Event — Buddhist Studies Lectures

The Attainment of Immortality (Amṛtasiddhi) and the Origin of Physical Yoga in the Indo-Tibetan Traditions

A lecture by Prof. Giacomella Orofino from the University of Naples “L’Orientale", Italy.

This lecture takes place in the IIAS Conference room from 16:00 – 17:00 p.m. (not online). 

Everyone is welcome to attend. Please register, as seating is limited. 

The Lecture

In contemporary scholarship, the Amṛtasiddhi has garnered significant attention from the academic community. It is considered to be the earliest Sanskrit source introducing practices and principles fundamental to the yoga method grounded in physical activity, later categorized in Sanskrit texts as 'forceful yoga' (haṭhayoga). This method of yoga first emerged in the Buddhist tantras around the end of the first millennium. Interestingly, it was absent in Brahmanical literature until the appearance of later works such as the Dattātreyayogaśāstra (XIII century) and the Haṭhapradīpikā (XV century).

The Amṛtasiddhi, which opens and closes with dedications to Virūpa, the legendary cross-cultural saint revered in both medieval Indian Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions, was composed in a Buddhist tantric context, presumably in the Deccan region of India, no later than the second half of the eleventh century CE. 

The Tibetan canon contains an interesting collection of ancillary literature concerning the Amṛtasiddhi (Tib. ’Chi med bsgrub pa) or "The Attainment of Immortality”. Among these texts, "Clearing the Hindrances to Immortality" (*Amṛtasaṁkaṭanibarhaṇa, Tib. 'Chi med kyi ’phrang sel) stands out as particularly noteworthy. It is a yoga manual authored by Amoghavajra, an Indian yogin who traveled to Tibet in the latter half of the eleventh century. Amoghavajra translated several Sanskrit texts into Tibetan preserved in the Tibetan canon and composed over twenty texts directly in Tibetan related to the Amṛtasiddhi. The *Amṛtasaṁkaṭanibarhaṇa in particular provides a detailed description of thirty-six series of strenuous physical exercises (yantra, Tib. 'khrul 'khor) organized into three phases: preliminary, main, and conclusive, resulting in a total of one hundred-eight yoga exercises.

In this lecture, Professor Orofino hypothesizes that the *Amṛtasaṁkaṭanibarhaṇa, which is clearly a Buddhist text, is one of the earliest manuals of physical yoga, where the practice of breath control is combined with a variety of bodily postures and dynamic physical movements.

The Speaker

Giacomella Orofino is a Professor at the University of Naples “L’Orientale” in the Department of Asian, African, and Mediterranean Studies. She also serves as the President of the Italian Association of Tibetan, Himalayan, and Mongolian Studies (AISTHiM), and as the President of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University “L’Orientale,” which fosters interdisciplinary research on Buddhist philosophy, literature, art, and culture. Her research interests span various aspects of Tibetan religious history and literature, including the history of Buddhist tantras, the doctrines of Kālacakratantra, the gcod tradition, and the history of Bon. She has contributed extensively to the field with publications such as "Wind Horses: Tibetan, Himalayan, and Mongolian Studies" (Napoli, 2019), "Empty Iridescent Spheres: Notes on the Metaphysics of Light in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Tantric Sources" (Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, Octobre 2022), and "On the Dissemination of Buddhist Tantras in Tibet: A Historical Introduction" (Annali, Sezione Orientale, 83, 2023).

Registration (required)

Everyone is welcome to attend. Please register using the web form on this page, as seating is limited. 

Particular from Vajradhara with Eighty-Five Great Adepts (Mahasiddhas), 15th Century, Western Tibet, Pigments on cloth. Rubin Museum of Art, Gift of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. F1998.17.3