significantly in the last few decades and some Indological institutes have closed.

    In the meantime, however, a new academic branch is even emerging, with courses being set up all over the world: in London, California, Italy, Japan.

    The Hamburg university is currently building a center for yoga studies.

    Are there things that you stumble upon as a scientist when looking at the success of yoga?

    Sometimes my Indian sensitivity is disturbed by small things.

    In general, however, yoga does exactly what it has always done: develop further.

    Many treasures from the past are being unearthed, for example on our project.

    At the same time, things arise that have never existed in this way: tens of thousands of people in front of Times Square in the looking down dog - an attitude that is probably less than 150 years old.

    Practicing yoga in large groups is actually the opposite of what the ancient scriptures taught: you live with a guru and then withdraw, renounce the world to experience the true nature of being.

    Can you empathize with these teachings on mystical experiences?

    Yes, I find that particularly fascinating.

    I have the feeling that I could discover something new for myself personally in my academic work.

    Even if you are very motivated, a doctoral thesis can be exhausting.

    What did you learn from yoga for everyday university life?

    That the desired goals can only be achieved through regular and persistent practice.

    This discipline, which I have been practicing yoga for years, has conditioned my brain: I can deal with one thing continuously, and that is exactly what I need for my doctoral thesis.