Shlomo Pines and Yoga

I just discovered that there is a website and society dedicated to the memory of Professor Shlomo Pines of The Hebrew University. Pines is popularly associated with his translation of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed, but for scholars he is known for his seminal articles on almost everything. As a polyglot he had an uncanny ability to find kabbalah in Church Fathers, show that Judeo-Christians lasted for many more centuries than we thought, explain the atominism in Gaonic writings, find Ismaeli and Shiite influence on Halevi, contextualize Maimonides in the thought of Farabi and Ibn Bajja, find Hinduism in Arabic texts, and show how scholastics used Jewish thought.

Ever year they have a guest speaker in his honor. This year’s lecture in his honor is Prof. Jean-Luc Marion (of the French Academy, The University of Paris-Sorbonne and the University of Chicago) will be our next lecturer for the Shlomo Pines annual lecture at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He will speak on “Saint-Augustine and the Naming of God – idipsum”
The lecture will be held on March 11, 2010 at 18:30 at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
It will be followed by a seminar on Friday, 12 March from 10:00 to 12:00 at the Belgium House, Givat Ram, the Hebrew University.
You missed the lecture but try and catch the seminar. Marion is known for bringing God back into phenomenology.

The website has four articles about the life and thought of Shlomo Pines well worth reading

It also has a few articles of the dozens that Pines wrote available as pdf’s. It seems they started this project and then left off. But the articles that the web site does have up are his four articles that contain transcriptions and analysis of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as available in their Arabic translation. Also available are articles on the use of Indian and Buddhist thought in the Kalam

These articles show that Jews in Muslim lands knew about various aspects of Indian religions through the Arabic (and Persian) mediators. The earliest Muslim scholar to show sustained interest in Indian religious and philosophical texts was the great scientist and philosopher al-Biruni (973-1048). He translated a number of Sanskrit works into Arabic (including selections from Patañjali’s Yogasūtras and the Bhagavad-Gita) in connection with his encyclopedic treatise on India. Al-Biruni did not translate the names of foreign deities, nor did he incorporate other gods into his own theology. Like those who translated polytheistic Greek texts into Arabic, al-Biruni rendered the Sanskrit gods (deva) with the Arabic terms for angels (malā’ikah) or spiritual beings (rūhāniyyāt), a theological shift aiding in the acceptance of Indian texts. Well- versed Jewish readers would have been acquainted with these translations and would have been thereby shielded from the foreign god implications of the original texts. These texts created a universal commonality since they understood Indian religions as monotheistic. In a similar manner, Jakata tales and the life of the Buddha tales became the various Hebrew collections of tales we know as the King and the Ascetic.

2 responses to “Shlomo Pines and Yoga

  1. I’ve often thought of what if any effect the study of Eastern interaction with Western thought in the Jewish and Greek-Philosophical exchange. I’ve asked academics about the following resources, as with Heidegger and Buddhism, but even in the 21st century among students whom I think would be interested, mention of such research receives blank expressions as if I’d resuscitated “Black Athena” and implication that the ‘mesorah’ of ideas and concepts only seems to matter from the point when a Jew or a European thinks it;

    “Eastern Influences on Western Philosophy; A Reader” by Macfie

    “Oriental Enlightenment; The Encounter Between Asian and Western Thought”.

    “The Shape of Ancient Thought” by Mcevilley

  2. The Shlomo Pines Society website is no longer online. However, they have just opened a page on with dozens of his articles.

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