Since there are as many flavors of bhakti as there are human hearts wherein it abides, this course will focus on one prominent expression of bhakti, the Krishna (Kṛṣṇa) bhakti of the 16th century Vraj (Vrindavan) tradition, as a lens into the larger multi-faceted universe of bhakti. If we analogize the different bhakti traditions as constellations within the same universe, we find distinctive features within each one, but numerous overlapping features as well. Our assumption and method is that an in depth study of one tradition (rather than a superficial mapping of multiple traditions) will best serve as a conduit to a profounder understanding of the larger phenomenon of bhakti in general. This focus can then be applied to other bhakti traditions by adding their appropriate flavorings. Thus the course consists of an analysis of bhakti yoga through the lens of a medieval devotional tradition that was pivotal to what is sometimes called a renaissance of Kṛṣṇa devotion across the North of the Indian subcontinent, centered in the holy town of Vrindavan, sacred to Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Edwin Bryant received his Ph.D in Indic languages and Cultures from Columbia University. He taught Hinduism at Harvard University for three years, and is presently the professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University where he teaches courses on Hindu philosophy and religion. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, published six books and authored a number of articles on Vedic history, yoga, and the Krishna tradition. In addition to his academic work for the scholarly community, Edwin's Penguin World Classics translation of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana, the traditional source for the story of Krishna's incarnation, is both for Indology specialists as well as students and those interested in Hinduism from the general reading public and the yoga community.As a personal practitioner of yoga for 35 years, a number of them spent in India studying with traditional teachers, where he returns yearly, Edwin strives to combine academic scholarship and rigor with sensitivity towards traditional knowledge systems. In addition to his academic course load, Edwin currently teaches workshopson the Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, and Hindu Philosophy at yoga studios and teacher training courses throughout the country. His translation of and commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (North Point Press, a division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) is specifically dedicated to contributing to the growing body of literature on yoga by providing insights from the major pre-modern commentaries on the text with a view to grounding the teachings in their traditional context.